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PDA Keyboard Reviews

Stowaway XT and Palm Ultra-Thin Keyboard

PalmOne Brand for Palm PDAs with the universal connector: Palm m125/m130, m500/m505/m515 and Palm Tungsten T/T2/T3.
ThinkOutside brand for select iPAQs and Sony Clies as well.
- by Lisa G., Editor in Chief

How Could the Stowaway Get any Better?

The original Stowaway is the most popular full-sized PDA keyboard. It's sturdy, has excellent tactile feel and is highly portable. Rather than sit on their laurels, the folks at ThinkOutside decided to add a slimmer, more stable keyboard to their lineup, and hence the Stowaway XT was born. It weighs in at 2 ounces less than the original Stowaway, and is more compact when open.

Design and Materials

The keyboard is attractive, slick and modern looking with a two-tone aluminum and black plastic casing. In fact, it is made of aluminum and plastic and feels durable.

To use the keyboard, you'll press a well-integrated release button on the edge of the unit, and flip it open. It's a two-section design, rather than the accordion 4 section design of the original Stowaway, and when fully opened, it locks in place. This means that you can use it on your lap or other uneven surfaces because it will stay firmly open and flat.

At top center, there's a pull-out, flip-up stand that supports your PDA for easy viewing when it's docked via the sync port to the Stowaway. You do not need to use batteries or cables, simply plug your PDA into the sync connector on your PDA and you're ready to type.

How did they maintain the full notebook sized keys and spacing while making the keyboard smaller? The top row of keys (number keys) are gone, and the Palm-specific keys such as "OK", "Home", "Find" and etc. no longer have dedicated keys. Instead, you'll hit the blue Fn (function) key just left of the spacebar in conjunction with the key you need. You can find the function key you need by looking for the small blue number/Palm function on the keys. There's also a green Fn key just to the right of the spacebar and you'll use that for symbols and page up/page down. See the top image for the function key layout.

Is using function keys for symbols and numbers cumbersome? Yes, but that's the price you pay for miniaturization. Other than slow-downs caused by hunting for function keys, I found I could really fly while typing on the Stowaway XT. It's as good as better notebook keyboards. And happily, keys like the spacebar, shift, backspace and enter are in their normal locations (some PDA keyboard move these around).

 

stowaway XT keyboards

Stowaway XT keyboard for Palm

Dimensions:
Closed 5.5” x 3.9” x .5”
(139 mm x 99 mm x 13 mm)
Opened: 9.9” x 5.8” x .5”
(251 mm x 148 mm x 13 mm)

Weight: 5.6 ounces

Keyboard Layout: 100% full size standard QWERTY. Key Spacing and Travel: 18mm horizontally and vertically,travel: 3mm- the same as notebook computer keyboards.

Installation and Driver

Just as with the original Stowaway, the software is excellent. You do not need to disable the keyboard driver when you wish to sync your PDA to your computer. You won't be able to use IR while the keyboard is enabled, however. The Palm branded keyboard comes with drivers in the box on CD. If you buy the Think Outside branded keyboard, you'll have to download the drivers from their web site. If previously owned the original Stowaway, don't use the old driver because your function keys won't work.


No Hackmaster is required on the Palm. The 88k driver installs as an application called "Keyboard" on your PDA. The application's screen, is similar to Palm prefs: it has a popup menu on the upper left to select between additional screens: General, Command Keys, Layout, Pointer and Help.

You can set repeat delay and rate, enable and disable keyboard, turn on key clicks (audible typing feedback on the PDA, but not really necessary since you can hear the Stowaway keys as you type), assign applications to 9 command keys, enable the Jog-Dial on the Sony Clié, select between Dvorak and normal keyboard layouts, and you even have the option of having an on-screen pointer display by pressing the Alt key (ever lost track of your cursor?).

Conclusion:

One of the most usable, portable and durable PDA keyboards available today just got smaller and now stays rigid when open. Awesome driver software, closest to real keyboard feel and folds up quite small.

www.thinkoutside.com $99
www.palm.com $99

 

 

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