Introduction

The cord-cutting trend has made streaming STBs (set-top boxes) and HTPCs (home theater PCs) popular. Remotes are bundled with all OTT (over-the-top) boxes and Android media streamers, and Media Center remotes are common for HTPCs. However, as media consumption becomes more interactive (for example, consumers explicitly searching for a movie to play on Netflix), the use of remotes with limited functionality becomes cumbersome. As an option for interacting with HTPCs, we pay attention to devices which fulfill the following criteria:

  • The device should be wireless and optimally sized (neither the mini- varieties which make typing with large fingers difficult, nor the full-sized combos which come with separate keyboard and mouse units)
  • The device should come with either an integrated touchpad or a trackball
  • Ergonomics and ease of use with a layout as similar as possible to a traditional keyboard while also allowing for short-term single handed operation common in HTPC scenarios
  • Be adaptable for the occasional prolonged typing / computer interaction task with properly sized keys

Some of the other desirable features include prolongation of battery life by going into sleep mode (either automatically, or through an explicit toggle switch), 5 GHz communication frequency (to avoid the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum) and an integrated rechargeable battery with a charging dock. It would also be nice to have ease of use with Windows 8.x (in terms of replicating touchscreen functionality on a touchpad). Obviously, features have to be traded off to hit an acceptable price point. So, the options we want to look at might not hit any of the desirable features too.

The Logitech K400 is one of the most popular HTPC keyboards. Frequently available for less than $30, its feature-to-price ratio is simply unparalleled. Unfortunately, the keyboard does have a few drawbacks with respect to ergonomics and key placement, making it challenging to use it for extended typing duties. With a better budget, would it be possible to improve the HTPC interaction experience? That is what we hope to answer with our 'Interacting with HTPCs' series. Our first review in that category was our extended look at the options from IOGEAR and SIIG earlier this year.

In today's piece, we will be looking at the various interaction options from Adesso, with MSRPs ranging from $30 - $75:

In addition to the above five models, Adesso also sent us the SlimTouch WKB-4210UB. However, the sample had some issues with a stuck touchpad button and we will not cover that in this review. In addition, the batteries supplied with a couple of the samples were dead, but that doesn't have any bearing on the aspects that we will cover in the rest of the review.

We will first take a look at the features offered by each of these keyboards in detail along with some usage impressions. This will be followed by the comparison of the pros and cons of each of these units on a single page. Note that most of the aspects presented in keyboard reviews are subjective and dependent on test environment. For example, even the wireless range may vary from one test location to another because the 2.4 GHz channel being used might exhibit interference issues under certain conditions. This could result in improper functioning and range issues. While one unit relies on Bluetooth for communication, the other four are RF-based and operate in the 2.4 GHz band with an advertised range of 30 ft (under ideal conditions). We will not be covering the range factor any further in this review.

Adesso SlimTouch WKB-3000
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  • bill.rookard - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I had one of the Adesso WKB-3000 series keyboards, they were quite nice for the HTPC usage. The first one sadly had a candle knocked over on it, and wound up catching fire and melting. Don't ask how that happened. Just don't. :)

    The replacement was a bit buggy for some reason, and would occasionally lock up requiring a pull of the batteries and a reset. Also, the trackball was a bit jerky and didn't seem to have very good resolution for some reason. Then it just died. Perhaps a twitchy unit?

    Now I have one of those mini-keyboards which actually works great for htpc usage (trackpad) with basic typing, any extensive typing is out of the question though.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Hmm.. these look interesting, but none of them look good enough to best my go-to solution, the Logitech MediaBoard Pro: https://support.logitech.com/en_us/product/3616 . The only downside is that it's not available anymore (much like my favorite HTPC remote, the Gyration Media Remote), and it's really designed for a PlayStation 3, which means it lacks a Windows key. Apart from that, it uses Bluetooth, which saves me from having to waste a USB slot on a wireless dongle, and it's a full-sized keyboard. Reply
  • rwpritchett - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I've been doing the HTPC thing for about 8 years and I've tried a number of keyboards. I've used a mouse+keyboard, trackballs, and mini keyboards. For my setup, the end all keyboard that is close to perfect is the “Logitech Mini”. It looks just like the DiNovo Mini (which I also have), but it has a few key differences:

    - it uses standard RF rather than bluetooth
    - the range is better
    - the battery life is incredible
    - slightly different button layout
    - it's far less expensive than the DiNovo Mini for some reason

    In practice, I never liked the DiNovo Mini due to connection issues and lockups. I've also used the Lenovo N5902 Enhanced with my HTPC until one of the kids spilled soda on it >;( and it was a decent HTPC keyboard. The backlighting is nowhere near as nice as on the Logitech Mini however. If you want a small, inexpensive backlit keyboard for your HTPC give it a look.
    Reply
  • wffurr - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Tiny right shift keys! No good!

    I can't stand those. I greatly prefer half height arrow keys.

    I think my ideal HTPC setup is an Apple Wireless keyboard with a magic bar attaching a magic trackpad.
    Reply
  • hughlle - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I'd have preferred that it was just a big HTPC keyboard roundup given what is available these days, instead of just one companies offerings. But hey, you have your reasons...

    None of these really appeal to me, i'll just keep on using my tried and trusted di novo edges.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    It's a shame they discontinued the diNovo Edge and don't really have a replacement in the same league. Reply
  • hughlle - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    definately. While in the past i've had the disconnect issues to the point of considering a replacement (since fixed somehow, think just due to a change in room setup), nothing has ever come close to it in terms of style and quality. to the point that instead of buying an alternative, i just bought a second one for a different computer, to hell with the price.

    Aesthetically, every keyboard in this article is utter junk. Wouldn't be at all surprised if they are junk. Think i'd take my dinovo mini over anything reviewed here despite the cramped form factor (that and i lost it, it's somewhere, just don't know where, damned form factor!)
    Reply
  • deadlockedworld - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I would love to see these compared to current offerings from Logitech, etc. A review of all one brand just isn't that helpful. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Am I the only one who finds the selection of the devices and the receivers more than just a little odd? Seems like a random selection of relabelled cheap China devices to me. The size of the receiver are usually big topics as well as the compatibility with other devices because you'll only have a limited amount of USB ports (depending on what you're trying to use) and some of them are also visible so you don't want to connect any random crap to it. I already have far too many devices connected to my HTPC: 2 Logitech receivers (one unifying and one not :( ), 1 Bluetooth receiver, a Logitech Driving Force GT and a XBox 360 Wireless receiver. Reply
  • bobbozzo - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    BlueTooth uses 2.4GHz also, and there can be interference between BT and WiFi.
    http://www.ecnmag.com/articles/2012/03/wi-fi-and-b...
    Reply

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