(Great things come in small packages)
Proporta was so kind to let us have one of their new “freedom mini duo keyboard” for an intensive practical experience.
First I was a bit surprised about the size of the package since the keyboard looked rather small on the pictures.
The shell is made out of brushed aluminium; the interior is white plastic with light grey rubber keys.
The keyboard is powered by an internal li-ion Battery that can be charged via USB and the cable provided (it’s a standard mini-USB plug, not the proprietary crap you sometimes find on mobile phones and mp3-players), that means you could recharge the keyboard on almost every computer or on the move (Proporta offers a wide range of charging solutions). The battery is supposed to give you about 9 hours of continuous use or about 45 hours standby. I used it a lot over the last two weeks and only had to charge it twice.
Like on all folding keyboards, the hinge isn’t very stiff – you need a flat surface to use it. Thumb typing is possible, but not very comfortable.
Opened, there’s an on/off-switch that lets you select the connectivity mode: Left for HID-Mode (for connection to your PC) or Right for SPP-Mode (for connecting to everything else). Hidden underneath the plastic are two LED, signaling the charging state (orange while charging) and usage/battery-State (blue while connected), red when the battery runs low).
The 63 keys do have a good tactile feedback and are large enough for people with big fingers (like me); the only thing you have to get used to is the gap between the keys where the hinge is located. (I type a lot and it took me about an hour to get used to the arrangement of the keys and the keyboard layout.)
Bundled with the keyboard is a nice and soft leather case that has room for the keyboard and two credit cards (watch out for the magnetic clasp!)
On the CD you’ll find drivers for almost everything that comes with a Bluetooth-interface: Windows-PCs, Nokia Phones, several different incarnations of Windows Mobile, Palm etc.pp. (BlackBerry OS 4.0 or higher, Symbian (Series 60) v6 / v7 / v8, Palm OS 5, Windows Mobile 03 PPC, Windows Mobile 05 PPC, Windows Mobile 03 Smartphone Edition, Windows Mobile 05 Smartphone Edition, Windows XP*, Windows 2000*, Mac OS X Tiger*, Linux* [*Using HID mode])
First, I installed the driver for PalmOS (there are French, English and German drivers; since my keyboard has US-layout, I installed the English driver). After turning the keyboard on (SPP-mode) it took 3 taps to identify and connect to the keyboard. (You need one tap to reconnect). The driver works flawless but has some peculiarities I don’t like:
- Theres no automatic reconnect after turning the Palm off.
- After a few minutes of inactivity the driver closes the connection to the keyboard and starts the setup-screen.
- Input of Latin characters is a pain in the neck since you have to press [Fn] and [Ctrl] at the same time to switch the keyboard to “Latin
mode”. Now you can enter Latin characters (e.g. German Umlauts “öüä” or accented characters “éêè”) but you have to press [Fn] and [Ctrl]
again to turn “Latin mode” off and return to the normal keyset. If German or French is your native language, make sure you get a keyboard
with “your” key-layout to get around this.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of stuff you can do with the keyboard:
- Launching applications: every button on your Palm can be accessed though keyboard shortcuts plus 10 user-defined applications that can be
run by pressing [Fn] and a number key
- Extended editing commands: various commands to ease editing (Cut, Copy & Paste, Character, word and Line highlighting etc.)
- 5-way navigator emulation
- emulation of on-screen buttons
- other functions: like backlight, power off, shortcut mode
- easy typing of international characters and symbols like @µ~|
- calculator mode: some keys are remapped to emulate all keys of the built-in calculator-app
Since the driver for PalmOS is Version 1.0 I’m sure there will be updates coming.
After that I tried to connect the keyboard to my PC (HID-mode): After telling my PC to look for a HID-Device it took about 2 seconds for an initial connect. I know, you wouldn’t use a mini keyboard on a PC or Laptop equipped with a regular keyboard but this could be handy on a keyboard less Tablet PC!
Overall this is the perfect keyboard for people on the go: small, lightweight and easy to use. With a size smaller than your Palm it fits in almost every pocket, making it easy to carry it everywhere you can’t take a large keyboard. You don’t want to type your thesis on this keyboard (I wouldn’t even want to write it on my Palm with a regular keyboard) but for the average daily stuff like writing emails and memos or taking minutes of a meeting it is just right. Entering German Umlauts on a keyboard with US-layout is annoying, so make sure to get a localized version.
The keyboard can be purchased at www.proporta.com at EUR59,95 ( GBP 39.95 / $69.59).
You can’t buy the keyboard right now because Freedom (the manufacturer of the keyboard) have decided to discontinue the product for the time being due to supply issues!
I will post another update as soon as the keyboard is available again. Sorry for the inconvenience but it’s not Proporta’s fault.