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Sony PEGA-KB20 Mini Keyboard Review
By Ed Hardy
The KB20 clip-on keyboard allows users of the Sony T series and the new SL10 to enter text without Graffiti.
Unlike most other mini-keyboards, the KB20 doesn't clip onto the bottom of the handheld. Instead, it clips onto the front and a cable reaches down to plug into the HotSync port. It fits over the Graffiti area and the hardware buttons but still leaves the Power button exposed. Fortunately, it has replacement buttons for the ones it covers up.
Though the KB20 is a half-inch thick at its widest points, it only adds an eighth of an inch to the thickness of the handheld when it is attached. This is because the thickest parts are the two clips that reach down on either side of the handheld to hold it on.
This keyboard is a good way to enter text but it destroys the clean lines of the handheld. It becomes bottom heavy, thick, and the HotSync plug makes it even longer. Basically, you aren't going to want to keep the KB20 on your Clié all the time. When I'm looking info up, playing a game, etc. I don't have the keyboard on. Only when I want to type something long do I attach it. Sony was good enough to include a small plastic case for the keyboard to make carrying it around easier.
If you do decide to carry your Clié around with this keyboard attached, you might be concerned that accidentally pushing the buttons will activate the handheld. Sony prepared for this and put a Hold switch on the bottom which will deactivate the keyboard.
I had my wife try this keyboard and she ran into a problem that would never come up with me: fingernails. Her nails aren't all that long but they still prevented her from pressing the KB20's keys.
The KB20 runs off power from the HotSync port so you don't need to keep batteries in it.
It comes with a strap that runs from the keyboard to the small ring on the side of the handheld. I can't see a lot of point in this. The KB20 is too heavy to even consider allowing it to hang from the handheld while you use the Graffiti area. It isn't like you are going to be typing so fast the keyboard is going to accidentally fly of your Clié so I don't see what Sony thinks it needs a safety strap for.
In order to type an upper case letter, you have to hold the shift key down. If you push the shift key then push the "L" key, you type a lower case "L". While this is normal for a regular keyboard, it is totally wrong for a thumbpad like this one.
On the KB20, you are doing all your typing with just your thumbs. Holding a tiny key down with one thumb while trying to press down another is very awkward. For example, if you want to type an upper case "A", you have to hold the Shift key down with your left thumb and stretch your right thumb all the way across the keyboard to hit the "A" key. The keys are small and close together and you almost can't touch your thumbs to two keys side-by-side like this.
The same goes for the Function key, which you need to hold down in order to type numbers and most punctuation marks, though, thankfully, this doesn't include the comma and period.
Sony should release an updated driver that changes the way this works. Pressing the Shift key should put it into a Shift Mode, so that the next key you press is capitalized. This is how it works in Graffiti. The same goes for the Function and Command keys.
The driver application that comes with the KB20 doesn't have a lot of options. You can turn the keyboard on or off and turn Key Clicks on or off. This controls whether your handheld makes a small noise whenever you press a key.
After this practice, I can type with the KB20 a bit faster than I can write with Graffiti. That's as long as there aren't too many numbers, upper case letters, and punctuation marks. As I said earlier, these are kind of a hassle and slow my writing down.
For short bits of text, the KB20 and Graffiti are about even in speed, but for longer emails or memos the KB20 pulls out ahead. It will be even better if Sony makes the software change I suggested. For really long documents, like the Great American Novel, I'd suggest you get a full-sized keyboard, like the one Think Outside is supposed to release for the T series this month.
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