Favorite Keyboard & Mouse of the Year

Episode #73

As the year draws to close, I realize that I've used more keyboards and mice this year than many people will use in a lifetime. I've sampled nearly a dozen different keyboards and even more pointing devices. So in this episode I'll show you the keyboard and mouse I liked best after extensive testing and research.

I have to add one proviso: Choosing a keyboard and/or mouse is a very personal thing. Some people absolutely LOVE using Apple's Mighty Mouse. I don't. Others love the trackpad on Apple notebook computers. I don't. My hands are big and clumsy. Yours may not be. I'm a righty. You may not be. The point I'm trying to make is that while I find these devices exceptional -- the best in their classes -- you may not. My advice is to buy this type of peripheral from a vendor who allows returns within 14 or 30 days if you possibly can. That way if the product doesn't suit you, you can return it and try something else.

That said, here are my favorite keyboard and mouse for 2006:

Favorite Keyboard of the Year:
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

I actually reviewed this keyboard for you right here in Rants & Raves #55 earlier this year. But after trying nearly a dozen other keyboards by several different manufacturers, this is the one I keep coming back to. What follows are updated comments from my March column...

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, iBook, MacBook, 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 here:

Photo courtesy of Microsoft

After trying many others, both ergonomic and "regular," I can state that this has become 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 those little "defects" because Microsoft's excellent IntelliType Pro software (shown below) allows me remap them,

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 much more comfortable (and somewhat 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 almost every other keyboard I've tried, with the palm rest elevated and the F-keys lower, as shown here:

Photo courtesy of Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

It felt very weird at first but now that I'm used to it I think this is the most comfortable keyboard I've ever used. I've had many other keyboards on my desk this year but after the testing is over, this is the one I come back to time and time again.

Since I spend a lot of time at the keyboard, comfort is extremely important to me and this keyboard doesn't make my hands or wrists hurt 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 to get used to the split keyboard layout and I think you'll agree that an ergonomic keyboard is more comfortable than the others.

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. S.R.P. $70

Favorite Mouse of the Year:
Logitech MX Revolution

After hearing raves about this mouse from two computer writers whose opinions I trust -- Craig Crossman and Gene Steinberg -- I thought I should give it a try. And I'm glad I did because it really is an incredible and innovative device.

Logitech calls the MX Revolution, "the world's most advanced mouse," and the product actually lives up to its hype. This sleek black beauty, shown below, is everything I ever wanted in a mouse and more.

Photo courtesy of Logitech

While it's similar in many ways to the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer mice I've favored for the past few years, the MX Revolution offers several innovative features that put it in a class by itself (at least in my humble opinion).

Easily the most innovative feature is the MicroGear? Precision Scroll Wheel, which has two modes known as "Free-spin" and "click-to-click." Spin it fast and your document whizzes past very, very quickly; spin it slow and your document scrolls ever-so slowly and accurately, one click at a time.

I love this feature with all my heart and now that I've become used to it, all other scroll wheels feel defective to me. Try it for a couple of days and I can almost guarantee that you'll agree that it's much better than other scrolling schemes.??

The MX Revolution also has more buttons than Microsoft mice, including one they call the "document quick flip," which is similar to a scroll wheel but resides under your right thumb, as you can see in this picture of the MX Revolution in its recharger.

Photo courtesy of Logitech

This second scroll wheel can be to flip back and forth between two applications if you like, or you can use it to zoom in and out on the fly, which is another nice touch.

And, the MX Revolution is rechargeable, as shown above. While the Microsoft mice are relatively frugal in their battery usage, I still had to replace batteries several times a year. So I consider the MX Revolution's rechargeability (is that even a word?) a sweet advantage.

Finally, the Logitech driver software, shown below, is excellent, letting me assign almost any function to any of the buttons.

In a nutshell, I have yet to find a mouse I like as well and the MicroGear? Precision Scroll Wheel is a breakthrough innovation. The only downside I can think of with the MX Revolution is that you probably won't like it much if you are left handed.

Other than that the MX Revolution cordless mouse is a near-perfect pointing device and the one I expect to use for a long, long time.

Logitech MX Revolution Mouse. S.R.P. $100.

And that's all he wrote...

Actually, once again, there is one more thing:

Special Offer for my Macworld Expo Class

I'll be teaching an all-day class at Macworld Expo in San Francisco on Wednesday, January 10 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It's called Welcome to Macintosh: Dr. Mac's Introduction to the Macintosh Way and it's chock full of tips, techniques and information about how to get started with your Mac. It's the perfect course for both switchers and newbies, or anyone else who has made the leap to the Mac and wants to get up to speed quickly and painlessly.

I've got a few special super discount passes that I can offer to my readers for $99 (regular price is $295), so if you want to attend, drop me a line at MacworldClassOffer@boblevitus.com and I'll set you up.