Welcome to this week's Gadget of the Week! And hey! Wow, we CAN write about something other than iPod accessories! This week's focus is the Belkin MediaPilot keyboard.
This wireless device is something I've wanted to test for quite some time now and we finally were able to get this into our office to play around with. The design of the device is very sleek. It's not your ordinary, bulky, cheap plastic tinker toy you get a local garage sale. It is refined. In food terms consider this hand-made potato gratin, rather than instant mashed potatoes.
So it looks quite pretty, but can it withstand the reasons you would buy it? Installing the drivers that come on a CD is fairly straightforward. After a few clicks you are ready to plug in the keyboard in and be on your way. But wait a second, didn't we say that the keyboard is wireless?
Yes the keyboard is wireless, but the docking station for the keyboard isn't. What I mean is this: The actual keyboard (which mimics that of a laptop) can be removed and used wirelessly. The rest of it, AKA the number pad and the recharge adapter for the keyboard, is plugged in via USB. What you'll notice is a wider keyboard setup once you put everything together, which makes things a little easier on the hands. The wrist 'pad' is well designed and actually does support your wrist quite well. The peripheral is also using Belkin's QuietType technology, which makes typing noise no longer an issue. You can type away at your normal speed and no one would even know you're at a computer.
However, the wider feel of the device is lost when you take the keyboard off the base station and use it remotely. Then, it becomes just like a laptop save the screen , which is just fine. The range is an impressive 30ft transmitting at 2.4GHz, and is cross compatible with the Macintosh and Windows platforms. It also comes complete with a universal remote control and with 96 programmable functions using their software and a fully functional 3-button mouse with scrolling ability.
I went ahead and tried installing the device on my work machine, which happens to be an Intel based Mac. Seems like the good folks at Belkin haven't developed the drivers for these machines quite yet, so I wasn't able to set the programming functions in the office. The general keyboard and mouse functions worked just fine. I think this is ingenious, but I wish they would have used and actual ball instead of a circular rubber pad for the mouse. It makes for an absolute 'mousing' nightmare unless you get it just right. For the Windows experience, I figured I would go home and try the programming functions on my Windows 2000 box. The result was a complete success. Everything worked great. Of course I tried to do it without reading the manual, and had a blown ego, but other than that everything seemed fine.
So far this keyboard was looking really good. It had everything one could want: An ego-breaker(great for the ladies to bring their man a down a couple of notches), wireless technology, universal remote, and mouse and keyboard all in one, and a fair price for all of it to. Yup, this whole package retails for $99.99 and gets you of these puppies in Midnight Blue. You might think that's a little strange, but hey how many keyboards do you know of that enable you to turn on your television and DVD player AND enable you to compute while in your lounge chair?
You'd think that that is pretty much it and on with the rating right? Maybe 4 or 5 Us? Well I wish it was that, because a day or so later, a few of the keys stopped responding.
It started slow at first nothing too crazy, seemed like the keys were just responding too slowly and getting lost in the wireless transmission, but even after putting the keyboard on the docking station, things didn't change. After a few more keystrokes, the keyboard stopped responding all together. I restarted the system and it worked fine for a few hours, but continued to do the same thing. This kept happening every so often and I got very frustrated and eventually switched back to my 4 year old keyboard. The Belkin now serves as a backup remote control until I have the patience to go back and see what's wrong with it.
So herein at last we come to our ratings. If you can get it to work on a system, I have no doubt that everything would work harmoniously. I think Belkin has tossed together great ideas in this device. I also think that it might be my system config at home that needs to be tuned to get it running perfectly. On the Mac side of things, I strongly believe that Belkin should concentrate their efforts on getting a driver going for the Intel Macs.
So in essence I wasn't able to get it fully operational on either platform, which upsets me a little. I should be able to use a device right off the bat, not have to settle for half the functions or loose the ability to use it altogether unless I reconfigure my system. While I will go and revisit this issue at a later date, I think it's save to say that this is an "OK" product. 3/5 Us.