Thanks all for your suggestions so far.
I read somewhere that folks have problems with the Logitech diNovo Mini, but far fewer problems with the diNovo (bigger one of the two diNovo keyboards). in general, i've had excellent experience with both Logitech's products as well as their customer service should something go wrong, but as both of these diNovo keyboards have been out since 2008/2009, it's been quite a while so i thought that maybe they are rather dated/old tech? i.e. no Bluetooth 3, etc.
that said, i don't have any experience with the Iogear brand. how well constructed are they? does the trackball have a way to be partially taken apart for cleaning? they frequently get gunky and malfunction if not cleaned. look forward to hearing more about this one, and hopefully/possibly, some other recommendations!
btw, it is worthy to note that my laptop is less of an HTPC but more a laptop that "lives" on the media rack and merely functions as a convenience tool for me to be able to occasionally browse on my sofa/projection screen, and view some videos via online streaming. i don't have any downloaded videos so i will not have a video library to play from.
PS: already in the process of getting an improved universal remote as an upgrade to my current universal remote.