Brando Bluetooth Smart Keyboard ReviewBy: Ron aka twrock
July 28, 2006
I'm about halfway through a trans-Pacific flight, and since I'm stuck here, I decided that this was a good time to write up a quick review of the Brando Bluetooth Keyboard. After all the warnings about using devices that transmit a signal and afraid of getting into trouble for it, I decided to go ahead and ask the flight attendants if it would be alright to use a Bluetooth device on the plane. After listening to some conversation between them, it became quite apparent they didn't really have any idea, and I got the "OK".
Interestingly, as I turned on my Palm TX Bluetooth, I located a bunch of other electronics transmitting a Bluetooth signal, including someone's T3 (or so it was named). That got me thinking. What would happen if someone sitting within range connected with the keyboard as well. Could they see everything I was typing? Based on the documentation, it seems that the keyboard will only pair with one device and can be locked in to reconnect with that device only. At least that's what I hope the documentation means.
Ok, on to the actual keyboard.
Although the keyboard was from Brando Workshop, it came in a box labeled Xema BlueKeyboard. Obviously Brando is not the manufacturer, and this keyboard is likely available elsewhere. The basic design is a five row QWERTY keyboard with some of the less used characters activated in combination with a special function key. A second function key is available to launch the Palm apps assigned to the four hard buttons and to activate hotkeys and a few other functions as well. There is also a dedicated key for "home".
The keyboard folds in half when not in use. This is accomplished by first sliding the left half of the keys over to the left. There is also another small sliding latch above the keys to help with keeping the whole thing from folding up when in use. Finally, there is a metal stand for your PDA/phone that slides out from under the top right edge of the keyboard and latches to the top left edge when in use. You might think that should be enough to make the keyboard usable on your lap or other non-flat surface, but it isn't. There is still too much flex to realistically use it on anything other than a stiff flat surface. But the whole thing does work well on my dining tray.
The keyboard runs off of two AAA batteries and has a power switch and a LED to indicate the power is on. I was used to my Palm IR keyboard just turning off when the keyboard was folded up, so I killed my first pair of batteries in this keyboard right away. A spring-loaded latch holds the keyboard shut when folded, and it comes with a zippered carry case. So far, so good.
Typing with the keyboard is not quite as pleasant as I had hoped. My two other Palm keyboards were Palm branded, one that connected directly to my Palm IIIxe and one of the old-style IR keyboards with four rows of keys. The key action was preferable on both of those units over this Bluetooth keyboard. I find that I have to hit these keys much harder or they aren't recognized. At least for me, this creates far too many typing errors, and that of defeats the whole point of using a keyboard. I suppose that I might be able to get used to it if it was something I used very regularly. The thing I probably canít used to is the key size. Surprisingly, this Brando Bluetooth keyboard was advertised as having "full-size keys". Unless the term "full-size" means something really different than I'm used to, this keyboard does not have full-sized keys. For a comparison, I laid this keyboard next to my Palm IR keyboard. The size difference was striking. The four rows on the Palm IR keyboard are the same total height as the five rows on the Brando keyboard. My width comparison was from the left edge of the "A" key to the right edge of the quotation key. The Brando keyboard was one-half a key narrower overall. For some of you who are already used to undersized keys, this might not be a big deal at all. But that is not the case for someone with hands as large as mine; I need standard-sized keys to really make decent use of a keyboard. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to have reduced sized keys since it keeps the overall size smaller, but I don't think this keyboard should be advertised as having full-sized keys when it does not. Since this keyboard is usable with a number of different devices (cell phones as well as PDA's), extra-small might be what a lot of people are looking for.
The Brando Smart keyboard has a few additional features worth noting. One of those is the ability to assign hotkey combinations to launch different apps. The number keys are all definable. Contrary to the included documentation, Fn + B launches Hotsync, Fn + N lauches Find, and Fn + M launches Memos. There are many other predefined key combinations including Latin characters and five-way navigation emulation. Tables of these are included in the PDF documentation on the included CD. The CD includes many drivers for a number of devices. Brando also has the latest driver on their website which is the one you want if you have a Palm TX.
- Highly programmable
- Undersized keys
- Not really solid when open
Cost: US $85.00