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Re-Printed From SLCentral

Fellowes PDA Pocket Keyboard
Author: Mike Kitchenman
Date Posted: November 8th, 2001
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/pda/fellowes/pocketkeyboard

Introduction

The Palm Pilot, One of my most frequent pocket items, right behind my Swiss army knife and wallet. It has become one of those things I don't know where I'd be without it. I'm sure a lot of you reading this share similar feeling with your handheld. I've gone out, and gotten a nice case, screen covers, the good styli and a lot of other fun little things for my baby, and I'm not the least bit disappointed by them either. The only think I don't like about the handhelds is the fact you have to use a stylus to write. During a normal day, it's not that big a deal for me, grab it, jot down something quick, and you're off and running again. That's no big deal, however on some days when I'm stuck at work, I end up writing a lot more than just a quick note during my spare time when I'm not busy. When I'm doing that, my hand starts to hurt from holding onto that skinny little stylus it has (I've got some big long hands.) I wanted to get the big folding palm keyboard for myself. That thing rules, a full size keyboard that collapses to match your Palm's size. It's GREAT... when you have a desk to put it on. I don't have a desk when I'm working, so it wouldn't help me much at all. So I guess what I really wanted was a keyboard for a palm pilot that was small enough to hold in my hand and still use comfortable with the palm pilot. I wasn't expecting to find one, let alone one that'd work well. Then I was a small palm keyboard from Fellowes, and at the 40$ it come up, its not that bad. So I went for it. Now lets take a look at it and see what it does, and more importantly if it works.

Packaging/Construction

The unit comes in a cleverly folded box, which is very user friendly to open. This was handy, as it let me try the keyboard out in the store before I bought it. (Note to packaging designers: when you make something, I know making it easy to open is good, but make sure someone can't walk up to it, pop it open and walk out with it in their pocket in under 15 seconds without hurting the package.) The keyboard itself is displayed in a bubble on the front of the package, which lets you get a nice look at it. Its also slightly deceptive about the size of the unit, as it doesn't show you that there is an adapter you have to plug into the keyboard to make it work with a palm (Oops!) which there are 2 of inside of the package. In addition the driver application for your palm is chillin on a floppy disk (yes a FLOPPY disk) in with the manuals and such.

The unit is constructed pretty nicely. The front is a touch sensitive screen, encased in a plastic shell. The front has the keys and everything labeled in black on white dots, and small ridges in the sheet separate the different letters. On the top edge of the keyboard there's a small slot that the palm adapter locks into. Then the bottom has 2 notable features, there's a small swing out arm that acts as a stand for your palm when it's sitting on a table, as well as a battery compartment. The keyboard uses a pair of 3v 2032 type watch batteries, which seem to last around 1 month under normal use. For actual dimensions its pretty slim:

  • 97mm wide | 3 3/4" wide
  • 68mm long | 2 1/2" long
  • 10mm thick | 1/2" thick
  • 2 ounces light

This means it is notably smaller and lighter than the Palm IIIXE I have, so it's not that much to carry around. The design is pretty solid, with the support arm, not being overwhelming, but plenty for a palm pilot.

Design: 2/2

Installation

Well, for those of you familiar with installing a Palm Pilot device or software or accessory, this won't be any different for you, and for those of you who aren't I'll do a quick run thru of how the installs go.

  1. Insert media (floppy or CD) that the program or drivers are on
  2. Run setup program on said media
  3. Say "Yes I want to install this thing"
  4. Sync your palm again and install the software
  5. Use said software.

And the install for this took about as long to actually do as it did for me to type that up. The application is only 15K on the palm, so it takes little time to sync into being. For me the install was simple and fast, I couldn't ask for anything more in that part of it. Once the software was uploaded, I ran the application on the palm pilot called "Pocket Keys" and turned the keyboard on by checking the box. It beeped, and then I went off to memopad to type.

Installation: 3/3

How Well Does It Work?

Well, so its built well, and it was easy to install, you know, that only counts for so much, how well does this thing actually work? The proof is in the pudding, so lets just go and see how it works.

First impression was extremely mixed to put it lightly. I loved the fact I didn't have to sit there killing my fingers while writing, however the keys are kinda small and a little tough to hit. The biggest problem I ran into there was hitting a different key than I wanted to, due to the small nature of the unit, it was easy to miss. The upshot was no force was necessary to make it work, you contact the key and it registers, no clicky-clicky necessary. So this overall was a decent first impression, but it definitely had some problems that kept it down some there.

After I first used it, I felt positive enough about the keyboard to risk a purchase on it. (Yes I bought it AFTER I tried it; I said it was easy to open.;) So I had my parents get it for me for my birthday. After my b-day, I obviously played with it some more, and developed a better feel for the keyboard. The small size kept being a bit of an annoyance, but that quickly became less and less so as I used it more. After a couple hours of playtime, I was getting pretty adept at typing and was going as fast, if not faster, than I could with a stylus on the screen. Missed keys are not that infrequent, but how many of you are perfect in graffiti either? Some things I really got to like on this were the placement of all the extra keys. The keyboard has a lot of the symbols you use frequently, making it s LOT easier to punch them in (I tried to remember them in graffiti, and, well, botched it. I just couldn't do it.) So as I used it, I'd say my opinion of it went up some.

All in all, the keyboard is a nice gadget for the Palm Pilot. The compact size makes it easy to carry around, without being a distraction or requiring a desk to use.

Operation: 3/5

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Small and Light
  • Easy to get used to
  • Don't need a desk to run it
  • Batteries last about a month

Cons

  • Needs batteries
  • Small keyboard can be tough to operate for some
  • Got big fingers? Don't apply.

Conclusion

Overall the experience with this was pretty positive. Easy to get started and get it running, and pretty much idiot proof on the install. The use was overall pretty simple and easy to get used to. Only thing I really observed is that people with larger fingers would REALLY have a tough time getting this to work right. The Fellowes Glidepoint PDA Pocket Keyboard would likely be a welcomes addition to most palm users arsenal of toys and gizmos.

SLRating: 8/10 SystemLogistics

Re-Printed From SLCentral