Microsoft Fail — MS Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000 Review and Tale of A Painful Free Upgrade

That should­n’t be worth post­ing about, but it took more work than it should have. Sum­ma­ry: I prob­a­bly should have stuck with Log­itech wire­less keyboard/mouse com­bi­na­tions, because I did­n’t have a prob­lem with the pre­vi­ous set I had and nev­er had occa­sion to call their tech­ni­cal sup­port. But since I bought a Microsoft prod­uct, it was worth­while to hound them until they came through on their war­ran­ty, despite the fact that the expe­ri­ence was some­what painful.

Last August, I bought a new Microsoft cord­less “Desktop”—a key­board and mouse set, I think the mod­el was the Wire­less Com­fort Desk­top 4000. I was­n’t thrilled with them from the begin­ning, as the trans­ceiv­er had to be very close to the key­board or it would miss char­ac­ters. Sam and I both tried futz­ing with the set­tings and chang­ing bat­ter­ies and so on with­out see­ing any improve­ment. The Log­itech set the new set replaced had a fea­ture I rather missed, where­in the trans­ceiv­er was also a recharg­ing sta­tion for the mouse. The down­side to that was that if I for­got to put the mouse back in its recharg­ing sta­tion prop­er­ly, it would occa­sion­al­ly get run down. I trained myself to remem­ber where the mouse went pret­ty quick­ly, though, and that was prefer­able to con­stant­ly feed­ing the mouse more batteries!

Any­way, the Log­itech set had last­ed sev­er­al years before it was moved to a PC that was­n’t in use as heav­i­ly as my main machine is. The new Microsoft set did­n’t even last four months before the mouse just died. Yep, died—there was no light com­ing out the bot­tom any more. 1 After doing all the rea­son­able trou­bleshoot­ing we could think of, I called Microsoft­’s hard­ware tech­ni­cal sup­port number.

I quick­ly real­ized that the num­ber must be rout­ed to India or a lin­guis­ti­cal­ly sim­i­lar place, and after much effort man­aged to make myself under­stood to the indi­vid­ual at the first lev­el. He grudg­ing­ly agreed to trans­fer me to an actu­al sup­port tech (sup­pos­ed­ly) at the next level. 

When that per­son answered the phone, we had a ver­bal Key­stone Cops rou­tine with her repeat­ed­ly call­ing me by many sounds that that she kept insist­ing were my name. I repeat­ed­ly stat­ed that my name was Cyn­thia Armis­tead, and she repeat­ed­ly told me that no, I was (unin­tel­li­gi­ble). I sug­gest­ed that per­haps she had the name wrong from her co-work­er, and she final­ly put me on hold, appar­ent­ly to check with him. It seems that either she was read­ing the first-lev­el per­son­’s name in place of mine, or he had put his name in the wrong place—in either case, I’m very hap­py that nei­ther of them could actu­al­ly touch our hardware.

After the mat­ter of my iden­ti­ty and right to speak to her were estab­lished, Ms. Microsoft Tech very offi­cious­ly (and labo­ri­ous­ly) went through her scripts regard­ing check­ing cables and such, and I pre­tend­ed to play along with regards to reboot­ing and so on. For some­one con­tract­ed to do Microsoft tech­ni­cal sup­port, she was remark­ably unfa­mil­iar with Win­dows 7. Final­ly, she allowed as how there was a remote pos­si­bil­i­ty that the mouse itself was defec­tive, and stat­ed that she would order a new mouse to be shipped to me in sev­en to ten days. I agreed to those terms, and expect­ed a new mouse some­time in January.

There was no new mouse in Jan­u­ary, but I did get a some­what vague email from Ms. MS Tech in Jan­u­ary that seemed to be say­ing some­thing about a delay. Fine, a brief delay would­n’t be a big deal, right? So I wait­ed for a cou­ple of weeks, but the mouse did­n’t come.

Now I was get­ting annoyed. The key­board was get­ting clingi­er and clingi­er about its trans­ceiv­er. I’d put the mouse that came with my dig­i­tiz­ing pad into ser­vice, but it just did­n’t fit my hand quite as well as the MS mouse had, and I could­n’t switch it to use it on the left side com­fort­ably for some rea­son (I like to switch hands peri­od­i­cal­ly, to avoid tir­ing out one hand or the oth­er too much). I kept mean­ing to call and find out why I did­n’t have a new mouse, but kept putting it off.

Then one week­end I got an auto­mat­ed email say­ing that my sup­port case had been closed, fol­lowed imme­di­ate­ly by anoth­er email from some orga­ni­za­tion Microsoft had hired to do cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys want­i­ng me to do one of those web sur­veys regard­ing my expe­ri­ence with their cus­tomer sup­port. Oh, let me tell you, that par­tic­u­lar sur­vey response should get some atten­tion if any­body actu­al­ly reads it!

You bet­ter believe I was on the phone to that tech sup­port line as soon as they opened again on Mon­day! Actu­al­ly, the first num­ber I called turned out to be a num­ber I’d been giv­en to check on the ship­ment. The per­son there, appar­ent­ly in the U.S., told me that the desk­top set I’d orig­i­nal­ly pur­chased had been dis­con­tin­ued, so my order had been can­celed because they could­n’t find a replace­ment. Since she was­n’t in the tech­ni­cal sup­port depart­ment, she could­n’t tell me why nobody con­tact­ed me to offer me anoth­er set or any­thing else, and cer­tain­ly nobody had made any notes in the record when they can­celed the order.

So the next call was to the tech­ni­cal sup­port line. And again, I had to get past the first lev­el per­son (who snip­pi­ly informed me that I could­n’t check the sta­tus of a closed case, and that he would­n’t con­nect me direct­ly to a super­vi­sor). I’m fair­ly cer­tain that I was con­nect­ed to the same tech as before, but hon­est­ly the lan­guage bar­ri­er was so sig­nif­i­cant that I won’t swear to that fact. I am hop­ing that it was the same per­son, and that most of their per­son­nel speak far bet­ter Eng­lish than she did. The super­vi­sor with whom I final­ly spoke did speak very clear Eng­lish, hap­pi­ly. In any case, the tech act­ed as if it were some­how my fault that the order had been can­celed unful­filled, because I had bought a mod­el that would soon be discontinued.

At least the super­vi­sor imme­di­ate­ly said “Oh, no, that should­n’t have hap­pened. I’m send­ing you a new set right away.” And to his cred­it, he did. And here it is, the Wire­less Com­fort Desk­top 5000. Since I have it, I’ll review it.

The new key­board feels fair­ly good so far, even if some of the aux­il­iary keys are in slight­ly dif­fer­ent places (home, end, insert, delete) and I’m hav­ing to adjust to their new posi­tions. It has a low­er pro­file and seems slighter than the old­er mod­el, with a high-gloss black fin­ish. There’s a nub­bly tex­ture to the wrist rest that I rather like, and a low bat­tery indi­ca­tor. While the box claims that the key­board is Com­fort Curve2 pre­ferred, I’m not detect­ing much, if any, curve here. Yes, I’m still miss­ing those thick, almost split-key­board Microsoft Nat­ur­al Key­boards of many years ago.

It does­n’t need to be right next to its trans­ceiv­er (a good thing, since it’s just a lit­tle USB don­gle, appro­pri­ate for lap­top use) in order to work accu­rate­ly, which is a huge improve­ment. That pre­vi­ous mod­el is the first wire­less key­board I’ve ever had with that prob­lem, and I’m fig­ur­ing it may be one of the rea­sons it was dis­con­tin­ued so quickly. 

THe biggest dif­fer­ence in the mouse is that it isn’t curved to one side, so it is eas­i­er to use it in either the right or left hand. I sup­pose that’s going to make some peo­ple hap­py and both­er oth­ers. The mouse is tex­tured on either side where one grips it, like the key­board­’s wrist rest. I don’t recall the pre­vi­ous mod­els being tex­tured in that man­ner, so I believe that’s new. The wheel on this mod­el isn’t click­able, where­as the pre­vi­ous one was. The ver­biage on the box does tell me that it does four-way scrolling, though! In addi­tion to the two stan­dard mouse but­tons, there are two more tiny ones on each side, a lit­tle small­er and low­er pro­file than in the pre­vi­ous model.

But next time I shop for a key­board and mouse, I’m giv­ing Log­itech anoth­er try. They can hard­ly help but do a bet­ter job than Microsoft has this time around!

1 I don’t the cat had any­thing to do with it, although I can’t swear to that.

2 Sure­ly there should be a TM there? But there isn’t one on the box. I checked!

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