As mentioned earlier, the Solidtek keyboard is an alternative USB keyboard for UMPCs and other slate Tablet PCs. I haven’t been able to really play around with this keyboard that much yet, just a little bit near the end of the work day yesterday. But my first impression is that it’s going to be kind of difficult to use over an extended amount of time. Firstly, the keys are quite small, even for me, so I expect that a lot of people would have trouble typing on this. Secondly, the keyboard layout was changed around in order to fit everything into a small footprint; most notably, there is no right-hand shift key. Already that makes things more difficult for touch-typists. The apostrophe key was also moved a couple keys right of the space bar instead of being to the left of the enter key on a normal QWERTY keyboard. Those two particular changes often tripped me up during my short test.
Of course, with a keyboard this small, thin, and light, you can’t really expect to have the same experience that you would with a larger keyboard. It does offer a slightly better way to input larger amounts of text — like a short e-mail or blog post — than DialKeys, but I wouldn’t whip out this keyboard just to enter a URL or password. DialKeys or the TIP would be sufficient. So it boils down to what your preferences and needs are — a super small keyboard that is very easy to transport with your UMPC, or a slightly larger keyboard that is more usable for extended “desktop computing” sessions. JKOntheRun posted about a Logitech USB keyboard for the Playstation2 that’s probably a better option for users who prefer the slightly larger keyboard option. It’s also at least $10 – $12 cheaper than the Solidtek keyboard. I just picked it up today from Fry’s, so I’ll try to get some comparison pictures up soon. In the meantime, here are pictures of the Solidtek keyboard itself:
A few days ago I read about an alternative mini-keyboard for the Samsung Q1 available from the Brando online store. It’s nice because it’s only about $25, including shipping, compared to the official Samsung Q1 keyboard (that was bundled with newer Q1 purchases…Samsung should’ve retroactively sent these keyboards to previous Q1 purchasers ) that is $99 + shipping. The Samsung keyboard has a much shorter USB cable to make it fit into a carrying case with the Q1 a lot better, as well as a pointing stick. But are these features worth the $70-some price difference? Perhaps not.
At any rate, I went searching at my favorite tech warehouse, Tigerdirect, and found a similarly-sized keyboard by Solidtek. It’s a bit more expensive than the Brando keyboard at $27.99 + shipping (or in my case, $27.99 + tax, since there’s a local Tigerdirect store near me), and it has a silver and black color scheme, which may or may not appeal to you better than an all-black color scheme. But if you’re looking for an alternative to the Brando keyboard, I recommend checking it out.
Right now I’m at work, so I probably won’t be able to play around with this keyboard until I get home tonight. Keep your eyes peeled for a quick review later. My first impression is that this keyboard is really small and cute. Even if I don’t own the Q1 that I’m testing out, I’m sure I can find another use for this mini-keyboard, probably for the UMPC that I will eventually buy for myself.
I feel that even if someone were to use the Q1 plus this ultra-mini keyboard (and a mouse, if he/she just couldn’t live without it) as a sort of laptop replacement, I doubt that he/she would be able to find a similarly portable notebook computer for around $1100 or $1200. Those really small Vaio notebooks are definitely not that cheap, unless you find some really good deal on a used one, or something. And you don’t get the option to leave the keyboard behind if you want an even more portable device when you’re away from your desk.
Whenever I read someone’s complaint about how buying an external keyboard for a UMPC defeats the ultra-portability, I just have to shake my head in disbelief at that person’s ignorance (and get a little angry). *sigh*