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REVIEW: Eleksen ElexTek Bluetooth Wireless Fabric Keyboard by G-Tech
Posted by Arne Hess - on Wednesday, 21.02.07 - 20:39:51 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 22232x
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Some years ago, Eleksen amazed the mobile users the first time with its ElekTex fabric keyboard for the original Orange SPV Windows Mobile Smartphone (see the::unwired's review here) but this keyboard had a major problem - it came with a dedicated connector and stand for the HTC Canary which means it wasn't possible to be used with any other mobile phone, for instance after an upgrade, anymore. However, some time ago, Eleksen announced a Bluetooth version of its fabric keyboard which became available now - the Wireless Bluetooth Fabric Keyboard.

In work and leisure time, users want the flexibility and portability of small, lightweight technology products, but still have a fundamental need to enter, control and edit information quickly and easily - which iis one reason for the success of BlackBerrys and BlackBerry-styled Windows Mobile smartphones but what happens if such a thumb-keyboard isn't good enough for your needs? You need something more "full-size" and that's the point where Eleksen's ElekTex fabric keyboard jumps in to provide the perfect solution to this dilemma. It gives all of the capabilities of a full-size keyboard but rolls up to fit in your pocket! So for frequent travelers with smartphones the ElekTex keyboard is an indispensable tool.

Thin, light and wireless, the Eleksen ElexTek Bluetooth Fabric Keyboard transforms your smartphone and PDA into a mobile office with the full-size Keyboard that fits into your pocket. It rolls up for storage in a small pouch and opens up to a Notebook sized keyboard.

The sales pack includes the fabric keyboard, a pouch, a stand for your smartphone or PDA, two AAA batteries and a CD-ROM with all required drivers and the manuals:

If not needed, the keyboard can be rolled up, together with the stand, to fit into the small pouch. With a size of 306x114 mm (rolled-out) it measures 126x48x32 mm only if rolled-up; weighing 68 grams only:

Using the keyboard with a Windows Mobile device requires the installation of the included drivers, which supports both Windows Mobile platforms - Pocket PC (now known as Windows Mobile Classic and Professional) and Smartphone (now known as Windows Mobile Standard) as well as Symbian UIQ, S60, BlackBerry and Palm Garnet 5.4 devices.

Without the driver, which also includes an administration utility, the keyboard cannot be used because it's not supporting the Bluetooth HID (Human Interface Device) profile but it's supporting the serial Bluetooth profile (SPP) only. This is quite unusual and means, the keyboard cannot be used with Bluetooth equipped Windows XP and Vista UMPCs and PCs since there is no driver available. Therefore, you cannot share the keyboard with a co-worker, not as long as you have the drivers with you as well.

Anyway, the driver is way more than just being a driver - it's also an administration utility which enhances the functionality of the keyboard by supporting shortcuts etc. However, before you can use the keyboard with your Windows Mobile device, you have to pair it first and adding a Bluetooth serial port to the new created partnership. After, this new COM port is used by the application to connect the mobile device with the keyboard:

After creating the Bluetooth partnership, the Fabric Keyboard application needs to be started and it needs to be started every time, the wireless keyboard should be used. As I mentioned before, because it's not using the Bluetooth HID profile, the device doesn't recognizes the keyboard itself.
Anyway, the first time the application is started, it needs to be initially connected with the keyboard and if this worked well, a configuration and calibration screen pops-up:

It makes sense, to initially calibrate the keyboard, since writing on a fabric keyboard is slightly different from typing on a standard keyboard. Anyway, after the fist calibration is done, the keyboard is ready to use.
In addition, the Wireless Keyboard application offers some more features, like remote verification of the keyboard battery as well as configuring some type settings:

Last but not least, as mentioned before, it offers some short-cut combinations, that normally - the device isn't needed to be used while used with the keyboard:

If not used for a selectable period of time, the keyboard switches off to safe battery but the mobile device notes this status change. Unfortunately, the keyboard has to be connected manually again after switched on. It's not auto-connecting with the device, even if the Bluetooth connection is established again.

Final Conclusion

In practical use, the keyboard works out of the box - with all mobile device applications tested yet. This makes typing a longer E-Mail way more convenient and faster, even if you might have a device with a thumb-keyboard. A thumb-keyboard stays a thumb-keyboard and this is where the fabric keyboard comes into the game. It's light and small if stowed and therefore easy to carry but nearly full-size if rolled-out and therefore easy to use.
However, typing on a fabric keyboard is unlike typing on a traditional keyboard because there is nearly no tactical feedback. So it's a good idea, to keep the keyclicks switched on, to hear if the hit was successful or not. The first 15 minutes, the use is quite unusual but after I got used to it. Not sure, if I would like to write a full featured review on it (I even don't like to use my in size reduced Notebook keyboard for longer articles but prefer a standard keyboard instead - for sure connected via Bluetooth as well) but for E-Mails, with more than just a yes, no, will call you later or instant messaging chats, the fabric keyboard is simply great. Also to write down some notes, for instance during a meeting or presentation, the fabric keyboard works way better than anything inbuilt.

However, one thing is for sure - if you pack out the fabric keyboard in a meeting - you will be the geek on the table (as long as nobody else is using a laser keyboard which isn't half as good anyway).

One major problem I had with the keyboard was the use while traveling. Simply you cannot use it on your laps or while standing but you better have a table somewhere around you. Sure, this isn't anything surprising but if you spend some time on airports as well, you might figured out as well, that there are not too many tables on airports. But anyway, there is always a good reason for having a coffee and with the fabric k keyboard, there is another one.

Overall, I'm really satisfied with the functionality, the size, the weight, etc. and during my tests I haven't found anything bad, except the fact, that you need some training (which isn't bad at all but quite logical) to get used to it. Somehow disappointing is the fact that the solution isn't using the standard Bluetooth HID profile. On the other hand, this is an advantage as well, since the way it is implemented broader the range of supported devices, since not every mobile device supports HID today.

The G-Tech Smart- Fabric Wireless Keyboard GoodHopeBags is available from, CompUSA and other stores for around US$ 99.99. And thanks to Bluetooth, there is a kind of investment protection because the next device most likely still works fine!

Cheers ~ Arne

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