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ThinkOutside Bluetooth Treo Keyboard: Leaving My Laptop Behind

Although Peter Arts had written about it here on Treonauts many months ago, it was only after recently getting one of palmOne's Wireless Infrared Keyboards that I finally understood how I could go about leaving my laptop behind on those occasions where I didn't need the full fledged power of a PC. 

I was principally looking for a 'lighter' solution while mobile for writing in MS Word with DocsToGo, meeting notes and responding with long emails when on the go during the day or a short weekend break.  In this respect, a portable keyboard proved to be the essential accessory making this a viable proposition.

There is no doubt (at least in my case) that data entry speed using the external keyboard is nearly twice as fast as using the one on our Treo and it is therefore a much welcome and needed companion if you find yourself wanting to type more than a paragraph or two while on the go.

Of course, one of the main considerations why you might even remotely be tempted to try this is the enormous weight that you'll save.  Compared with a typical laptop coming in at 2.7kg (5.9bs) and the combined 160gm of our Treo plus the 160 to 210gm of the keyboard this setup amounts to less than 15% of the weight of your laptop and can easily be carried around in two suit pockets.

Now for the practical aspects of using a portable keyboard with your Treo:

I've now tested two keyboards: palmOne's Wireless Infrared ($69.95) and ThinkOutside's Bluetooth enabled one ($129.95).  The main difference between both (aside from the obvious that one uses Infrared and the other BT to connect to your Treo) is that palmOne's offers five rows of keys while ThinkOutside's is more compact with only four - this is presumably the reason why the first weighs 210gm and the second 160gm.  Also, ThinkOutside's is noticeably slimmer than palmOne's.

Additionally, where the palmOne keyboard is designed specifically for PalmOS but works on PocketPC devices the ThinkOutside keyboard is designed for PocketPC but works equally well with PalmOS.  The relatively minor differences is that the Function keys on the first show familiar PalmOS icons while the second doesn't.  In both cases however the command keys can easily be changed via the installed application on the Treo.

Perhaps the single most irritating issue that I had with palmOne's keyboard was that one cannot 'wake up' the Treo via the keyboard (something which you can with TO's).  Because the standard maximum "Auto-off after" timing is 3 minutes (see Power under Prefs) I found myself losing my train of thought having to regularly power on my Treo - it was actually driving me bananas to the point where I nearly dumped the keyboard.

Luckily and totally by accident I stumbled upon a freeware application called 'Always On' which allows you to change the Auto-off setting to an additional 5, 10, 15, 30min, 1 hour and finally Always On.  All I can say is that this freebie literally saved palmOne's keyboard from oblivion.

In turn, ThinkOutside's most annoying glitch is that for some reason not all function keys work (particularly the up/down and left/right) and I'm still trying to figure out if this is a standard issue or some bad setup at my end.

As for the difference between using infrared versus bluetooth on these keyboards, well, the jury is still out.  I know that BT will suck up a lot more battery than IR but considering the issue that I mention above where I will leave my screen on for longer periods with the IR keyboard I think that it sort of balances out (except for the fact that the BT keyboard also requires two AAA batteries to operate).  Also, in contrast to the old Treo 600 keyboard you cannot power your Treo 650 in either of these and because of this I carry an extra battery.

In terms of the keyboard itself, both are excellent albeit I found palmOne's to be just a little less noisy when pressing the keys than ThinkOutside's.  One aspect that I preferred on TO's however is that the Treo fits more comfortably in its holder than on p1's where it is more prone to moving.

Moreover, from a design perspective, I certainly feel that the grey and aluminium ThinkOutside keyboard is noticeably more appealing than palmOne's black plastic one.  Still, it's not really something that matters an awful lot and considering that palmOne's is nearly half the price of ThinkOutside's it certainly would not be reason enough to choose one over the other.

Finally, a quick tip: make sure that you disable Keyguard (see Prefs) when using your Treo with the keyboard or you'll find yourself rapidly annoyed pressing the center nav button repeatedly to unlock it - later it's a question of remembering to enable it again...

Overall I feel that both keyboards are an excellent solution if you're looking to leave your laptop behind but I have to admit that I'm having a hard time deciding which one I'll keep using on a regular basis (I'm leaning towards the IR option).  No doubt the pricing consideration may make it a lot easier for many.

Treo 600: How to leave your laptop behind [Treonauts]
Treo 650 Keyboards [Treonauts Accessories Store]

Treonauts like to leave heavy things behind...


Posted by Andrew on May 13, 2005 at 02:15 PM

Treo Accessories , Treo Keyboard

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Comments

1
by Greg | May 13, 2005 5:38:54 PM

I would have to go w/ palmOne's because it has dedicated number keys.

2
by Tony | May 24, 2005 12:03:19 PM

I guess my thumbs are smaller than most, I don't have much issue using the Treo keyboard. I type about 60wpm on my standard notebook computer and about 25wpm on the Treo. Even though that's more than half the speed, I'm pretty happy with it overall. Most of the time, I'm not typing a novel; I'm very comfortable typing medium to long Emails. It's soooo nice not having to remove the notebook at airport security.

3
by Kevin Barbee | Jul 19, 2005 1:27:09 AM

I just bought the Treo keyboard for my 600...It doesn't work...any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong? (other than not having a 650!)
Thanks,
Kevin

4
by bill | Jul 29, 2005 5:05:31 PM

I've seen several reviews of wireless and BT keyboard problems with the Sprint TREO 650 1.12 updater. I'm leaning towards the PalmOne's wireless infrared keyboard, but wanted to check to see if anyone had any comments or suggestions before putting the $ out.

thanks.

5
by Dave | Dec 25, 2005 2:36:57 PM

Just bought a Belkin Wireless Keyboard and having problems although it states that it is compatable with Treos. The enter key does no perform and the arrow keys don' function for navigation which makes it pretty useless. Looking for work arounds but anyway a heads up for anyone else looking at the Belkin solution.

6
by John | Jan 17, 2006 9:40:10 PM

I have the Palm universal ir keyboard. It is terrible, it only recognizes about 80% of the keystrokes. I can type faseter with my thumbs than it takes to correct all of the errors. Has anyone experienced this problem?

7
by Jon | Feb 4, 2006 4:08:48 PM

I have a Palm IR keyboard and also find that it only recogizes about 80% of keystrokes. I like the idea of an external keyboard but this unit is totally usless for "real world" applications. Anybody know of a keyboard that actually works correctly?

8
by Mac | Feb 8, 2006 4:18:07 PM

I've used the Palm keyboard on 3 different Treos (1 600 & 2 650s). It works beautifully on 1 (650), ok on 1 (600), and terrible on the other 650. I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Makes me think it's software/OS/conflict-related and not hardware. Have scoured the internet looking for possible answers to no avail. If anyone has figured it out, please please post.

9
by Ben | Feb 23, 2006 10:33:09 PM

What Palm really needs to do is release a keyboard onto which the Treo would physically dock. Seems like that would avoid all the vagaries of IR or Bluetooth communications. [I never really understood why all the keyboard solutions available are based on non-physical communication, when due to the size of the screen you'd never want the Treo further away than your keyboard's distance anyway! Email with Palm tech support suggests there are no plans to design such a device. Looks like we'll need a 3rd party to step in and meet the need.]

10
by Tina | Apr 18, 2006 10:47:39 AM

I have the TO Bluetooth keyboard and while it admittedly isn't perfect, I find it a much better companion for my 650 than the Palm IR version. I do agree however that Palm should really offer a dedicated (hard connect) Treo keyboard. Before I switched the 650, I had a Kyocera 7135 smartphone with a dedicated keyboard and absolutely loved it. It was one of the things I hated giving up when the 7135 died and I switched to my 650.

11
by Israel Barken | May 14, 2006 2:23:49 AM

Does anyone has experience with keyboards for the Treo 700?
Thank you.
Israel

12
by Rob White | Jun 28, 2006 4:16:56 PM

I've having a really difficult time with the TO keyboard. It repeatedly soft resets my 650, wiping any recently entered data as it does so. (This has happend with two separate 650's.)Also, I can't make it add to Trusted Devices, even though it's listed on 'All Known'. I'm getting really hacked off with it - espcially as it took TO about 6 monts to correct a software fault that left the shift on for two letters. I wish they'd get their act together.
Rob.

13
by Fred | Jan 12, 2007 10:24:21 AM

Can anyone tell me whether the PalmOne keyboard stays rigid if there is no flat surface beneath it? I need a keyboard that will stay flat without bending (and not tip over) when it rests on the calf of my crossed leg, when I'm riding the train or sitting on a bench. Could someone try that out, and report your findings back here? Thanks!

14
by Dana | Feb 1, 2007 5:04:07 PM

I've had problems with the Palm IR keyboard not recognizing keystrokes as well - not quite at the ratio that John has had, but significantly enough that it's annoying. It normally seems to happen just when I particularly want to get a key quote or idea in a meeting.... As Mac notes, if anybody has got this figured out let me know. It then mysteriously pops back on - sometimes after touching the built-in keyboard, sometimes after opening and closing the keyboard, sometimes after turning it off and on. Any ideas on what the problem is would be appreciated.

Fred - the keyboard is reasonably rigid and you can type on it while it's on your lap, but because the Treo/Palm balances on it, it would be tough to use on your lap.

15
by Mickdougal | Feb 6, 2007 1:59:45 AM

I just bought a Palm IR KB and was immediately disapointed for two of the reasons mentioned here- the failure of the device to support the handheld (as if whoever designed it thought we would always be in a stable situation) and the dropping of keystrokes. In reading the test drive above I was curious if the driver encountered anything like that because it never came up in the review. I was kind of rooting for the TO Bluetooth but without reviews of 5***** plus, I am a little unsure whether I want to gamble all that hard-earned on a product that I may have trouble returning. I know I can take the Palm unit back to Staples but that's the only one they carry. Any suggestions from you folks in the trenches?

16
by Jed | Mar 14, 2007 12:37:38 PM

I probably just read the article too fast and glossed over this, but what I need to know is if I need to buy an additional power source for the Palm keyboard. I'm leaving in 3 days to go to Korea, so I have very little time to go out and find something...THX!

17
by gadgetsage | Apr 20, 2007 3:33:31 AM

I used to use the Think Outside portable keyboard with my M515, and it worked beautifully, while the infrared P1 I have now is every bit as bad as you've heard.

The backrest support is flimsy and does not secure the phone well- nothing like seeing your expensive phone/pda "perched" precariously there to convince you never to try using it in the car again, and the error/missed keystroke entry is at BEST 80%, maybe worse.

I don't use the P1 keyboard anymore, the previous poster is right, it's quicker to use the dedicated phone keypad for entry rather than correcting errors.

Which is just a stupid situation to be in in the 21st frickin century.

Save your money and frustration and don't even bother buying either of these $100+ paperwieghts.

And I've scoured the internet for news of someone hacking a physical connection with no success. If anyone finds one, please email me.

18
by JonP | Aug 23, 2007 12:07:04 AM

My Palm IR keyboard is going back after one day. The two reasons are 1) the flimsy tray to set the phone in, and 2) it misses a lot of keystrokes. Honestly folks, you can type faster with less mistakes on the built in thumb board.

19
by Malcolm Marler | Aug 25, 2007 3:16:55 PM

I believe the Foleo is going to address my needs more effectively for a faster keyboard entry and the larger screen makes it more appealing, not to mention Wifi/Bluetooth internet connection, easier for email, and simpler entry on PIMs (assuming they will be included). I am really looking forward to leaving my laptop behind regardless.

Malcolm

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