The people at SuntekStore were very kind to send us in a review unit of their latest special product, the Universal Bluetooth Keyboard (BK600) for PDAs & phones. It is dubbed the “Smart Keyboard” and it sells for $109. It is compatible with the most recent PalmOS/PocketPCs PDAs and a large number of Bluetooth phones. We tested it against the Dell Axim x50v. UPDATE: Pictures added.The box includes a driver/manual CD, a nice case for the folded keyboard, two AAA batteries, and a “Quick Install” guide for those lazy enough to not want to read PDFs. The folded keyboard which is already bigger than my PDA when closed, it opens by sliding its button on the side. There is a “Slide shaft” which slides the left-side keyboard all the way to the right and making the keyboard look like “one piece”. The battery compartment can hold two AAA batteries and after you place them in you can turn on the keyboard by turning the power button upward (found on the left bottom side of keyboard). On the top right side t here is a “cradle” slided in. You must use your nail to slide it out of its compartment and lock it vertically to the keyboard’s body. Then, you just place your mobile device on in.
Before I install drivers on my devices, I always hunt down for their latest versions. Indeed, the CD came with v1.34, while here I found version 1.54 which apparently fixes a few important bugs — at least according to a forum discussion. Indeed, 1.54 worked flawlessly for me. I installed the drivers, soft-resetted my PDA, and the “BTKeybd” executable was ready to use from my PDA’s “Today” menu. Clicking it, it loads a three-tab dialog where it includes some options: activate the keyboard to work with the PDA, auto-reconnect on sudden disconnection, repeat rate settings, repeat delay settings, and you can also set up to 10 special shortcuts for the Fxx keys to load the apps you want quickly. The PDF says that you first need to pair with the keyboard before you can use it (pairing code: 0000), but I was able to use it without pairing at all (it seems that the “activation” checkbox from the dialog auto-pairs with the keyboard).
The keyboard has 63 keys and two more alternative levels by using the ALT+a-key and the Fn+a-key. It has support for the Yen, English pounds and the Euro and other symbols, along with extra support for French and German. It also has special keys assigned to special functions, like ActiveSync or “Home”. I am very satisfied with how the keyboard feels. The keys are pretty small and often I hit the wrong key, but overall, for the kind of portable keyboard it is, it does a great job. I was able to type to my PDA from up to 6 meters away, so connection performance is good too. The device has a standby time of 168 hrs (turned on, connected and ready for use at any time) and an operating time of 90 hrs continuously, which is pretty good too.
The keyboard supports many phones, but I didn’t see in the list any support for Sharp phones, which are pretty popular in Europe. However, what really strikes me as odd is the fact that the device does not a have an HID profile, and so it can’t be used with any desktop OS. It would require a special driver, and there is none. I tried it to use it on my Mac, and it indeed did not work.
The other little problem I encountered was that trying to remove/replace the cradle in its slot it’s an exercize in patience because a piece of it keeps popping up and so it doesn’t let the cradle move freely in or out of the slot. Also, my PDA is ~170 grams and the keyboard could not keep all its weight in a steady way. The PDA was slipping away and the keyboard was ready to flip because of the weight (phones usually weigh less though). If you don’t place the PDA on the keyboard’s cradle though, the keyboard is steady and it doesn’t slip away. In fact, without a PDA/phone on its cradle, it’s more steady on my desk than my Dell desktop keyboard.
Overall, this is a great little wireless keyboard for your mobile device. Highly recommended if you need a mobile keyboard that is not limited by infrared’s eye-to-eye need, or the cumbersome and power sucking directly-connected keyboards. Bluetooth rocks. You can buy the keyboard at SuntekStore for $109 US, however I must point out that the actual retail suggested price in the manufacturer’s web site says it should be $99 US.