Follow the Bouncing Keyboard

Michael Brown

Whenever I slam an oddball product—such as the G-Tech Smart-fabric wireless keyboard that I reviewed (and reamed) for Maximum PC’s “Geek Tested” column—some other manufacturer inevitably pops up and says “We have a product like that, too! Why don’t you test ours?”

And that’s how Adesso’s model AKB-230 rubber keyboard wound up on my desk. Unfortunately, the Adesso lacks one key feature that at least enabled me to use the otherwise worthless G-Tech keyboard with my Blackjack smartphone: Bluetooth. Adesso’s rubber keyboard is strictly a wired affair, depending on either a USB or (with an adapter) a PS/2 port for connectivity. The Blackjack can connect to a USB port, but only with a proprietary cable.

Roll-up keyboards such as these aren’t of much use if you can’t connect them to a PDA or a smartphone. (If your smartphone uses the more common mini-USB connector, and you can find an adapter, you might have better luck.) Adesso’s keyboard is much easier to use, but it’s still much more difficult to type on than a notebook PC’s keyboard. It’s much wider than the G-Tech, but it does include a full-size numeric keyboard and LEDs for Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock.

It’s considerably thicker, too, but the rubbery keys provide genuine tactile feedback where the G-Tech’s cloth delivers none. This made typing considerably easier, and it prevented a lot of unwanted key presses from resting my hands on home row, but only when I typed at a slow and methodical pace.

But the inconsistency in the degree of pressure required to register a key press drove me absolutely nuts. This was a bigger problem with some keys than it was with others, perhaps due to the strength of my fingers. Pressing the Shift keys with my pinkies often failed to result in a capital letter, and making corrections was doubly frustrating because the backspace key is half the size it is on most standard ‘boards. Using the spacebar, which is split into two buttons (I presume to ease rolling up the keyboard), is equally disconcerting.

As a keyboard, Adesso’s AKB-230 is far superior to G-Tech’s Smart-Fabric; but it doesn’t fill my need for a smartphone input device.

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