I have been planning for some time to connect up the TV to the Net. There are loads of reasons, such as being able to catchup with BBC iPlayer programmes older than the meagre 7 days that you get from the iPlayer application on the Virgin Media V+ Box. Also, as the sound goes through a surround sound system rather than through the TV's own speakers, I could also use it to play my Spotify favourites. All I would need would be a PC under the TV, connected to the network, the PC Monitor input of the TV and the audio to the surround sound system.
However, this places the PC a long way from where we would be sat, so how to control the PC and select the entertainment of choice? The answer would seem to be a wireless keyboard and mouse but, when sat on a sofa, a mouse is probably not the most useful of options. What would be ideal would be a keyboard with a built-in mouse.
Enter the Emprex Wireless Media Control Keyboard with Trackball.
I spotted this at our local Maplins for the princely sum of £39.99. There were other similar keyboards on offer there at the same price and higher. I chose this one because of it's seeming neat design. I nearly chose a different one that had a trackpad rather than a trackball but it let itself down by placing the mouse buttons on the right, below the trackpad rather than where I wanted them, on the left, where I could operate the buttons with my left thumb whilst moving the cursor with with the trackball with my right.
Installing the new keyboard is as simply as plugging the wireless receiver into a vacant USB slot and then pressing any key on the keyboard whilst holding it within a meter. Once so paired, the keyboard has an operational range, so they say, of 10 metres. I can't confirm this as I can't get anywhere near that far away from the TV!
The keyboard is powered by four AA batteries inserted in a compartment beneath the rear of the keyboard. Energizer batteries are supplied but I shall be using rechargeables when they run out. Plugging them in and pressing the On button produces no visible signs of life; you only know if it's working by the flashing blue light on the receiver whenever you hit a key on the keyboard, and by activity on the screen.
Indeed, if I have one major gripe with this keyboard it is that it has no warning lights of any kind, other than a "Battery Low" indicator, next to the On/Off button. This is a bit annoying as you don't get any indication of whether or not you have hit the Num Lock/Caps Lock button and this can cause all sorts of mayhem when entering passwords! I have had to resort to installing a bit of freeware to indicate the status of these buttons, on the screen.
Otherwise, the keyboard seems of good design. The layout is a bit different from the one to which I am used but that's a minor problem. The keyboard width is just right to operate in your hands when using just the mouse functions and is just wide enough to sit comfortably on you lap when typing. There is no numeric keypad but then how often do you use that anyway?
The one addition to the keyboard is the row of buttons across the top above the function keys. These are all for use with media applications designed to work with them, in particular when run on Windows Media Center Edition, which I don't have.
So far the keyboard seems to fit the bill. Other than the non-existence of any indicator LEDs, the only other complaint I have is that there is nowhere to store the wireless receiver when removed from the PC. I have resorted to sticking it in a recess on the underside of the keyboard with a piece of BluTac. It does the job!
So, if you're looking to a combination wireless keyboard and mouse then this one, whilst not perfect, seems to be a decent choice and at a reasonable price.