The Palm Wireless keyboard’s construction is of monotone grey plastic, with slightly darker grey rubber trim, and white text. When fully closed, it measures 5.5 inches long, by 3.75 inches wide, and 0.7 inches thick. Its weight is kept low by the near totality of plastic, and even loaded with 2 AAA batteries, it only weighs about 5.7 ounces.
Rather than the metal-case clamshell with freestanding plastic easel approach of most IR keyboards, the PIK is a single piece, unfolding into its own stand. Front and center is the opening mechanism, a large J-shaped latch stamped with the classic Palm emblem. It grips very tightly, which is a mixed blessing–the keyboard won’t come open easily, but… well, the keyboard won’t come open easily. Once open, the clamp folds further back to click into place, where it’s later used as the prop for the stand portion of the keyboard. At this point, the keyboard pops open into three seperate layers. The topmost folds straight back to make up the stand area. The second layer folds out to the right to join the bottom-most layer in making up the keyboard and base.
The stand area is cradle-shaped, with a metal retaining bar in the front and plastic ridges along the sides. Most IR keyboard stands are little more than props designed to hold up the handheld, and as such are not very sturdy or stable a platform, particularly if the PDA’s casing is unusually shaped. The design of the PIK stand, however, guarantees very good stability. The only way that a device will slip out of the stand is straight up, or if you lean it forward enough that it pivots out.
Unfortunately, this design has a drawback. The way that the bottom of the stand is designed, it would be extremely difficult bordering on impossible to connect a cable to a Palm, whether for connectivity or charging, while it sat on the keyboard. Doing so would jam the Palm into the IR lens, impeding function; tip the Palm over to the diagonal (not a comfortable angle for typing); and you would need to run the cable practically right over the keyboard. Likewise, due to the lip on the right side of the stand area, any cable connection while in landscape would also be difficult. It would be possible, but you would have to be willing to cut off part of the right lip on the stand area. Fortunately, the neccessary area isn’t really used for anything, and the plastic isn’t so sturdy that a razorknife wouldn’t do the job, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable slicing off a chunk of keyboard, even if it is just plastic.
The infrared port of the keyboard is mounted on a flexible plastic arm that rotates about 100 degrees in an arc starting in the bottom left corner of the tray and working its way to the upper right corner. This design allows it to cover practically any handheld’s IR port perfectly, with no need for clumsy adustments to suit side or corner-mounted lenses.
Where other IR keyboards have had small, squashed, and frequently deformed keys in order to minimize size, the PIK has large, even, and perfectly smooth keys that just cry out to be typed on. Tactile response is solid. You don’t get too much of a click, but that’s hardly surprising with a modern keyboard. What you do get is about on par with a good laptop keyboard. The keys are very firm, and have excellent travel–a full 3 millimeters. The spacebar is cut in two, but again that is unsurprising on a folding keyboard.
Most of the keys do double, triple, or even quadruple duty though shift and function keys. Special functions include triggering the application and silkscreen buttons, program commands, and currency symbols. Unfortunately, the keyboard lacks a row of number keys, requiring you to use one of the function keys every time you wish to type a number, which I find very displeasing.
Since it has no direct connection to the Palm, the PIK has to supply its own power. In this case, that comes from 2 AAA size batteries in a compartment in the hinge area. You can use your choice of ordinary alkaline batteries or rechargable NiMH or NiCD cells. There aren’t any power ratings on the keyboard, but I can safely say that the batteries will last you a long time–sixty to one hundred hours use per set is not an unreasonable assumption.
Overall, I think the Palm IR keyboard is excellent, despite a few minor annoyances. I would also say that it’s the best infrared keyboard I’ve used, and that it would make an excellent addition to the Tungsten|E and Tungsten|T3 PDA’s for which is is primarily intended.
- Single-piece design
- Rugged, high impact plastic
- Evenly sized keys
- Adjustable IR arm
- Difficult to open
- No independent number keys
- Cannot use cables/accessories without modification
The best infrared keyboard so far, and an excellent add-on for T|E and T|T3 owners.
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