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Rich Tehrani

[March 10, 2003]

Product Review: Think Outside Stowaway Infrared Wireless Keyboard

BY RICH TEHRANI


Amazing. That is the best way to describe this new keyboard from Think Outside. From a technological perspective, what an incredible way to have a keyboard communicate with a PDA. This new wireless wonder is a great way to use a single keyboard with multiple devices. It is battery operated and sends and receives infrared signals to your PDA of choice. The keyboard folds into a size that you can�t fathom and locks securely and then slips into a stylish leather (at least it looks like leather) case. When the keyboard is in the closed position, it is closed too securely. I always think I am using too much force, every time I open this keyboard up and unfold it. In dozens of uses, it has been fine -- which I attribute to a solid and sturdy design. This keyboard looks like it will withstand a series of hammer blows but wanting to stay in the good graces of the nice people at Think Outside; I omitted this test from my repertoire.




Infrared is a perfect way for a keyboard to communicate with a number of different devices as you are limited to a number of proprietary connector formats that change from device to device. I must admit that it is unusual to connect a keyboard to a PDA in this fashion. It must be seen to be believed.

Once the keyboard is opened, you must manually position an infrared arm to align with the infrared port light on your device of choice. If the arm was a clock, its position could be adjusted from nine o�clock to just past one o�clock. I have found that the arm doesn�t have to be perfectly positioned to work with my iPAQ PDA, which is the only device used in this test.

In dozens of interviews, I used this keyboard to take notes and it works well. I am not very comfortable with the small size of the keys, however, and typing numbers requires simultaneous hitting of a function key. You can credit this reviewer's somewhat chubby fingers as being part of the problem. The space key is divided into two smaller keys and is also something you need to adapt to. There are numerous multifunction buttons that can be used to activate applications and the keyboard is surprising sturdy, allowing it to hold my heavy iPAQ with its battery powered PC expansion sleeve.

I strongly recommend this product to anyone who wants a keyboard that will work with multiple PDAs and doesn�t want to deal with many adapters. The drawbacks are that it is difficult to type quickly and the batteries could run out at any time. Other than these two issues, I am pretty impressed with infrared technology coming to the world of pocket keyboards. Nice going Think Outside.

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Please talk back to me in our forums.

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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