flexis FX100 Keyboard Review - posted March 2002 by Tong
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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