In general, when I’m looking for a handheld or smartphone I want the smallest one I can get that meets my needs. That’s because it’s going to have to go with me virtually everywhere.
Of course, getting such a small device means giving up some less important features. For me, one of those is a built-in keyboard. But there are still times when I need to enter large amounts of text, whether this is a long email or some kind of document I’m writing for work.
That’s why I often use an external keyboard. This gives me the flexibility to carry a very small device most of the time, but add on some additional functionality — and the extra bulk — only when I need it.
Lately I’ve been trying out the Brando Mini Bluetooth Keyboard, and I’m fairly pleased with it.
Both Convenient and Not
This is easily the smallest add-on keyboard I’ve ever used. It’s wider and taller than the various clip-on keyboards I’ve tried in the past, but it’s much thinner.
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When it is closed it is just 3.7 in. by 2.75 in. by 0.5 in. (95 mm x 70 mm x 13 mm). I can easily slip it into a pocket and forget it’s there.
I have to admit, though, the Mini Keyboard’s size and shape makes it slightly awkward to use. It’s too small for you to be able to touchtype, but it’s too big for you to be able to easily type on it with your thumbs.
You really need to either put it on a flat surface and type on it with your index fingers, or hold it in one hand and type on it with the other. Of course, if you’re going to do that second option you’ll also need to hold your smartphone or PDA with that same hand.
The keys are soft, which makes them comfortable to type on, but you have to press each one firmly in order to get it to register.
Despite these drawbacks, typing on the Mini Bluetooth Keyboard is still much easier and faster than entering text with a numberpad. After getting used to it, I find I’m about as fast with it as I am with the built-in thumb keyboards on some smartphones. I wouldn’t want to write the Great American Novel on it, but I have no problem writing long emails, something I despise doing with T9.
Given its name, I hope it doesn’t surprise you that this keyboard connects to your handheld or smartphone with Bluetooth short-range wireless networking. This means it can be used with a very wide variety of devices.
All that’s needed is a software driver for the handheld or smartphone, and there are ones available for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Smartphone, Palm OS, BlackBerry, S60, and UIQ.
Not every device running these operating systems is supported by what should be the appropriate driver, but I’ve been using this keyboard with a non-supported smartphone without problems, aside from an error message that pops up when I activate the connection.
The Mini Bluetooth Keyboard even has support for the standard HID interface built into it, so you can easily connect it to a desktop or laptop with out any additional driver needed. I can’t see why you’d want to, but you can.
Long Battery Life
Naturally, this gadget has its own built-in battery. This isn’t swappable, but I don’t think it matters, as this gadget is able to go for an incredibly long time on a single charge.
I’ve used it on a trip where I forgot to bring anything to charge it and it lasted through multiple long sessions both coming and going, as well as some use while I was at my destination.
And I had to work pretty hard to not bring something I could charge this keyboard with; all I needed was a mini-USB cord. If your phone is charged through a mini-USB plug, as so many of them are these days, then you only need to carry one cord to charge both gadgets.
I know there are larger keyboards than this one on the market that are much easier to type on, but it seems silly to me to carry around an add-on keyboard that’s larger than my smartphone.
That’s why I like the Brando Mini Bluetooth Keyboard. It’s not the easiest one around to use, but it’s certainly the easiest one to carry.
It can be purchased now for $56 from the Brando web site.