17 May 2008

Typing on the Go

Last time, I wrote about using Bluetooth fold-up keyboards with my internet tablet to get some writing done in transit. I've used two keyboards so far: an iGo keyboard that my brother Steve lent me (iGo doesn't have a product page for it; go figure), and the Nokia one. I bought the Nokia because I thought it would play better with my Nokia tablet, and it does (although I can't figure out how to do accents on it — the instructions in the manual don't work).

Here's a (mostly photographic — people with slow connections have been warned!) comparison of the two keyboards.

This is what the iGo looks like folded up:

And here's the Nokia. They're almost identical in size.

The keys are almost identical in size, too. At first I thought that the Nokia's keys were smaller, but I did some rough measuring and they're the same (both about 90% of regular-size computer keys). On both keyboards I had to make some adjustments to how I did reaches in the centre area of the keyboard — you know, the keys that your index fingers type on. Both keyboards require special key combinations to put in numbers and some punctuation marks because they're both only four rows high — the top row does triple or even quadruple duty. Unless you're planning on using a lot of numbers in your typing, that's not a drawback at all.

The iGo has a built-in stand for your PDA:

So does the Nokia. It's off-centre, but it takes up less room than the iGo and has a little wire rest for the bottom of the PDA.

The tablet has its own stand, so often I just let it stand up by itself and don't unfold the keyboard's stand. Note that the iGo stand can't tuck away like the Nokia stand can.

The Nokia only has one latch, and a loose hinge that lets it partly fold if it's not on a hard surface when you're using it (you can see that a bit in the above photo). The iGo keyboard locks in place, but is slightly more complicated to fold up because of that.

According to my kitchen scale, the Nokia keyboard plus tablet come to 434g, which is nicely lighter than the 920g of the Eee PC (although of course the Eee PC is very portable and has its own advantages). Plus, the Eee PC has replaced toasters and iPods as a promotional incentive to consumers:

The bottom line is, we're no longer chained to a single machine to work on a particular document, or even a single platform. It's as easy as anything to start a draft on the tablet in transit, throw the SD card I saved it on into my laptop, copy it to the hard drive and finish writing it up. The focus (thankfully) has shifted away from brand loyalty and more towards finding the best tool for the job. These posts have been about hardware choices; maybe after I've blogged about other things for a bit I'll write about software choices.

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