MobileInfocenter
Developer: The Price:
  • $50
The Pros:
  • Small and portable
  • Inexpensive
  • Can be upgraded
The Cons:
  • Odd layout for punctuation
  • Unusual key sensitivity
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Mini-PDA Keyboard Review
By Pepper
2/20/2002


Overview
DNR's mini-PDA keyboard is a tiny and portable solution for people who just can't stand Graffiti. It also allows you to cheaply upgrade or switch between handhelds with just a cable.

Setup
To use the keyboard, all you need to do is install the driver, enable it, and hook up the keyboard. The keyboard attaches to the Palm via a cable so you have to plug the cable into both the Palm and the keyboard. But once you hook it up, you're ready to type, and the driver doesn't interfere with HotSyncing or Palm's keyboard driver.

Typing
The most important aspect of any keyboard is how well you can type with it. In order to make this keyboard so small, the typing space has been drastically decreased. The keys are smaller then the nail on my pinky finger, and there is barely any space between the keys. When you type on the keyboard you'll notice that the typing surface is pretty much a plastic grid with a rubber-like layer over it.

When you do try to type, you're either going to fall in love with the keyboard or you'll hate it bitterly. The keys have a rather weird sensitivity. If you try to poke directly at each individual key you end up with a lot of errors and extremely slow typing speeds. But, on the other hand, if you tap the general area of the key instead of searching out each letter, it notices where the pressure is being placed and it puts down the correct letter. This method is much quicker, and there are rarely any typos. So, if you search out all of your letters, you'll probably hate this keyboard, but if you try to type fluently without being too precise you'll quite likely love it.

For the most part the keys are laid out in a predictable fashion, but some of the punctuation can only be accessed by using the function key and searching for the right key. Another issue with the key layout is the size of the spacebar - it's a tiny square the same size as any other key. Also, because this keyboard works on Win CE devices too, there aren't any keys that mimic the silkscreen or hard buttons. But there is a key that you can use for the command feature; it's just labeled as Ctrl.

Size and Portability
This is definitely the most portable keyboard I have ever used. The keyboard is smaller then a Palm, and it tucks away nearly anywhere. This is the only keyboard I've tried so far which fits comfortably in a pants pocket, allowing it to go anywhere you do. The cable comes off, so you can fold it in half and keep it safely next to the keyboard.

Cables
Attaching a keyboard with a cable has its pluses and minuses. On the down side it's easy to lose, so whenever I put away the keyboard I always worry if I'll ever see the cable again. But the most important thing about cables is that they save you money by letting you upgrade. Instead of selling an old keyboard when you upgrade your Palm, you can just buy a new cable and save a bit of money. This is also convenient because if you have more then one PDA; you just carry around a few extra cables, rather then a few extra keyboards. And, most importantly, you can even switch between platforms and you won't have to sell the keyboard.

There are cables that let this keyboard work with the Palm m500 series, Palm V series, Palm m100 series, Palm III and VII series, Handspring Visor and Edge, Sony N series, HandEra 330 and TRGpro, and several types of Pocket PC devices.

Conclusion
This is a great keyboard that is very portable and it will last through several upgrades by just buying new cables. But for some people the keys just won't suit their style and it will barely be useable. So, before buying it, you should think about your typing style and whether or not you'll like the sensitivity.

Article Comments

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Think I'll stick with my Stowaway

bookrats @ 2/20/2002 11:57:45 AM #
(At least, when they build one for the T615C)

----

Jeff Meyer

RE: Think I'll stick with my Stowaway
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/20/2002 2:24:00 PM #
Agreed...

- Folded up, it is not much bigger than this one.

- No cable to worry about.

- Holds the PDA at a comfortable viewing angle.

- Full size keyboard... good "feel" to it.

- Seems to take a pretty good beating. I've had no problems with mine.

RE: Think I'll stick with my Stowaway
c_blue @ 2/20/2002 3:12:59 PM #
Agreed... I left graffiti a long time ago..

I ended up with a PPK for long text writing and fitaly stamp for everytime input.

C_Blue

good review Pepper

Dearman @ 2/20/2002 12:27:15 PM #
It looks like a good lunch time solution when 1 hand is busy feeding my face and the other can type away. you said it doesn't interfere with the UC's hotsync on M5xx but will it interfere with my GPS unit or my OBD2 connection?

Noctrop_d@yahoo.com

"any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Aurthur C Clarke

Very similar to Fellows keyboard except more expensive!

skoty @ 2/20/2002 2:14:55 PM #
I have a Fellows keyboard, and this looks very similiar. Especially with the fact that it has a changable connector for different PDA's. Instead of a cable, the Fellows keyboard uses a little adapter and the keyboard actually attatches to the PDA. The Fellows keyboard is much cheaper at around $35.

My only problem with the Fellows keyboard is that you couldn't turn off ALL the noises it made. Even if I disabled sounds, it still made one annoying sound whenever I enabled the keyboard. I have a buddy that works at Cirque, and he has provided me with an updated "completely quiet" driver. Now I have no complaints. Great price, great keyboard.

--------------
If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definately isn't for you.

Link
skoty @ 2/20/2002 2:20:38 PM #
Here's a link to the review of the Fellows keyboard:

http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_Story.asp?ID=2244

--------------
If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definately isn't for you.

RE: Very similar to Fellows keyboard except more expensive!
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/21/2002 12:19:01 AM #
I have never liked Fellowes keyboards. The drivers are horrible and user support is extremely lacking in the company. :-/

I have the Fellowes pocket keyboard for my Handspring Visor Prism, and I have never been able to reliably use it with a springboard device attached. The drivers, for some odd reason, attempt to access the springboard instead of the actual keyboard.

Last I had checked, none of the support pages on the Fellowes site had anything regarding this problem... or any pages on the keyboard itself.

After I attempted to contact Fellowes support thru email, I was only given the reply that there *might* be an update someday. :-P

Nice, but limited, keyboard

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/20/2002 4:45:50 PM #
I bought the the Mini-PDA Keyboard for $30.00 off of their website when it was first introduced It does not compare favorably to the Stowaway but is great for basic inputs. It is definately difficult to type on but is probably not intended for writing a novel. Ultimately it is a flawed, but definately useful, keyboard.

RE: Nice, but limited, keyboard
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/18/2002 10:07:06 PM #
Ok...just bought this today. Does anyone know if it will fit in one of those stowaway/palm cases? Ill update you all when I try it out.
-Joe

Keyboards

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/21/2002 12:14:01 PM #
Seiko Instruments may have the best option yet as far as keyboards with the Thumbboard. 40 bucks, free case that holds board and PDA, app buttons, QWERTY style, shortcut buttons, no batteries needed.

www.seiko-austin.com/cgi-bin/ducs/display.pl?o=upscatalog&i=1&cat_id=96

I would also like to see TTD come out with a version of their Q-board for more models.

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