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flexis FX100 Keyboard Review
- posted March 2002 by Tong Zhang

"It rock 'cause it rolls!"
Man & Machine, Inc.'s new Flexis FX100 rollable, lightweight, splash resistant keyboard literally can be rolled up when not in use. This 64 key QWERTY style keyboard is extremely portable not only because of its size (5/32" (H) x 3 5/16" (D) x 9 13/16" (L); also it can be rolled up (not folded) into a small roll or around your PDA. It attaches to the PDA's sync port and no batteries are required for the keyboard. You can get one for many PDAs. There are models for Palm, Handspring Visor, Handera and Compaq iPAQ, HP Jornada, RIM Blackberry, Sharp Zaurus and, Kyocera Smartphones.

With 5/32" in height and its sealed silicon slick design, this keyboard can fit pretty much anywhere. Your desk, airplane food trays, your suitcase, bottom of your shoe. . .
But it doesn't come with a PDA stand, which means that you'll have to leave you handheld flat on your working surface. This means you'll probably get a stiff neck and be bothered by screen glare. Flexis now offers a PDA stand which is available as a separate purchase.

Keyboard Mappings

The Flexis FX100 has built-in function keys including the ones mapped to your hardware buttons, as well as Backlighting, Find, Keyboard (turning on your on-screen keyboard), OK and New functions.

It also has a shortcut key that works like a function key, which allows you to push down with your shortcut letter. Nice touch for you shortcut junkies out there.

A circle of four directional buttons is a bit of misleading. The left and right buttons will move your cursor to their respective directions while you are typing. But the up and down buttons actually are mapped to the page up and page down. So when I needed to move up or down a line, I had to use the stylus.

Installation

For Palm OS devices, you'll install the driver files and Hackmaster. Yes, this keyboard's software runs as a Hackmaster hack. (We recommend installed X-Master instead, which is Hackmaster's successor and more compatible and stable). Once you've installed the software, you'll need to turn Hackmaster on, and the keyboard driver on. You must disable the driver whenever you wish to HotSync. This could use a little more polish, but I'm sure they'll be evolving the drivers. Pocket PC drivers do not require extra system extensions. You will have to disable the driver whenever you wish to sync.

flexis FX100
flexis FX100, Kyocera Smartphone model

Durability and Ergonomics

Oddly, this keyboard is both the most and least durable! It's made of spill-resistant silicon: you don't have to worry if you get coffee or bread crumbs on it; you can just wipe them off! However, this keyboard can only be rolled-up, folding it will void the warranty. Indeed, once or twice I picked it up and inadvertently flexed it— the result was gibberish magically typed on my PDA.

The surface of the keyboard is both smooth and grippy at the same time, comfortable and cool to the touch. You must have a perfect flat and firm surface to insure a smooth typing, as the keys need to be tapped down firmly. The tactile feedback is surprisingly good. The size of the letter keys fit just right to your fingertips, the number keys are little smaller. I had trouble using the Shift keys because they are relatively small. After not very long typing, my hands did get tired given the amount of pressure I had to apply to the keys.

Conclusion:

Definitely a winner in the cool factor race. When you see one, you'll want one. Many supported PDAs. Driver software needs some refinement, and the fact that folding rather than rolling your keyboard voids the warranty is disconcerting. Really needs a stand to support the PDA so that you can see the screen while sitting in a standard typing position. That stand costs $25, which is a bit pricey.


www.man-machine.com $59.95 to $79.95 US

 

 

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