Portable PDA Keyboard for Palm Handhelds
Let me start out this review by stating I am a
long-time PALM user. Starting with a basic Palm Pilot with 128K, I have
graduated to various Palms with greater functionality. When memory in Palms
grew, so did my appetite for what I kept in the Palm.
Mail conduits permit me to download my e-mail onto my
Palm for reading while out of the office. Programs like “Documents to Go”
allow me to keep many of my Microsoft Word documents on my Palm, handy for
reference at meetings. Newer version of these programs even permit me to write
responses to e-mail or edit Word documents in the Palm, and update them at the
The real problem with all of this became text entry.
I like Graffiti as a quick solution for entering a few words or a phone number,
although using it has made my handwriting even worse. However, entering more
than a sentence or two quickly becomes very annoying.
There are many “solutions” to the data entry
issue with palms, other than syncing with the desktop. Some use alternatives to
the standard graffiti- which I haven’t found much easier to use. Some others
involve variations on thumb activated keyboards, which I find to be clumsy and
add greatly to the Palm’s form factor. Personally, I prefer using the Palm in
its original form for my typical look-up reference use, and having the powerful
option of a keyboard device when I’m going to be either editing lengthy text,
responding to email, or doing more than short notes.
a major provider of a variety of computer peripherals, has released their
version of a portable keyboard for the Palm. Unlike most other keyboards, this
unit is flexible, working directly with the Palm V(x), and including a small
adapter that permits use on the III, VII, and 150.
The Belkin PDA Keyboard is
stylish, with a grey finish that matches my Palm Vx when closed. It is moderate
in size, measuring about 4” x 5 3/8” when closed, weighs less than 7 oz.,
and fits in a jacket pocket.
keyboard opens with two sides that slide together to form the full keyboard.
While Belkin presents this as a “full-size” keyboard, it is actually more
similar to those on some laptops. The keyboard is close to full width, over 90%
of a typical desktop keyboard, but less than ¾ of the typical height. The keys
are more rectangular than square. I find this large enough to touch-type on, but
small enough not to be cumbersome in use. The key travel is moderate, and I
found the device comfortable to use. It did take a bit of time to get used to
the space bar, which is split into two parts on the keyboard
The keyboard works best on a flat surface, and built-in
flat pads on the case prevent it from sliding on the work surface. The Palm fits
on the left side of the keyboard, and has an adjustable viewing angle to reduce
glare. The software installation is a straightforward process. When the Palm is
inserted into the keyboard it automatically connects and is ready to go.
An important factor in this keyboard solution is the
combination of hardware/software. Virtually the full functionality of the Palm
is available directly from the keyboard. Entering new appointments, memos,
contacts, or editing existing entries can be done without touching the palm. The
keyboard includes four short cut buttons for instant access to applications,
duplicating the four Palm buttons. Other software on the Palm can be run using a
user-configurable Command key/number combination. There are also a huge number
of built-in keyboard shortcuts, many, like ctrl-c are analogous to windows
keyboard shortcuts. There is a function key that makes several special Palm
operations available, such as scrolling, cancel, delete, new, note, details, and
OK. The Function key is also used for special symbols. The keyboard can even be
used to turn on the Palm backlight.
The keyboard is virtually silent in operation. The
software has the Palm make a soft “click” on key entry. Fortunately, this
can be easily turned off for meetings. The key repeat rate is adjustable, as is
the delay. All-in-all, it is a nice combination of hardware and software.
The PDA Keyboard requires no power, running directly
off the Palm. The power used appears to be minimal, as I have used the keyboard
for hours without noticing major differences in battery life.
The PDA Keyboard comes with a protective case,
although the basic unit appears well protected and enclosed once folded, and has
a catch to hold it closed. The only significant issue I have with the design is
that the adapter (if needed) neither stays with the keyboard nor fits in the
case. It appears that it will be any easy part to lose.
One thing that is very important to me is how well
the unit is supported and the warranty. If the manufacturer only trusts their
unit to last 90 days- why should I think it will last for me? This keyboard
comes with a three-year warranty,
which is a great feature. Although the unit is fairly new, Belkin has
downloadable manuals and software on their website.
The keyboard is available for $74.99 on their web
site, but careful shoppers should be able to find it for about $60, making it an
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