Gadget Review: Belkin Wireless PDA Keyboard

As a student, I have to take a lot of notes. I’m a fairly fast typist, and I frequently get impatient when I have to write things by hand. Some of my classmates bring laptops to school, but I am reluctant to carry that much weight around or put such a valuable item at risk of loss, damage, or theft.

I recently purchased a Belkin F8U1500 Wireless PDA Keyboard from an Amazon retailer to use with my Toshiba e330 Pocket PC. I used it last month to take notes during a four-day seminar, and was very pleased. Some of the presenters spoke way too fast for anyone to take good handwritten notes, but I easily kept up with them.

Specifications

  • Measures 5.5 x 3.75 by .75 inches. Weighs .4 lbs.
  • Uses one standard AAA battery.
  • Keys are about 7/8th’s of full size.
  • Rated battery life of 360 hours.
  • Package includes the keyboard, a PDA stand, and a startup CD with a PDF user guide.
  • Price: I paid about $55 including shipping from an Amazon retailer, but could have gotten a used keyboard for less. This keyboard is also available from Fry’s Electronics for about $50.

Photos

Here is the keyboard shown with my Toshiba Pocket PC for comparison:

Keyboard shown with PDA and ruler for comparison.

The keyboard is in the middle, folded. On the left is the PDA stand, on the right is my Pocket PC. The PDA stand snaps onto the folded keyboard for storage and transport. Folded, it’s not much bigger than my PDA.

Here is a shot of my Toshiba e330 mounted on the PDA stand. The flat piece of metal above the PDA is a mirror to reflect infrared from the keyboard to the PDA’s IR port.

Here is a screenshot of the Belkin keyboard management software on my PDA. I enabled the keyboard through this interface and used Pocket Word to take notes.

Here is the keyboard in its original packaging. The black square is a piece of Velcro I added to secure my PDA to the PDA stand.

The Good

  • Small and light.
  • Able to keep up with my typing speed (80+ wpm).
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Pocket Word documents can be transferred to my desktop for further editing. In fact, I roughed out this review on the Belkin keyboard just so I could say I did. (I use Open Office with Vista. In order for Open Office to read Pocket Word documents, you have to save them as RTF files.)
  • Belkin claims this keyboard is universally compatible.

The Bad

  • The Belkin wireless PDA keyboard includes a number of extra functions, accessed by using the “Fn” key. Some of these did not work on my PDA. Also, certain Windows keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl-C for Copy, Ctrl-V for paste, etc. do not work, but I don’t know if that’s Belkin’s fault or whether it is a Pocket Word shortcoming.

The Indifferent

  • Due to its slightly smaller size, the Belkin wireless PDA keyboard takes some getting used to. It took me about half a day before I stopped making typos. Now, when I switch between the Belkin and my desktop keyboard, it just takes me a minute or two to acclimate.
  • If you are typing without a desk, you’ll want a book in your lap to steady the setup. Otherwise, the keyboard wobbles, and the connection becomes intermittent.

Conclusion

I can’t say enough good things about this keyboard! I should have bought one years ago. Switching from handwritten notes to this is like buying a Ferrari after using an elderly donkey to get around. I expect to use this keyboard for some time to come.

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