Brighthand Reviews the Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard for Palm OS

by Reads (77,055)

It’s over six months since the Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard was born, and a driver is finally available for the platform that brung ’em.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Palm platform, for which the original ThinkOutside Stowaway keyboard was made. I’m still particularly fond of that old quad-fold design, because I like to type my numbers without looking and without pressing a function key, and the original Stowaway keyboard had a separate number row across the top. I type an awful lot of product names, and most are intertwined with numbers.

But here we are, 2005, and I can now type into my Tungsten T3 via wireless, just like I do every day via my Logitec Comfort Duo wireless keyboards on my notebooks. I understand I can even use the little keyboard for my Bluetooth-enabled iBook (but I don’t think I’ll be doing that, since it’s my Palm, not my iBook, that needs a keyboard).

Is Wireless Necessary?

Is a wireless keyboard really necessary? Well, no, but it is more convenient. As I type this review, I have the Stowaway Bluetooth Wireless keyboard on my desk’s keyboard tray, and my T3 on my desk, closer to my eyes. The T3 sits in a flip out cradle that can actually be snapped off the device and placed anywhere.

Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard Of course, to better see the screen the handheld needs to be right in front of you, so how important is wireless really? It turns out it’s valuable.

For example, I can take the T3 out of this little plastic stand and put it in its cradle for charging while I continue to type, something you can’t do with the original Stowaway. And try working and charging with an IrDA-based wireless keyboard. Not without mirrors you won’t.

While you couldn’t use the Palm Power To Go battery pack with the original Stowaway, that’s not a problem with the Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard.

One advantage it does share with the IrDA designs is compatibility among many handhelds, something the older, connector-dependent designs lacked.

Finally, because the keyboard locks open into a rigid platform, (unlike like the original), you can even put the Stowaway Bluetooth in your lap while the handheld sits on a table for more comfortable — and safe — composition. With other designs, your handheld could take a tumble to the floor with a simple shift in your seat.

Performance

The Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard performs relatively fast, keeping up with my typing very well. Even my Logitech/iBook duo slows down on occasion, but I’m not seeing that on my T3 with this Bluetooth keyboard. I suppose that’s one advantage to a handheld with few background processes.

Establishing a relationship with the T3 was easy, just press a keyboard combination and the two devices find each other. You can choose to encrypt the connection or not; after the initial relationship is made, the two just find each other automatically after a few seconds.

The keyboard keeps working out to about 20 feet, out to the bounds of my vision across the room. I can see that text is continuing to be input, but I can’t see what it is, so I think I can say that the range is more than sufficient for typing on this small screen.

A flashing green light above the T key lets you know that the unit is connected, and seems to go out after a minute of inactivity. The unit, which runs on two AAA batteries, also switches off when closed, and back on with the press of a key.

One complaint I had early on with these clamshell designs was that pressing on the outer keys could rock the whole platform due to the lack of support left and right. But as I type, I’m not experiencing this even as I press the Enter and left and right shift keys. The keys are arrayed a little tighter than I’m used to on my Logitec, iBook, and big PC notebook, but anything can be gotten used to, and it looks like I’m already accustomed to it.

Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard The Stowaway Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard lacks a nuisance I experienced on the Palm Universal Wireless keyboard: the spacebar is split and a big plastic hinge pokes up right where my right thumb likes to press the spacebar. Well, the spacebar is also split on the Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard (to enable the fold), but my thumbs don’t notice. The hinge is neatly tucked below, fashioned from decent quality aluminum, and typing commences apace.

Though there’s a little trouble with this original unit’s battery door, I’m sure they’ve fixed that by now. It works well enough that I’ll be taking it to my next big tradeshow to give it a go in a crazy wireless environment that’s likely to include lots of 2.4 GHz madness.

Overall, as some Pocket PC and Symbian users already know, this keyboard is impressive.

Among palmOne handhelds, the new driver is compatible with the Treo 650, Tungsten T2, T3, and T5. The Bluetooth-enabled Zire 72 is not mentioned.

I tested it with a Tapwave Zodiac and was able to pair the two, but there is a problem. If you hold the shift key down, you get two capital letters. It works right only if you push and release the shift key, then type the letter you want capitalized.

When closed, this keyboard is 5.5 inches wide, 3.8 inches tall, and 0.7 inches thick.

With the pull of a slider, the left side of the keyboard slides to the right as the right side comes up and over to the left, and the two halves snap smartly together in fine James Bond fashion. I stick the removable cradle back onto the device, and slip the combo into my backpack where it will wait for my next review.

The Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard can be purchased from the Think Outside web site for $149.


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