Review – Stowaway Wireless Infrared Keyboard for Pocket PC and Palm OS from Think Outside

by Reads (24,526)

Setting up a keyboard for typing on a PDA just got easier with the Think Outside Infrared Wireless Keyboard.

Since the keyboard connects to the PDA by infrared, there is no fussing with tricky or tight connections. This alone makes it worth upgrading even from the very comparable Palm Ultra Thin keyboard.



There is a tradeoff for the infrared connection: the keyboard is not ultra thin. Since the wireless keyboard requires the use of two AAA batteries, it is slightly thicker and about a half-inch longer than the XT. But the package is still very compact at about 6 inches by 4 inches in its faux-leather zip case. It comes with a CD with the software and user manuals. Installation is simple, requiring only one .prc file.


Ultrathin on top, Think Outside on bottom

The keyboard opens with a latch that then becomes the PDA stand. In his review of the Palm version of this keyboard, Adama mentioned that the latch was difficult to open. I found that the latch on the Think Outside keyboard was tight at first, but after some use, it became easier to open.



Compared to the two other keyboards I have used–Targus keyboard for Handspring Visor and Palm Ultra Thin for Palm–this one was the easiest to set up. There are no hidden latches, sliding panels, or anything to connect. I placed my Palm Tungsten T in the stand, positioned the arm that has the infrared sensor just above my Palm’s sensor, and started typing. That s it. That simplicity makes quick note-taking possible. Many times I have suffered through taking Graffiti notes because I hesitated to take the time to connect my XT keyboard.

The Palm is held on the stand by a bar across the bottom and rubber bumpers at the back. At first, this feels a little strange, as if the first bump will knock everything over. As I worked, I found that was not the case. While the Palm isn’t held as tight as would be the case with the XT keyboard, the setup is stable. I tried rocking the keyboard back and forth on my desk, but the PDA did not tip over.



While the keyboard is very stable on a desk, it also can be used on your lap. It bounces around a little without a book or notepad underneath, but is still very stable. I wrote this review with the unit either on my lap or on a desk.
The keyboard itself is identical to the Palm Ultra Thin model. Although I personally liked using the Think Outside keyboard and would recommend it, if you have never used a fold-up PDA keyboard, and especially if you have larger hands, I strongly suggest testing it out at a store, much as you would a laptop. Keyboard preferences vary.

For a small keyboard, the feel is very nice. There is just enough space between keys, and the key travel feels good. It s not anything like a big, comfy desktop keyboard, or even my relatively big old Targus, but I found it did not take long to adjust. Touch-typists will appreciate the raised bumps on the F and J keys, for proper finger placement. Most keys are in familiar places, except the number keys, which are on the Q through P keys. To type them, you must press the blue Fn key.

The two Fn keys, one blue and one green, in combination with other commands listed on other keys will do a variety of things, so that you don’t have to use the stylus. For instance, you can select: OK, Done, Cancel, Details, Edit, New, Delete, Note, and Send, or Date, Phone, ToDo, Memo, Apps, Menu, Calc, and Find. You can also toggle the brightness of your screen.

While in the Apps menu, pressing a letter will select a program that begins with that letter. Also, the Command (Cmd) key can be assigned in the software to call up any program.

The green Fn key selects special characters, such as !@#$%^&*(){} ~ , and selects page up, down, home and end.
 For editing, there is a backspace key, but I could not find way to delete the words ahead of the cursor. The buttons marked delete didn t delete any words. I searched the manual, but failed to find a solution. It could be a software setup problem. Also, Fn-Edit didn t do anything for me in Word To Go.

What is nice is that this keyboard doesn’t require studying the manual to set up and use. You can plop your PDA on the stand and type, without worrying about which keys do what. Later, as you use the keyboard more, you can learn all of the functions and shortcuts, depending on your inclination and needs. The keyboard does offer quite a lot of functionality, with too many options to list here. The manual enticingly refers to an on-screen pointer that apparently is not available for users of Palm OS5. Other than missing a proper delete key, I had no trouble writing and editing on this keyboard. 

Pros:
Easy set-up, just place the PDA on the stand and type.
Comfortable typing in a purse-sized package.
Can program commands

Cons:
Must use stylus for selecting blocks of text.
Delete key didn t delete text.

Bottom Line:
Overall, this is a sturdy and functional keyboard that is fast and easy to set up, comfortable to use, as well as offering a full complement of features. It would be a smart add-on for the occasional PDA typist as well as the daily note-taker or writer.

Where to Buy:

Palm is offering a self-branded version of this keyboard, find for the Palm Wireless keyboard by clicking here.

Non-Palm branded versions of the Think Outside wireless keyboard that works with either Pocket PC or Palm OS devices can be purchased directly from Think Outside.

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