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REVIEW: Pocketop Portable Keyboard [UPDATE]
Posted by Arne Hess - on Sunday, 27.04.03 - 14:12:46 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 12979x
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For some weeks now, I'm using the Pocketop Portable Keyboard instead my standard keyboard - the Targus Foldable Stowaway Keyboard - with different Pocket PCs like the HP H5400 or Dell Axim and after short familiarization phase I need I'm fully satisfied now!

Unlike the Targus keyboard, the Pocketop Keyboard communicates with the infrared port available on almost all devices - its sleek design requires no cords or hook-ups.

The patent-pending Contour Key is a unique three-dimensional key that allows for full keyboard functionality - enabling users to send and receive email, surf the web, and perform word processing and spreadsheet tasks.

The Pocketop Keyboard is compatible with most Palm OS and Pocket PC PDAs - and the compatibility list is growing as Pocketop is building new drivers for new devices.

Features:

  • Wireless simplicity: No clumsy cords or hardware connections
  • Full-size keyboard: Standard typing experience and speed
  • One fold design durability: Compact with few moving parts
  • Screen rotation software: Users can choose from multiple set-up options
  • Nine programmable Hotkeys; Easy one-touch access to frequently used applications
  • Universal compatibility: It works with most Pocket PC - so you can upgrade your PDA and keep the same keyboard

The package includes the keyboard, universal PDA stand, one AAA battery, CD with drivers and manual, quick installation guide, different hinges for Palm devices and a custom stylus for Palm.

Setting-Up the Keyboard
Before you can use the keyboard with your Pocket PC, you have to add the battery. This is required as the keyboard isn't connected by any cables to the Pocket PC and therefore requires its own power source. According my co-editor Carlos - who is also using the keyboard - there is near no battery drain. He is using the same battery since December last year.

Also you need to install the drivers on your Pocket PC for sure. Please don't use the included drivers from the CD-ROM but download the latest one from the website! This is also recommended by Pocketop so have a look on the drivers page first!

Another tip from the Pocketop website is to remove all memory cards (CF or SD) from your Pocket PC when installing the driver. If cards present in the system when installing it will result that the Pocketop keyboard is showing up in the input selector but will not be selectable!

Also don't forget - even if Pocketop reminds you during the installation but it's always good to know - to disable infrared beam in Settings -> Beam -> Receiving. Otherwise the IrDA port is occupied by the Pocket PC OS and the keyboard driver can not access it.

The Pocketop driver itself appears as a new SIP keyboard; there is no other way to access it like via Settings:

It also opens a new option bar as long as it is open which includes (from left to right):

  • Shortcut to screen orientation configuration (depends on the driver and support you are using)
  • Shortcut to backlight configuration
  • Shortcut to Pocketop Text Macros
  • Switching off/on system sound
  • Shortcut to the help file
  • Shortcut to version info

Depending on the driver and device, the screen orientation configuration lets you rotate your Pocket PC from portrait to landscape to reverse portrait:

The Macros are handy for adding text fragments just by pressing a key combination and can be reedited by the user:

Using the Keyboard
The keyboard is super light weighted, small and thin and therefore it can be transported easily in your pocket. To use it, simply open it but keep in mind, that it need a more or less stable surface, otherwise it might fold up. So - as all foldable keyboards - it isn't really usable on the laps like on an airport.

In general you have three options how to use the keyboard: without a stand, with the attached stand in landscape mode or with the detached stand in portrait mode:


This is also the reason why the Pocketop driver includes this screen orientation software.

Since most Pocket PCs has its infrared eye on top, you have to use the included mirror to redirect the infrared signal from the keyboard to the Pocket PC. However, with some designated Pocket PCs like the O2 xda or the HP 1919 you can use the keyboard without the mirror as these has the IrDA port on the side.

My personal favorite is using the keyboard without any stands but with the Pocket PC lying plain on the surface. Leaving the stand at home makes the keyboard easier to transport and you don't have to fumble with the mirror which works pretty good - if you have found the point. If you want to use the stand anyway it might be a good idea to rotate the Pocket PC 180° to orientate the PPC IrDA eye directly to the keyboard IrDA eye. The downside might be that your Pocket PC isn't centered anymore but have to be placed pretty left and close to the keyboard.

The keyboard layout itself is something which needs getting used to. It includes the letter keys only and some function keys plus curser keys only. So neither extra punctuation keys nor digits keys are available but all keys have several functions.

Also the upper and lower key row is smaller. However, after familiarization, typing on the Pocketop keyboard is as fast as on a Stowaway keyboard or even as fast as on a smaller Notebook keyboard and allows you to write down longer texts convenient and as you used to do it with your Notebook or Desktop PC.

What I've seen so far is, depending on the Pocket PC, transmission and displaying typed text might be delayed from time to time. Looks like the driver or the Pocket PC doesn't recognize the received data fast enough. However, I've never seen that any text got lost through the transmission.

Final Conclusion

The Pocketop Portable Keyboard is a great piece of design which is easy to carry and works great overall. It enables you typing texts as you used to do it with Notebooks or Desktop PCs and like all external keyboards it truly increase your productivity and makes your Pocket PC even more valuable!
So for instance I wrote this review with the Pocketop keyboard in my favorite coffee house and synced it back to my PC later to reedit it. This worked pretty well and 2 people asked me what I'm doing there. :-) So yes, as you can read here it works!

A little bit annoying is fumbling the Pocket PC into the right position but after you did it two or three times you know where to put the Pocket PC how. On the other hand, and this might be one of the biggest advantages, it works with more or less any Pocket PC - so upgrading/changing to another device doesn't force you to buy a new keyboard or adapter. Also - especially if I'm traveling - often I have more then one Pocket PC with me and now I don't have to carry several keyboards, one for every device, with me anymore.

If only - and this might be the most important downside today - Pocketop would also support Smartphones right now. Developing a simple driver can't be that problem and the Pocketop might be a great alternative to the Orange flex-keyboard. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed to get a driver for the SPV soon!

However, I have one additional wish: a second IrDA eye on the center of the keyboard which would make it easier to put the Pocket PCs in the center but beside this, I' more or less completely happy with the Pocketop keyboard - a great and valuable addition to most of my Pocket PCs!

The Pocketop Portable Keyboard is available from several resellers in Europe including Widget and Dixons or available online from Pocketop. The keyboard costs US$89.00 or around 110.00 Euro.

UPDATE: Unfortunately Pocketop decided to change their business model and they are charging for new drivers now (please see the following posting: RIP-OFF: Pocketop charges for the Drivers for its Wireless Keyboard). Therefore - as good as the keyboard is - I can not recommend it anymore but instead I'm recommending Think Outside's Bluetooth keyboard (also because most Pocket PCs includes Bluetooth by default now) where new drivers are released free of charge!

Cheers ~ Arne

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