Most keyboards supplied as standard with new PCs are of a consistently high quality. So the upgrade market needs an impressive carrot to dangle in front of buyers if a replacement keyboard is going to sell well. Eurotech’s strategy combines affordability and novelty. Its Ultimate 2000 Multimedia keyboard has more extra buttons on it than almost any other keyboard on the market, and comes with a trendy-looking mouse which has the added attraction of being cordless.
The keyboard itself is very good. The main keys have a soft, quiet action, which is consistent and encourages accurate typing. Above the usual row of full-sized function keys is an additional row of eighteen smaller keys. Fifteen of these are dedicated to controlling various multimedia playback functions; audio volume, play/pause, stop, etc. These functions are enabled by software supplied on CDROM. The right-most three buttons are blue and govern ATX power supply on/off and sleep modes.
This keyboard alone will hold its own against many other in the £15-£20 bracket. For the extra £10-£15 you get a splendid looking cordless mouse, complete with iMac-style blue-green translucent case. This mouse uses infra-red communication rather than the more preferable – and more expensive – radio alternative.
The mouse requires three AAA batteries and has four infra-red transmitters situated inside each corner of the unit. The matching keyboard has transparent plastic on its underside to allow the signals to be detected by a built-in receiver. The keyboard lead plugs into both the PC’s keyboard socket and mouse socket. We found that absolute line of sight between the mouse and the underside of the keyboard wasn’t always necessary. The mouse obviously has enough infra-red candle power to reflect its signal off walls and other items on or nearby the desk. A small red LED inside the mouse glows when the mouse moves or you press a button – very novel when the lights are turned down!
As PC mice go, the Ultimate mouse is larger than average and its case, which is designed to be dismantled in order to provide access to the battery compartment, creaks occasionally when in use. It’s not as well made as premium mice from, say, Logitech, but it does provide ‘wheel’ mouse functionality via a clever rocker switch in between the two mouse buttons. In use the mouse occasionally tended to slow down or pause. We suspect this was due to an interrupted infra-red beam, but such occurrences were quite rare.
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