If you spend time on the go, you’ve gotten used to laptop size keyboards and small trackpads. Personally, I’ve actually found that having the trackpad nearby as I’m typing to be more convenient than using a separate keyboard and mouse. So when I had the opportunity to review the USB Fever Compact Keyboard with Trackpad, I jumped at the chance.
The keyboard is very light and solidly constructed. There’s no creaking or awkward seams. I’ve used some wireless keyboards that are flimsy, which makes for poor typing on a lap or on the go, and so I’m extra picky about build quality. This keyboard feels like a tank. It is just slightly wider than my netbook keyboard, and it sits very nicely on a lap. It is a bit compact if you’re using it on a full size desk, but if space is a premium it’s big enough to be comfortable but small enough to not take over the area.
Below the keyboard area are the trackpad and mouse buttons. While the trackpad is a bit on the small side, it has a rough texture that lends itself well to mouse navigation. The right and left buttons are separate and are nicely clicky, so it’s easy to use them without looking. It is slightly offset to the left, as opposed to dead-center in the keyboard. At first it looked a bit funky, but I did notice it’s similar in offset to the trackpad on my netbook, and in practice I had no issues, so it’s purely an aesthetic note.
I tested the keyboard on my MacBook and on my netbook (under both Ubuntu and Windows 7). Both computers found it quickly via plug and play without any hiccups. Most of the specialty buttons worked as well, with search, favorites, email, and volume all working. Unfortunately the home and play/pause buttons didn’t work out of the box with Mac OS and Ubuntu. Firefox in Windows 7 responded to the “home” button by bringing me to my homescreen though. Under all three OSes, all the regular keys and the trackpad worked well, which is more important.
As far as keyboard use and feel, the keys are a bit mushy. I’m used to the “chicklet” style keys on my netbook and MacBook, and by comparison the closely set keys on the wireless keyboard feel softer. Once I became more used to typing on it my accuracy vastly improved, but it’s worth noting that there may be a slight adjustment period. Otherwise it was responsive and worked well. As a long-time laptop user, having the trackpad right there made it very efficient to jump between typing and navigating.
(top to bottom: Toshiba netbook, mini USB keyboard, MacBook)
The mini wireless keyboard runs on two AAA batteries; in the three weeks or so that I’ve been testing it I haven’t run out of juice, so it’s clearly a battery sipper. Size-wise it is slightly smaller than my 13″ MacBook, but very, very light. I would say the excess weight from having this keyboard in your gear bag would be roughly equivalent to a small binder. You’ll definitely know it’s there, but it’s not going to be uncomfortable or a back breaker. One piece of nice design with a nod towards portability-the USB receiver plug snaps into the bottom, making it easy to track so you don’t accidentally lose it.
Between the size, construction quality, and plug and play ability, this is a very handy keyboard to have in your arsenal. It could easily go from controlling a computer for a presentation to controlling a PC hooked up to your tv, or even just for more ergonomic use of your laptop. It isn’t the cheapest external keyboard around at $68.99, but it’s certainly versatile, and if you need an all in one touchpad/keyboard combo, it’s a steal.
You can buy the Mini USB Wireless Keyboard from USB Fever here.
What I Liked: Excellent build quality; compact design; plug and play worked perfectly.
What Needs Improvement: No indicator lights for caps lock or number lock; keys felt slightly mushy.