Introduction

The cord-cutting trend has made streaming STBs (set-top boxes) and HTPCs (home theater PCs) popular. Remotes are bundled with all OTT (over-the-top) boxes and Android media streamers, and Media Center remotes are common for HTPCs. However, as media consumption becomes more interactive (for example, consumers explicitly searching for a movie to play on Netflix), the use of remotes with limited functionality becomes cumbersome. As an option for interacting with HTPCs, we pay attention to devices which fulfill the following criteria:

  • The device should be wireless and optimally sized (neither the mini- varieties which make typing with large fingers difficult, nor the full-sized combos which come with separate keyboard and mouse units)
  • The device should come with either an integrated touchpad or a trackball
  • Ergonomics and ease of use with a layout as similar as possible to a traditional keyboard while also allowing for short-term single handed operation common in HTPC scenarios
  • Be adaptable for the occasional prolonged typing / computer interaction task with properly sized keys

Some of the other desirable features include prolongation of battery life by going into sleep mode (either automatically, or through an explicit toggle switch), 5 GHz communication frequency (to avoid the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum) and an integrated rechargeable battery with a charging dock. It would also be nice to have ease of use with Windows 8.x (in terms of replicating touchscreen functionality on a touchpad). Obviously, features have to be traded off to hit an acceptable price point. So, the options we want to look at might not hit any of the desirable features too.

The Logitech K400 is one of the most popular HTPC keyboards. Frequently available for less than $30, its feature-to-price ratio is simply unparalleled. Unfortunately, the keyboard does have a few drawbacks with respect to ergonomics and key placement, making it challenging to use it for extended typing duties. With a better budget, would it be possible to improve the HTPC interaction experience? That is what we hope to answer with our 'Interacting with HTPCs' series. Our first review in that category was our extended look at the options from IOGEAR and SIIG earlier this year.

In today's piece, we will be looking at the various interaction options from Adesso, with MSRPs ranging from $30 - $75:

In addition to the above five models, Adesso also sent us the SlimTouch WKB-4210UB. However, the sample had some issues with a stuck touchpad button and we will not cover that in this review. In addition, the batteries supplied with a couple of the samples were dead, but that doesn't have any bearing on the aspects that we will cover in the rest of the review.

We will first take a look at the features offered by each of these keyboards in detail along with some usage impressions. This will be followed by the comparison of the pros and cons of each of these units on a single page. Note that most of the aspects presented in keyboard reviews are subjective and dependent on test environment. For example, even the wireless range may vary from one test location to another because the 2.4 GHz channel being used might exhibit interference issues under certain conditions. This could result in improper functioning and range issues. While one unit relies on Bluetooth for communication, the other four are RF-based and operate in the 2.4 GHz band with an advertised range of 30 ft (under ideal conditions). We will not be covering the range factor any further in this review.

Adesso SlimTouch WKB-3000
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  • DIYEyal - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Very interesting product category I haven't looked into before.
    Found a typo in page 2:
    "Adesso's advantage that the kit can operate in one of 8 different frequencies in the 2.4 GHz band"
    Should have been "Adesso's advantage that the kit can operate in one of 8 different bands in the 2.4 GHz frequency"
    Reply
  • Imaginer - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    The built in balls of the wireless keyboards are tiny, resulting in more thumb action, despite adjustments in acceleration, which can throw off "zeroing" in on your intended click space.

    That and one cannot game in such a manner, which is a double bonus of an HTPC (but people are thinking HTPCs should only be for media and music).
    Reply
  • praeses - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    actually no, it should be in one of 8 different channels in the 2.4 GHz band" Reply
  • omgyeti - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Those channels are bandwidths centered around 8 different carrier frequencies. So "8 different frequencies in the 2.4GHz band," as it appears in the article is perfectly acceptable. Reply
  • Imaginer - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Why is everyone IGNORING WIRELESS TRACKBALLS?

    Specifically, the Logitech M570 as a more better means of HTPC control? Coupled with a inexpensive (preferably Logitech with Unifying receiver compatibility) one can have a full keyboard, unhindered in typing with a cursor drag device that is unhindered by any couch or any necessity of using a coffee table,

    And it is worlds better than a finite trackpad versus a drag space of a sphere.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Did you even read the review? Adesso SlimTouch WKB-3000 features a trackball. The M570 is awesome (we have two of them), but ultimately it's clunky to have two wireless peripherals unless you really need them.

    We've been using Logitech K400 keyboards (3x) for a couple years now and they have performed flawlessly. They're perfect for navigating the web or XBMC, even some light gaming, but anything involving more than four keypresses gives it trouble. We've only replaced the batteries in one of them in almost three years. $25 is hard to beat. All our HTPC hardware is hidden away behind walls/closets and the keyboards have no problems operating, even with all three going in the house.

    I only break out the M570 if I want to play an RTS on the big screen, but it's so rare as to almost never happen. Otherwise, I just play on my gaming rig in the office with a real mouse/KB combo.
    Reply
  • Imaginer - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    The trackball in the built in keyboard is smaller, thus more thumb action and need more target "zeroing" if one were to adjust the speed and acceleration to move a great distance to compensate.

    Bulky? Being separate, one can solely navigate the HTPC for media sans keyboard. The only time I ever use a keyboard for media, is to type in searches. Otherwise, it really is not much used in an HTPC setup.

    And gaming, batteries still going strong in the trackball I used. Plus, the built in trackball, leaves your hands in a very uncomfortable playing position. And I also mentioned the built in trackball in a reply of another comment, I meant to be a part of this one since there is no edit feature.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I said clumsy, not bulky. Needing to use two separate devices is often enough to dissuade people from using media PCs or HTPCs.

    We clearly have different expectations from our media/HTPCs and our peripherals. Have you considered duct taping your M570 to a keyboard? :P
    Reply
  • Imaginer - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    No because that is UNCOMFORTABLE.

    My M570 rests to my side, arm relaxed to the side. This is coming from a person that also detests controllers because of the hunched convergence.
    Reply
  • SirGCal - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I have two M570's also, but NOT on my HTPCs (of which I have 3). As they mentioned, we would prefer one-hand operation. I DO have a solution but it's also the best of the bad options. It does work though. What I have is similar to this (but it is different, this might be better/newer): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9S...

    The HTPC is supposed to be short-access, not accurate (gaming) necessary. And a device like this is super-easy to click on a single file or program to execute and do so with one hand. I have to move my thumb just as much with that device as I do with my Logitech track ball. But in the end it is vastly better either way to have just one device for the HTPC and if you truly feel different, great for you but that's vastly in the minority.
    Reply

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