Guest contributor Pete Rooney recently got a ThinkOutside Bluetooth Keyboard and shares his first impressions of the portable input device.
First 24 hours with the Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard
by Pete Rooney (aka Road Runner)
Having had this for a few days, I’m now in a position to post my thoughts on the first 24 hours with this keyboard – and as is the tradition with these things, this is written with the keyboard in question (using Pocket Word on a Pocket PC, only using the PC for later editing).
To go right back to receiving it, the first thing to note is that the packaging is the type that is impossible to get into, without destroying it in the process – not ideal – but once in, everything was fine. The contents are the keyboard itself, instructions, the CD ROM containing the drivers etc, a padded case to put it in, and the 2 AAA batteries needed to power it.
The keyboard, when folded, looks very stylish, and there was an instruction note taped to the keyboard itself, showing how to open and close it. This was easily removed once you got the idea, but was a good touch to save you wading through the instructions. The instructions themselves were straight forward enough, and I had no problem following what I needed to do. Connect the Pocket PC to the computer through ActiveSync, load the supplied CD ROM into the PC, and follow the instructions – I think that’s the right order – anyway, it worked fine! The CD also contains a slightly more in-depth instruction manual.
I had no problem at all connecting the keyboard to the Pocket PC via an insecure Bluetooth connection, though I couldn’t for the life of me get it to bond as a secure connection, though this may be a problem on the device side of things, rather than a problem with the keyboard. (I’m using an O2 XDAII Pocket PC).
The size and layout of the keyboard is fine, though because they’ve removed the number row at the top (to save space), you have to access numbers via function keys. It does take a little bit of getting used to, however that said, when the alternative is tapping at a tiny virtual keypad on the screen, it’s a small price to pay!
On the practical usage front, if you have your Pocket PC in the supplied stand, then it’s a bit wobble. If you’re using one of the newer Pocket PCs which can be used landscape, this would be better, and I found that its stability was much improved by using something like a standard DVD case to put it all on. Obviously this won’t be a problem if you’re using the combination on a flat, stable, surface. Finally the stand is removable, if you prefer not to use it at all.
A word of caution here on battery life. If, like me, you haven’t really used Bluetooth much before, it does hammer your battery life. On the XDAII, I normally take it off charge in the morning, and it lasts until the end of the day, with quite heavy usage. Using Bluetooth, it ran out at tea-time, and was beeping low battery. Since then, I’ve turned down the screen brightness substantially, as well as turning Bluetooth off when I’m not actually using the keyboard, and I’ll see how that helps.
In conclusion, first impressions bear up the good reviews I’ve seen elsewhere of this keyboard. It takes up hardly any space in your bag, folds out to a perfectly useable keyboard, and is easy to setup and use. Certainly, it will vastly improve the usability of the Pocket PC, and has support for many more Bluetooth devices, so should be of use for some time to come.