Tanker Bob hasn’t been a big fan of portable keyboards. Some
cannot be used well in airline or waiting room scenarios because
they don’t have the stiffness to sit on a small tray-table
or your lap. Others make too many compromises with only a four-row
design. Still others require mating to a particular PDA connector,
making them obsolete when you upgrade to something else, or perish
the though, switch platforms! IR keyboards require precise positioning
of the mobile device for connectivity, limiting flexibility. And
driver compatibility…well, we just won’t go there.
Freedom Input answered all these shortcomings with
their Bluetooth Freedom Keyboard. By using Bluetooth, this keyboard
stands as platform-independent. Freedom Input lists it as compatible
with a large array of Bluetooth-equipped Pocket PCs, including many
Asus, Dell, Dopod, i-Mate, iPaq, and O2 models. It also works with
BT-enabled Palm devices like the Zire 72, the entire Tungsten series
(including the T5), and the Treo 650. And if that's not enough compatibility,
the keyboard also supports BT-enabled mobile phones from Audiovox,
Dopod, Motorola, Nokia, O2, Orange, Sendo, Siemans, and Sony. Freedom
believes that its drivers are also compatible with a number of Sony
PDA models and the Tapwave Zodiac, but hasn't tested on them as of
When you open the blister pack, you'll find the Freedom Keyboard
Instruction Manual and a Quick Install guide-both mercifully short
and simple to follow. Here lies part of the genius of Freedom. The
quick install guide has an Internet link to the current drivers online
in native format for each device. If you have an Internet connection
through your device, you simply go to that website, choose your device,
and download the driver directly to your mobile device-no desktop
computer required! Driver installation couldn't be easier. I tried
this on a Dell Axim X50v and it worked perfectly.
As you can see, the Freedom sports a full five rows
with 63 keys, but lacks a separate 10-key number pad. The number
pad appears on the right side of the keyboard in a square. The user
accesses the number pad with the Fn+Numlock combination.
Some keys may perform up to four functions depending
on the shift state. In addition to the shift key, there is also
gr" key for characters printed in yellow and the Fn key for
those functions in blue on the keyboard and the shortcuts. These
special keys support a host of special characters and functions depending
on the device with which they are used, including activating dialog
buttons. Freedom thought out the myriad of uses for a host of devices
The letter keys size in right about full size for the key tops on
a desktop keyboard. The spacing between them is considerably reduced,
though, and it took a bit of practice for my fingers to adjust. This
spacing issue holds true for most all portable keyboards.
Above, Keyboard folded shut for transport
The keyboard arrives in its folded state, where it
measures in at 6" x 3.75" x 1" (15 x 9.6 x 2.6cm)
and weighs just 7oz with batteries. That's right in the middle of
the pack for portable PDA keyboards and just a tad larger than an
uncased iPaq hx4705 Pocket PC. The Freedom's brushed silver and black
design will feel at home in any business environment. It comes with
a black vinyl case sporting a zipper enclosure and soft interior
to protect the keyboard's bushed aluminum finish.
The keyboard unfolds by releasing
a catch on the right side of the case and opening it flat. At that
point, the left side of the keyboard slides right to lock it open,
and there's another tab at the top of the keyboard that slides
left (indicated by the blue ovals in the picture). The combination
produces a relatively stable typing platform, even on your lap
or an airline tray-table, allowing the keyboard to bend up only
around five degrees or so. Fully opened, the keyboard sized out
to 11.5" x 3.75" x
1/2" (29.1 x 9.6 x 1.1cm). The underside of the keyboard has
rubber non-skid strips incorporated to keep the keyboard stationary
on flat surfaces-a nice detail.
The mobile device platform pulls out from inside the right rear
of the keyboard. After pulling it out, the user swings it to the
left and latches it behind the left side of the keyboard. Or, if
that's not convenient, the platform may be disconnected entirely
from the keyboard and used separately.
I found the handheld platform to be the only weak part of this
keyboard's design. Although Freedom provides a rubber skid pad
on the bottom plate's surface, it doesn't reach all the way back
to the vertical holding piece. As a result, the mobile device
leans pretty far back in the stand, especially in portrait mode.
The screen can still be read easily, but the screen may not be
at an optimum viewing angle depending on how close you sit to
the keyboard. The viewing angle improves the closer the user
sits to the keyboard.
Driver setup proved equally painless. Simply turn on the keyboard
with the power switch on the far left side. The LED below it
will be red initially then change to a blinking green. The
keyboard is now looking for a connection. Enable Bluetooth
on your mobile device, load the driver, and then check the
Active Keyboard box on your Pocket PC or SmartPhone. Ensure
that the Reconnection box is unchecked for your first connection.
Upon successful connection, the keyboard's LED will blink green
twice every two seconds. Checking the Reconnection box after
achieving successful pairing causes the keyboard to remember
this device and it will reconnect automatically at the next
The process is similar on a Palm device, but the user must
choose the keyboard from the Bluetooth discovery results. All
other steps are identical, as are the driver screens.
In addition to the standard driver setup and
device pairing, the Freedom driver allows you to execute apps
by way of keyboard shortcuts. The user assigns up to 10 programs
to Fn-# key combinations using pull-down list boxes. This takes
you one step closer to stylus-free operation. It came in particularly
handy for making screenshots from within other applications while
writing this review.
Pocket PC keyboard driver
Overall function of the keyboard with both Pocket PC
and Palm devices proved flawless. I noted no delay between tapping
a key and the character appearing on the screen. Tactile resistance
on the keys felt just like my Microsoft Natural Keyboard-excellent.
The drivers were rock-solid on both the Palm Tungsten T3 and Dell
Axim X50v. Two AAA batteries power the keyboard for 90 hours of continuous
use. Folding the keyboard back up proved as simple as opening it.
In addition to QWERTY, the Freedom also offers the keyboard in QWERTZ
(for German) and AZERTY (for French) layouts. Dutch, Spanish, Italian,
Russian, Portuguese, and Slovenian language support is also available.
The Freedom Keyboard for Bluetooth stands as a high-quality, portable
input device for Palm, Pocket PC, and Smartphone mobile devices.
It boasts solid construction and a stable typing platform even on
your lap. At $99 delivered, it comes in competitively priced as well.
If you are in the market for a portable keyboard that sports compatibility
across all BT-equipped mobile platforms, looks and works great, and
activates special features and characters on a host of devices, look
no further than the Freedom Keyboard.
Pros: 5-row, 63-key design
Bluetooth compatible with almost everything but your old college
High-quality, attractive, solid construction
Excellent tactile key feedback
User can download the driver direct to their mobile device from the
Drivers a breeze to install and connect
Excellent life with two common AAA batteries
Cons: Mobile device stand leans the mobile device a bit far back
Reduced key spacing takes some practice to master
Supports Pocket PCs and Palm PDAs with
Bluetooth as well as the Audiovox
SMT5600 (SPV C500) Windows Mobile Smartphone, Symbian Series
60 Phones such as the Nokia 7610, and UIQ Phones such as the Sony
Ericsson P900 and P910.