MobileInfocenter
The Price:
  • $50
The Pros:
  • Faster than Graffiti for large amounts of text

The Cons:
  • Entering upper-case letters, numbers, punctuation, unnecessarily difficult
  • Makes the handheld large and clumsy

PalmInfoCenter.com Ratings*:
Design:
Cost/benefit:
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*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



Sony PEGA-KB20 Mini Keyboard Review
By Ed Hardy
8/9/2002


Introduction
The KB20 clip-on keyboard allows users of the Sony T series and the new SL10 to enter text without Graffiti.

Hardware
The KB20 is 3.5 by 1.6 by .75 inches. This means it is a bit wider than the handheld. This is a good thing as it allows the keys to be farther apart, making typing easier.

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.

Speaking of holding on, the KB20 does this pretty well. One of the two clips is spring loaded so it holds on tightly, but not too tightly.

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.

Software
Though I think the hardware is OK, the software could use a bit of work. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to change.

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.

Usability
To give the KB20 a good test, I did what I always try to do with keyboards: I wrote this review using it. This helps make sure I really use the keyboard a lot before I express an opinion about it.

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.

Conclusion
At $50, the KB20 is a reasonable price for a clip-on keyboard. It makes a handy add-on for putting in medium amounts of text. However, if you are thinking about buying this and a T665C, you'd be better off paying a bit more and getting a NR70, which has a built-in keyboard and a larger screen.

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Who care?

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 12:17:25 PM #
Give me virtual grafitti!
Virtual grafitti?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 12:48:42 PM #
How about a poll on the need for virtual grafitti?
Before I got my Handera330 I was sure that it would be a huge advantage with the virtual grafitti,but in fact, I much prefer a dedicated, non-display area.
When writing, I prefer to watch my input coming up on the screen, and so the bonus of having live grafitti feedback is actually not so great... If you want that, then I find a solution like Tealecho far better: you can see your strokes and the text together.
My grafitti area is so much more scratched than the rest of my display (with a screen protector), that I really don't want to have extra stuff shown down there.
Who really finds virtual grafitti better, and who has TRIED it already??
I find 320x320 screen with dedicated grafitti area (backlit would be good though!) far preferable...

RE: Who care?
rldunn @ 8/9/2002 12:58:48 PM #
I guess it depends on your usage pattern. I have had an NR70V for 2 months now, and I don't think I would ever want a device without VG again. For things like reading ebooks, viewing my appointements and todos in DB5, viewing pics, etc, it's great!! But, if the NR didn't have a keyboard as well, it might be more of a pain than it's worth, as you would constantly have to bring the VG area up to write stuff in, then shrink it again.

RE: Who care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 3:09:34 PM #
I'd vote for NO virtual grafitti. I have an Ipaq in addition to a Sony N610 and I don't find the virtual area to be a big advantage. I'd much rather have a backlit, dedicated, grafitti area.
RE: Who care?
LarryGarfield @ 8/9/2002 4:53:38 PM #
I didn't think Virtual Graffiti would be a useful feature for a long time. Then I got a HandEra 330, and very quickly changed my mind. If you're only using the device in quick spurts, then I can see where it's not a big deal. But I read a lot of ebooks on my 330, and having the extra space for that is most welcome. Virtual Graffiti is a requirement for me now.

I'd consider the NR70, but I'm not a big fan of clamshells.

--
This post is ROT26 encrypted. Reading it is a violation of the DMCA

RE: Who care?
Ou_Boet @ 8/9/2002 7:56:56 PM #
Are you kidding. I couldn't live without the virtual grafitti area on my HE. I'd never go back to a standard one again. With VG you get the best of both worlds. Grafitti and an extended screen when you need it.

Long Live VG

OB

Any device can have one more useful feature added.

HandEra Moderator at [url="http://www.PalmVenue.com"]PalmVenue[/url]

RE: Who care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 8:52:07 PM #
If done properly, VG can work well if BY DEFAULT IT'S ALWAYS ON TOP. Pocket PC was designed to have VG appear when needed. It's the opposite for Palm.

BTW. I hear Sony is releasing a mod to graffiti. You have to shift and make a stroke at the same time. It's more effecient. =)

RE: Who care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/12/2002 12:05:32 AM #
I also am finding that I miss VG when I use handhelds without it; but then, my HE330 finds use most frequently as an e-book reader.

The NR and its beautiful screen came close to beating my 330, but not... quite.

And I won't buy anything without VG now.

Looks like my next PDA will have to be a 16MB Handera from Rudenko...

Same issues with NR keyboard

Roy @ 8/9/2002 12:19:53 PM #
Nice review! Seems like the same issues with the function key and shift key exist with the NRv keyboard, I guess for obvious reasons, they are made by the same folks. I wish they would come out with a software driver that allowed for "sticky keys".

Roy

RE: Same issues with NR keyboard
rldunn @ 8/9/2002 12:46:40 PM #
It's the same issue, but on the NR, I prefer it to act the way it does. If you need sticky keys, there's always CapsLock and NumLock. However, it would be nice to have an option available so that we could all be happy about this.

After looking at the pic of this mini-keyboard, the Shift key is smaller and in a different location, so it's a much bigger issue for it than for the NR.

How does it compare to the NR keyboard?

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 2:02:15 PM #
Ed, how do you rate this keyboard compared to the NR-70 series built-in keyboard?
RE: How does it compare to the NR keyboard?
Ed @ 8/9/2002 2:14:35 PM #
Being integrated into the actual handheld as it is gives the NR series keyboard a huge advantage in usability. Like I said, If you are considering spending $450 for a T665C and KB20, get a NR70 instead for $500. But if you already own a T615C or T665C, this probably isn't an option for you.

---
News Editor
RE: How does it compare to the NR keyboard?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 6:39:55 PM #
Sorry, I should have been more specific. What I meant to ask was how is the tactile feedback of the buttons on this PEGA-KB20 Mini Keyboard compared to the feel of the NR-70 series keys? Are they comparable? Does the greater width of the mini keyboard make it more comfortable to use than the NR70 keys, or is that not an advantage since they need to cram more keys in that space (since it's wider but not as tall/long as the NR70 keys)?
RE: How does it compare to the NR keyboard?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 10:49:02 PM #
I am gonna take a lucky guess at this one, but by looking at the keys on this one, than a NR70's... they both look about the same; but I haven't tried this keyboard, so I'll let Ed answer. Just an uneducated guess. :p

Good review

Scott R @ 8/9/2002 2:01:14 PM #
Ed, good review. I would have moved the issues with the shift/ctrl/etc. keys under the "Usability" heading, since those are definitely usability problems. Based on that, I'd also say that how you scored it seemed a bit high.

It doesn't surprise me that the shift key works the way it does. Based on the awful buttons Sony had been putting on most of its devices, they don't seem to have a crack usability team there.

Scott

ED you can slide it down a bit

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 2:11:52 PM #
Ed, you can slide the keyboard down a bit to expose the grafitti have 2 options for input.

Thanks -- good review

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 2:56:33 PM #
I hadn't strongly considered this keyboard -- I'm waiting for the Stowaway for my T615C Clie -- but I appreciate your review, as it cemented my decision not to get it.

Your comment that you were able to get slightly better speed out of the keyboard than entering text in Grafitti is the key point. If I can't type in text at a significantly higher speed than with Grafitti, then it's not really buying me anything.

Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 4:15:58 PM #
This site is becoming more and more Sony oriented and that is becouse Sony has taken the lead in the Palm OS camp. shame on Palm. good job Sony
RE: Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 4:22:16 PM #
COZ PALM HAS BEEN BORING LATELY.

go to palm.com if you want palm.

RE: Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 4:23:01 PM #
Then if you want to be entertain then WELCOME! =)
RE: Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 4:25:00 PM #
Looking at the home page, I see:
one story about Sony
one about both Palm and Sony
one about Handspring
one about software that runs on any handheld
one about Palm
one about Sony

Seems like a good mix to me.

RE: Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?
Strider_mt2k @ 8/9/2002 5:09:56 PM #
I would much rather have real info about what's happening than trumped-up bogus information excreted in the name of "balance".
I seem to remember when the Palm M series' hit the shelves (and before for that matter.)it was largely Palm oriented stories.
There are more Sony stories lately because Sony is a much more active company than Palm in the handheld game right now. It's as simple as that.

strider_mt2k@yahoo.com
RE: Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/9/2002 10:48:43 PM #
Yes, because in your world, 14% is more than 40%...(Or whatever Palm's share is)
Besides, don't you think that if September is when OS 5 devices come out, September is when THINGS WILL BE ANNOUNCED?
RE: Palminfocenter or Clieinfocenter?
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/10/2002 2:10:28 PM #
14% (S) is of course not more than 40% (P)

However 25 products (S) are absolutely more than 10 (P) products.


Bluetooth Wireless Keyboards

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/10/2002 11:20:38 AM #
Bluetooth Wireless Keyboards
http://www.bluelogic.co.kr/korean/keyboard.htm
http://www.infosync.no/show.php?id=2012

Microsoft, Logitech and many others will follow soon


Remap please...

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/11/2002 12:00:06 AM #
Wish I could remap the keyboard to a different arrangement like dvorak, opti or lawsuits forbid's Fitaly!

Keybord

I.M. Anonymous @ 9/26/2002 7:57:49 PM #
Is there any keyboard available for the Sony Clie PEG-N610C ?

KB-20 as game pad

kalashu @ 5/13/2003 4:57:52 AM #
Sony launched also a game pad PEGA-GC10. Since the Thumboard has so many buttons, is it possible to emulate the GC10 on KB20? It musta be! If there's somebody who has 'em both, I'm curious what happens if the driver for the GC10 is installed (the driver for KB20 is uninstalled-erased from memory) and the KB20 is plugged in.
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