Although a well equipped smartphone or PDA can let you leave the laptop at home, bashing away at those itty-bitty keypads or attempting to write lengthy emails with a fiddly stylus can soon become a chore.
Thankfully, there’s a range of keyboard accessories available, with one of the most popular being the ThinkOutside Stowaway Infra-red Keyboard (also sold as the Palm Wireless Keyboard).
Sporting a neat foldaway design, the Stowaway measures just 139mm x 97mm x 17mm when closed, with a quick double flip action opening up the keyboard to its full 251mm x 148mm x 13mm width.
Before use, a small driver has to be installed on your handheld device – as well as getting the two devices chatting to each other, it also lets you set up user programmable shortcut and command keys for fast access to applications.
Using the keyboard
Once the keyboard has been opened for use and the two AAA batteries inserted, it’s simply a case of slapping the PDA/smartphone on the cradle, angling the adjustable IR wand to line up with your PDA infrared port and you’re off.
Although the Stowaway has far less keys than a laptop/PC keyboard, the full-size 18 mm spacing between the keys and the Function/shift options let you rattle along at a fair rate.
Although we had no problem maintaining the IR link, one of our test units (a Treo 650) felt a little wobbly on the cradle – using an imate JAM Pocket PC in landscape mode felt a lot more secure, as did our Sony TH55 PDA (one of the best PDAs even invented, but that’s a different story).
Overall, the keyboard performed well throughout our tests, so long as it was used on a flat surface – trying to type with the Stowaway on our laps inevitably ended up with the keyboard folding up and the handheld being jettisoned (our solution – grab a thick book to rest it on!).
With its lightweight 5.75 oz (179 grams) design, compact, clever folding build and comfortable keyboard layout, we can thoroughly recommend the Stowaway keyboard for writers on the move.
It’s not particularly cheap ($70, £45), but its rugged construction should give years of use and it sure beats trying to write a long report on a phone’s keypad!
18mm key spacing (horizontally and vertically)
3mm key travel – same as the best notebook computers
English QWERTY layout (4 rows of keys
Closed: 5.47″H x 3.82″W x .67″D (139 mm x 97 mm x 17 mm)
Open: 10.3″ x 5.7″ x 0.7″ (251 mm x 148 mm x 13 mm)
Weight: 5.75 oz. (179 grams)
Compatibility: check list of products