Bluetooth FrogPad Keyboard Review

by Reads (20,645)

For those users who have never heard of the FrogPad, it’s a tiny unique keyboard with a new layout which replaces a full QWERTY keyboard. It allows you to use and type on it with only a single hand, which is nice when you are in a pinch.


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There are two versions of the FrogPad available. A black wired USB FrogPad and a white wireless Bluetooth enabled FrogPad, also called iFrog. Both are available as a left handed or right handed version. In this review I will be testing out the left handed, white Bluetooth FrogPad.

Specifications:

  • 15 normal keys + 5 extended keys = 20 physical keys
  • 10 status LEDs
  • Size: 5.60″ x 3.73″ x 0.66″ (14.22cm x 9.47cm x 1.68cm)
  • Weight: 0.43 lbs. (195 gram)
  • Connected via Bluetooth
  • Charging via USB port
  • Supports all QWERTY keys, characters, numbers, arrows, ctrl, alt, tab, PgUp, PgDown, Application, Windows, Scroll Lock
  • Price: $149.99

Shipment

The FrogPad comes with white Slide-on cover, quick reference guide, instruction manual, Typing Pal flyer, Bluetooth iFrog Quick Start Guide, tutorial CD, retractable ZIP Linq USB 1.1 cable (battery charger leads / USB AC-Adapter (ZIP Linq), which charges it without being connected to a PC. Everything you need is included.


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Build and Design

The FrogPad is a bit on the heavy side weighing in at 0.43 pounds, but this helps it sit securely on the desk and makes it feel solid. The keys are normal sized flat keys, and the keyboard has no flex, but the keys aren?t 100% straight.

You can slide the slide-on cover over the keys and over the bottom cover, so you won?t loose it and it will protect the keys. The bottom cover and the slide-on cover are white, but the upper side of the FrogPad with the keys has a very very slight yellow tint. Both the bottom of the FrogPad as well as the slide-on cover have two long rubber bands, which guarantee a solid stand, unfortunately the FrogPad still wobbles a bit, one edge lifts about 0.5 mm.


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There are several LEDs on the FrogPad that indicate the different modes and states, unfortunately the LEDs on the keys (Shift, Symbol and Number) are difficult to see from the side and the LEDs flicker sometimes. It?s also strange that the charging LED goes on if I activate ?scroll lock?.

Finally the build quality is average. Not perfect but also not bad, it has a very solid build, but has a few flaws.

Bluetooth

Connecting via BT is easy. Switch the FrogPad on, press the ?Pairing Button? on the FrogPad and start the search on your Tablet PC, enter the pin on the FrogPad, and your finished. Reconnecting is very fast too it only takes about 4-5 seconds.

After not using the FrogPad for 15 minutes it goes to sleep mode and you have to press the ?Shift? button for three seconds to activate it again. Its BT reach is normal and like promised 10 meters or 30 feet without any wall between.

The FrogPad supports the HID profile, which allows you to connect the FrogPad not only to a PC but also to the Symbian OS or a few J2ME enabled mobile phones, many PDAs and many other devices too. You can find a full list of supported devices on their homepage.

(I tried my Nokia 6233 with J2ME support, it found the FrogPad, it seemed to connect, but sadly it hasn?t worked. The FrogPad stayed in pairing mode and I wasn?t able to use it)

Layout

The Layout is clear and easy to keep in mind. The keys are labeled well and have different colors for their different modes. The H and Y letters have a small nose, so you always know where you have to place your fingers on the FrogPad.

The FrogPad is split in 5 modes.

1. Letter mode

Press a ?normal? key or ?Space+normal? key to type any letter you want. Press ?Shift? once to activate temporary shift mode and to type a capital letter.

2. Function mode

While in letter mode hold the ?Number? key and press any normal key to execute a function key, like arrow, temporary alt, temporary ctrl, esc, page up, ?

3. Number mode

Press the ?Number? key to activate and later deactivate the num block.

While in number mode press ?Space+normal? key to press an F-key, like F9.

4. Symbol mode

Press the ?Symbol? key to activate and later deactivate the symbol mode. While in symbol mode press any normal key to type a symbol, press ?Space+key? to get access to more symbols.

5. Special mode

While in symbol mode hold the ?Number? key and press a normal key to activate ?alt hold?, ?ctrl hold?, ?print screen?, ?

A bit confusing the first time, but the FrogPad really offers you every key or keystroke a normal QWERTY keyboard has, even all the special keys like Scroll Lock, Print Screen, etc?

Learning

Learning to type on the FrogPad is quite easy. Most of the keys are very intuitively placed, so you?ll already know after the first day where all the characters are.

Sadly no real learning program was included, only an interactive manual which offers you the possibility to type a few words while the FrogPad layout is displayed, but not more.

So I just typed a few words and texts the first two days to learn the layout and to type on the FrogPad.

After two days I tried the free one week online trial course from Typing Pal, which is designed for the FrogPad. I have to say this made learning the FrogPad much easier and you really don?t need more than this free week. You have different lessons in which you learn two further keys. After this one week you type fast enough to type normal texts with the FrogPad to improve your typing speed this way.

FrogPad Inc. says you?re able to type 40 WPM after 10 hours training.

Well, I haven?t reached this 40 WPM but I reached 27 WPM after about one week (9 hours learning).

After the Typing Pal trial was over I started to almost replace my QWERTY keyboard with the FrogPad. And so I managed to get something in the range of 45 WPM after three weeks of usage and typing. This speed is much better than the 25 WPM I get with the On Screen Keyboard or the 20 WPM I get with the writing recognition.

Below, you can see a chart I made which displays the WPM I was able to type at the end of each day, typing each time three different texts without too many special characters, 2 minutes.

But I don?t think I will be able to type faster than about 60 WPM.

If I try to type that fast sometimes I press ?Space? after ?e? while I?ve not finally released the ?e? key, which ends in a ?z? instead of an ?e? and a ?Space?. (e.g. ?the dog? ends in ?thzdog?)

It also happens sometimes if I want to type a ?Space? and then a capital letter. I end up pressing ?Space? and ?Shift? simultaneously which enters the ?Shift Lock? mode. These two problems are the only problems I had while typing a text.

Typing

Typing normal text, like this review is almost as easy as typing on a normal keyboard.

You just type the letters, if something is wrong you only have to press ?Number+i? for backspace or ?Number+t? for the arrow up key, so you can easily navigate in your text, remove and type new characters.

Typing a text with a lot of symbols instead, like coding, is a bit difficult and more complicated, because you always have to switch between symbol and letter mode, that?s not that comfortable anymore.

(On the white Bluetooth FrogPad you have to press the symbol key to activate the symbol mode and later you have to press the symbol key a second time to deactivate the symbol mode. On the black USB FrogPad you have to press the symbol key to activate the symbol mode too, but you leave symbol mode automatically after pressing a normal key, some sort of a temporary symbol mode.)

Shortcuts

Executing shortcuts is no big deal on a FrogPad. Just press ?Number+e? to activate the temporary ctrl-mode and press the character you want (normal key or Space+normal key)

For example

  • ?ctrl+c?: ?Number+e? and ?Space+c?
  • ?ctrl+s?: ?Number+e? and ?s?
  • More complex shortcuts instead are too difficult to perform, like Alt+F4:
  • You have to press ?Number+h? (alt) then ?Number? then ?Space+t? (F4)

Games

Yeah, playing games in tablet mode with the pen is fun, especially if you still have access to keyboard shortcuts, like all the numbers, ctrl+number, and all the characters, which is possible now with the FrogPad.

If you want to type a number, then you have to press ?Number? to activate the number block, press the number you want and then press ?Number? a second time to deactivate the number block.

 

If you want to execute a keystroke like ?ctrl+2? then you have to press ?Number+e? to lock ctrl and now just type the number like before. (enter number mode, press number, leave number mode; or let number mode turned on all the time)

Now you are able to play mouse based games in tablet mode with all the keyboard shortcuts. But is it also possible to play first person shooters, race games or other games with the FrogPad? That answer is simple: NO.

If you hold a normal character key the FrogPad sends the character half a second later, and not immediately like a normal keyboard does (if you release the key, it sends it immediately but not if you hold it.)

If you hold down the ?Number? key and then press a character key to execute an arrow key then the event gets sent immediately but then you aren?t able to press a third key. So playing these sort of games is impossible on a FrogPad.

International usage

If you need other international characters, then you have a problem. Fortunately you can use a free software, called ?JLG Extended Keyboard Layout? unfortunately it is a bit complicated.

Battery time

The BT FrogPad uses a non-user replaceable lithium polymer rechargeable battery with 4.6WHr.


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To charge it you have to connect one side of the retractable USB cable to the FrogPad, the other side to a USB port on your Tablet PC or to the USB port of the included AC Adapter. The FrogPad has a small red charging LED on the left side. This LED also indicates if the battery is empty. Unfortunately it gets covered from the slide-on cover (if applied) and is normally not visible when you use the left handed FrogPad, because you have to look from the left side on the FrogPad to see the charging LED, but on a left handed FrogPad you always look from the right side on the FrogPad while typing on it.

After two weeks of usage I had to recharge the FrogPad. I didn?t see the red charging LED because it is on the wrong side, so it just stopped working and I had to recharge it. Fortunately, you can continue using the FrogPad while it charges. Charging took about 3 hours, but I had to interrupt charging between.

Compared to other rechargeable Bluetooth keyboards the two week battery life seems a bit short (others have something between one and two months). Maybe only the first time the battery life was so short? Whatever, two weeks is not bad, it could be longer, but it is satisfactory.

Support / Community

Their support is a bit on the slow side. If you write a question in their forum don?t expect a fast and detailed answer or sometimes an answer at all. If you write them by mail you should be patient, very patient, maybe you have to write them a few times.

Often and a long time ago they also promised a lot of new improved FrogPad versions, like a user reprogrammable FrogPad or a FrogPad designed for gamers, but they still produce and sell their few year old FrogPads without any of these improvements.

Their website is outdated and has some dead hyperlinks; the community is nearly ?dead?.

I personally also don?t expect a new better FrogPad in the near or far future (the FrogPad I have is labeled with a quality check made in 2006!)


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Conclusion

The FrogPad is the perfect accessory for a Tablet PC user.

It has a few quirks and software failures, sometimes I accidentally activate some modes or press some keys I don?t want to press and the layout could be optimized except the character placement which is great.

But it allows you to type and edit text with a single hand, holding the pen in the other hand; it allows you to execute almost every shortcut in Windows, Photoshop, ? with ease while still being small and portable so you don?t have to use a large and heavy QWERTY keyboard for this job; in my opinion just perfect for a Tablet PC user.


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The only downsides are that you have to invest some time to learn a complete new layout and you can?t modify the layout or update the ?firmware?.

Sadly you are also not able to use the FrogPad while you?re on the way. You always have to place the FrogPad on a desk beneath your Tablet PC. (But on the FrogPad homepage they made a small tutorial how to mechanical modify your FrogPad to attach it to your arm.)

Pros

  • Small and portable
  • Solid build
  • Comfortable keys
  • Good labeled keys
  • Replaces a full QWERTY keyboard
  • Innovative layout
  • Usable with a single hand
  • Connecting via BT is very easy
  • Good BT range
  • Handy status LEDs

Cons

  • No on status LED (you don?t know if it?s on or off or sleeps)
  • LEDs in the keys are difficult to see from the side
  • Charging LED is on the wrong side. (on a left handed FrogPad)
  • Expensive
  • You have to learn a whole new layout
  • No training software included
  • You can?t reprogram the layout or change some keys
  • Symbols are cumbersome to type
  • Typing speed is limited because of quirks
  • Playing particular games is impossible
  • Bad or at least very slow support


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