Exhibit A: a HP Mini without the screen and the computer. This is HP’s answer to your computing from the couch woes. Does it stand up to scrutiny or are we looking at another tiny, unusable keyboard? Read on to find out more.
As HTPCs (Home Theater PCs) becomes more popular and users are moving towards a centralized digital entertainment hub, peripheral manufacturers are coming up with more creative ideas to facilitate controls of a PC from a couch. HP’s popular Mini series of netbooks has one of the more comfortable keyboards of its class and instead of reinventing the wheel; HP took that design and made it work for the HTPC user.
To be fair, HP markets this as a mini keyboard to carry with you when you need to do some serious typing on the go. But the HP Mini is only about 93% of a full sized keyboard (double check this), so it’s as if you’re typing on a netbook instead of an actual keyboard. Then if I’m already typing on a 93% keyboard, why would I need a second one to carry with me? But its small size does help in the HTPC usage since it can easily hide out of the way when you don’t need it unlike the Logitech DiNovo.
The really interesting thing here is what HP did to integrate mouse control to the unit. Oh, you don’t see a trackpad or a trackball? I didn’t either until I took the keyboard out of the box. Take a look at the top corners of the board and you’ll see two buttons that looks nothing more than screw covers. The left button is your left click and the right button is your right click with an integrated optical trackpad. The trackpad is very similar to what the new BlackBerrys used to replace their trackballs.
The technology works well enough but because the screen resolution of a BlackBerry is slightly smaller than a 1080P TV, you’re going to find yourself scrolling quite a few times to make it across the TV. And if you increase the sensitivity you end up losing finer control for when you need to close that window or hit fast forward during a TV show. Also, because there’s no dedicated scroll pad or wheel, scrolling on websites and in Windows will be manual via the scroll bars or the Page Up/Down keys. This is more than annoying and will take a lot of getting used to.
Typing on the keyboard does need some getting used to but if you are used to the layout of a netbook, this shouldn’t pose a problem for you. For us in Canada, most of our laptops are equipped with a bilingual layout, which is quite different from the traditional QWERTY layout. We’re extremely happy to report that this Mini Wireless Keyboard retained the traditional QWERTY layout.
The keyboard uses RF 2.4GHz to transmit the input signal to your computer and during testing; we were able to achieve a range of about 25 feet before the signal started to cut out. HP also designed the receiver to be of the micro variety so it will blend very nicely to a front facing USB port or not interfere with any of your other rear ports. And being powered by two AA batteries means quick and easy swaps.
There are just a few things that keep this keyboard from being a perfect solution for the HTPC user. The lack of a scrolling feature and the smaller layout does make for a more difficult usage experience. If there was a scroll wheel attached and the keyboard grew by just half an inch wider it would have been perfect.