What are the best wireless keyboard and mouse products?

Question

What should I look for when buying a wireless keyboard and mouse?

- Brian

Answer

This question was answered on October 23, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Wireless phones, wireless networks, wireless monitors; the whole world is going wireless and your keyboard and mouse are no exception.

As with every other wireless device on the market, you have many different types of technologies from which to choose and like other wireless devices, when they work they are great, but when they don’t, it’s a big headache!

I have worked with just about every brand of wireless keyboard/mouse and all of the major transmission methods and have quickly learned a few key points

The first point is that they are all potentially more problematic than a wired keyboard and mouse, so if you really don’t need it, don’t spend the money.

Just like in networking, wired is always better than wireless from a reliability standpoint.

Our wireless phones (cellular and otherwise) generally are worth the aggravation because the convenience and additional functionality outweighs the grief, but in computing the same may not hold true.

The second point is that since all wireless devices are subject to interference the transmission method that you choose is very important.

The main transmission types that I have used are IR (Infra-Red), RF (Radio Frequency) and Bluetooth.

IR based systems are generally older and require line of site between the devices and the base station much like your television remote control My advice is to stay clear of these devices if you can even find them anymore.

The most common type you will find on today’s store shelves is RF based system The general range of RF based systems can go from 3 to 100 feet The most popular brands, Logitech (www.logitech.com) and Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/hardware) claim a range of up to 6-feet for their products Steer clear of cheap, generic brands, as they are very troublesome

A relative newcomer to the consumer market is Gyration (www.gyration.com), which has been involved in commercial grade devices for many years The Gyration products use several unique technologies in wireless keyboards and mice.

The RF frequency they use is much higher than both Logitech and Microsoft so their consumer products are rated at up to 30 feet The professional line claims a range of up to 100 feet.

Another unique aspect to the Gyration mouse is the gyro-based mechanism that allows it to be used like a regular optical mouse on virtually any surface or held in the air and moved around to guide the cursor on the screen.

The third and newest technology, Bluetooth, actually has a lower chance of interference from other devices, but requires the installation of special drivers and is only fully supported in Windows XP.

I don’t like having to install drivers for devices unless absolutely necessary and I have experience various driver-related issues that caused the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to stop working completely.

At this point, I would stick to an RF-based system since it does not require any special software in order to be recognized and has been around for a while.

Finally, the slight response ‘lag’ on wireless pointing devices can be a problem for hard-core gamers and remember to keep fresh batteries in the units for the best performance, but most of all, if you really don’t need it, don’t buy it!

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on October 23, 2003