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Easy to be Hard(ware)


Episode 55
March 3rd, 2006

I'm a nut for input devices - keyboards, mice, trackballs, tablets, etc. And because my job is to test Mac products and relate my impressions of those products to you, gentle reader, I have the opportunity to try a lot of different input devices.

Apple does a lot of things right but I think their keyboards, mice, and trackpads mostly suck. Please don't bombard me with email about how much you love your Apple mouse, keyboard, or trackpad. The choice of input device is a very personal thing. What feels great to me may feel absolutely crappy to you. So before I start talking about the products, allow me offer this bit of advice: Buy your third-party peripherals from a reputable retailer that allows returns. That way if you decide the mouse, keyboard, trackball, tablet, or other device isn't for you, you can return it and try something else. I've heard that it takes 21 days to change a habit, so I recommend you give new input devices a two or three-week trial before you decide. The bottom line is look for vendors with a thirty-day no questions asked return policy and you can't go wrong.

Now let's talk about mice and keyboards...

For a long time my favorite mouse was not a mouse at all, rather, it was a Kensington Turbo Mouse trackball. I still love it but I've been testing a new Logitech cordless laser mouse lately that I like almost as well.

As for keyboards, I've tried a couple of new ones lately and one of them-the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 400-is now my all-time favorite.

Logitech Cordless Desktop S 530 Laser for Mac

This cordless Keyboard/Mouse combo is designed specifically for the Mac. Its white and silver design, as shown below, matches almost any Mac.

Logitech S530
Photo courtesy of Logitech

I'm not sure if this is a first for Logitech but it's the first time I've ever seen a Logitech keyboard and mouse designed exclusively for the Mac complete with complimentary color scheme, and Command, Option, and Control keys in all the right places. And the cordless mouse is a better mouse than the Apple Mighty Mouse in almost every possible way (assuming you are right handed, 'cause there is no lefty version available).

The keyboard does everything a stock Macintosh keyboard does and much more. For example, it offers dedicated keys that let you:

  • Activate iTunes Play, Pause, Next, and Previous controls from the keyboard.
  • Launch your favorite applications.
  • Open oft-used folders (such as your Home) instantly.

This keyboard is ultra-flat, which is to say it's noticeably slimmer (less than _-inch high) than an Apple keyboard. And while I haven't had it that long, Logitech claims battery life is up to 6 months per set of batteries.

Alas, I didn't care for the ultra-thin keyboard, but that wasn't due to any flaw in its construction or any missing feature... Rather, it's because, as you'll see in a moment, I'm completely hooked on so-called “ergonomic” style keyboards such as the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 that's currently the apple of my eye (pun intended).

If you are used to non-ergonomic style keyboards, the kind with the keys in straight rows like most keyboards including this one and the Apple Pro keyboard, I am sure you'll be satisfied with this Logitech offering. On the other hand, if you prefer an ergonomic-style keyboard as I do, check out the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 discussed in a few paragraphs.

Moving right along, the Logitech product includes a cordless mouse in addition to the cordless keyboard. While the keyboard didn't suit me, I've found the mouse to be nearly perfect for my needs. For one thing, it has enough buttons to satisfy me as shown below:

Logitech Mouse
Photo courtesy of Logitech

The shape of the mouse works well under my beefy palm. And the software, shown below, does everything I need with a minimum of fuss.

Logitech Control Panel

Finally, it tracks quickly and smoothly with a minimal amount of movement, which is just the way I like it.

If you don't prefer an ergonomic keyboard (as I do), the Logitech keyboard and mouse improve on the stock Apple offerings in almost every way.

Logitech Cordless Desktop S 530 Laser for Mac (Cordless Keyboard & Mouse Combo). S.R.P. $99.99 ($90.99 - Amazon)

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

A few years ago I tried out a so-called “ergonomic” keyboard and got hooked. These days a “regular” keyboard like the ones from Apple and Logitech, feels strange to me, (as do PowerBook and MacBook Pro keyboards). I'm much more comfortable and accurate when I use an ergonomic keyboard such as the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 shown below:

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Photo courtesy of Microsoft

This is now my absolute favorite keyboard. And believe it or not, it isn't even a Mac keyboard! It's a Windows keyboard complete with Alt and Start keys where the Command and Option keys ought to be. But I'm willing to overlook that little “defect” because the excellent IntelliType Pro software (shown below) allows me remap them,

Microsoft IntelliType Pro Control Panel

So now the Start key behaves just like a Mac Option key and the Alt key behaves like the Command key. If that's a deal breaker for you, you may as well stop reading right now. It doesn't bother me a bit, and I am more comfortable (and more accurate, too) as a result.

One of the main reasons I find this keyboard so comfortable is that it tilts the opposite way of most keyboards, with the palm side elevated and the F-keys lowered as shown below:

Photo courtesy Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

It felt very weird at first but now that I'm used to it I think this may be the most comfortable keyboard I've ever used. Since I spend a lot of time at the keyboard, comfort is extremely important and this keyboard doesn't hurt my hands or wrists even after extended use. And I really like resting my palms on the integrated leather-like palm rests.

If you've never used an ergonomic keyboard, I urge you to give this one a try, especially if your hands or wrists ache after a long typing session. Give it a couple of weeks and I think you'll agree that this keyboard layout is much more comfortable than the other.

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. S.R.P. $70 ($46.55 - Amazon)

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit

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