Toybox: ‘Hub’ wireless keyboard charges up from couch position

Microsoft wireless keyboard comes with a charging station, which also has three USB ports

Microsoft's wireless entertainment desktop 8000, the newer and more expensive sister of the 7000 keyboard, landed on my desk this week. Like its predecessor, the 8000 keyboard is slim and light, and is designed to be used mainly from the couch. But the 8000 has a sleek silver coating rather than the more usual black.

The new keyboard and mouse package has also been enhanced with some extremely cool features. The 8000 comes with a charging station, which recharges the batteries included with the keyboard and mouse. The charging hub also has three USB ports, so you can charge your keyboard, mouse and three devices at the same time. A nice touch is that the clip-in for the keyboard is magnetic.

Another cool feature is glow-in-the-dark keys. The backlit keyboard adjusts to the surrounding lighting, so the keys light up only when the room is dark enough to merit doing so. The keyboard also knows when you are there — it has a proximity sensor that detects when your hands are close to the palm-rest and only then will it turn on the backlighting. It looks pretty cool when you touch the keyboard and the whole thing lights up.

The 8000 has all the handy features of the 7000. For example, the navigation pad can be turned into a touchpad merely by flicking a switch from directional pad-mode to mouse-mode. This feature is awesome when using the keyboard from the couch. Both keyboards are designed for use with Windows Vista, with buttons that can take you straight to your gadgets, your Windows Live Messenger or your Media Centre.

In addition, the 8000 is equipped with 2.4GHz Bluetooth and Microsoft’s first connect technology, which means the Bluetooth device and receiver are paired together at the factory, so the mouse and keyboard will work together from scratch. But the Windows key is still located below the space bar. I guess I’ll just have to get used to this.

The only downside is the cost: recommended retail price is $499, including GST, which is a significant $200 more than the 7000 costs. On the other hand, you also get the charging hub, three USB ports and rechargeable batteries as part of the package.

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