So you bought a Tablet PC? How cool is that, you can use the pen to draw and write on the screen. Oh wait, I wrote an ‘o’ not a ‘d’, ‘b’ , ‘p’ or ‘g’ — OK, where’s my keyboard?
While buying a Tablet PC, hand writing recognition wasn’t my first priority, yet I was disappointed by Microsoft’s hand writing recognition software, even when writing nice clean type letters. For some reason it insisted that a round circle is any letter but an ‘O’.
What bothered me more was the lack of keyboard shortcuts, any simple action like CTRL+S save that was done in half a sec, took several clicks and ten times longer. Not to mention those actions in hidden sub menus and worst of all, how do you perform actions that require a combination of key and pen at the same time?
Wacom being a veteran player in the tablet market already has its pro Intuos III line fitted with 10 programmable keys, but Tablet PC makers haven’t caught up yet. Even if they did, it would be hard to fit them in. More so, even 10 keys are often not enough considering the vast amount of actions in today’s applications.
Buying the mini slim keyboard
So I started to look out for solutions like programmable keys but found almost none, then I realized what’s better to replace a keyboard than a keyboard? Searching online for the smallest keyboard I found one at Brando.com.hk, this is not the first time I have bought there thanks to their reasonable pricing ($22) and super fast super low international shipping ($3).
25$ & 7 days later I got this in the mail (view large image)
Size & Weight
Measuring only 21.5cm x 10cm (8.5" x 4" for the metric challenged) it’s the smallest keyboard I could find apart from unconventional "one handed " keyboards like the Frogpad ($119), its length is probably only half the size of your desktop keyboard. It’s also very slim at 1.5cm and as a result weighs only 185 grams.
The space bar is almost the size of an AA battery (view large image)
It has a slim profile as well (view large image)
Keys & layout
Despite its tiny size the slim keyboard holds 77 keys of decent size, which surprisingly are big enough for typing without clicking adjacent keys by mistake. Considering the size limitation, the key layout is very good except for the replaced FN & CTRL keys that causes me to hit the FN+S and wonder why my work isn’t being saved, you’ll just get used to that and adapt.
Unfortunately this keyboard is unsuitable for extensive typing. The problem lays with the keys short travel distance (I’d say 1-2mm at most) making them very stiff and uncomfortable, furthermore there is almost no spring back feeling. This is disappointing because any cheap notebook keyboard can do better and is much slimmer, so why not use those keyboard in a case with USB?
Another thing to consider with this keyboard is that you have to keep your hands very closer together, but again this is not a typing keyboard and it’s true with all mini keyboards.
I’ve seen worse LEDs on a $1,200 tablet PC *hint* (view large image)
Thanks to its small form you’ll be able to put it beside you or even on your lap along with the tablet, this allows me to keep my pen drawing hand on the board and quickly change tools and perform actions without lifting my pen hand. Because it’s rigid you can use it even on soft surfaces like a sofa (or your belly if you haven’t worked out lately). Its width will allow you to cover its entire key area with one hand alone, clicking key combinations across the layout like Left SHIFT+P without stretching your fingers.
Smaller even then a 14" laptop keyboard (view large image)
Some might say it defies the purpose of a tablet and that you can’t hold a tablet that way. I believe you can work about 5 times faster with the keyboard & pen together than pen alone so it only helps the tablet. Furthermore, many of today’s tablets are too thick and heavy to hold with one hand anyway. But most important I really can see myself adding a padding to the underside and putting it on the tablet screen lower portion as I hold the tablet in my hand quickly alternating between a pen and one handed typing .
Which ever orientation you choose
The Mini Slim Keyboard will fit in
This keyboard is really good for shortcut keys and the occasional typing, I’d recommend it to any Tablet PC user who wants to speed things up. Sure it will cramp your style, but tablets are quite geeky as it is.