If you have a computer as part of your Home Theater PC (HTPC) setup, the keyboard is an important hardware component for that setup. But what if that HTPC is in the living room, bedroom or somewhere else in the home - in these situations you want your HTPC to fit in with the home theater environment and therefore most control will happen with your remote control. Even still, there will be those times when you need a keyboard and mouse to control your computer - either to do maintenance or possibly to type in those longer text searches for instance. So which keyboard should you choose? This week, we'll run through some excellent options for compact, wireless keyboards designed exactly for this purpose. Today's review is the Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard with Laser Trackball.
HTPC Keyboard Review Roundup:
GeekTonic will be reviewing several different wireless Media/HTPC keyboards over the next week:
- BTC 9019URF wireless keyboard
- Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard with Laser Trackball
- Brando USB 2.4Ghz RF Wireless Multimedia Tiny Keyboard (coming soon)
- Other HTPC Keyboard Options (coming soon)
- Wireless Keyboard Giveaway!
Media Center Keyboards - What's Important?
When you're shopping for media center keyboards the most important factors are as follows:
- Must be wireless RF or Bluetooth - range is very important for larger rooms.
- Preferably a mouse, trackball, joystick or touch-pad built-in to control mouse functions
- Size - smaller is better, but still need to be able to operate the keys. Not too heavy of course.
- Keyboard Layout
- Ease of Installation - "synching" of keyboard with computer etc.
There are many other factors, but those are the most important ones to watch for.
The Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard with Laser Trackball is the latest version of Vidabox's popular HTPC keyboard. This one includes an auto shut-off function with an extended battery life of 6 months (stand-by), some new hot-keys and a thirty-foot range. This updated keyboard is relatively new on the scene and looks good.
What's changed from the older version of the Vidabox Keyboard?
- 2000 DPI Laser Trackball (previously 800 DPI) which translates into more accurate & smooth mouse movement.
- Battery Life up to 6 months (previous model was only 2 months) - this is in large part due to the auto-shutoff feature on the new version
- A new Media Center button was added
- Improved reception
Lets see how the Vidabox stacks up against the competition.
- Weight: 1.13lbs (512 grams)
- Dimensions: 12.83" x 5.04" x .97" (326mm x 128mm x 24.72mm)
- 30-foot (10m) wireless range
- Integrated 2000 dpi laser trackball pointing device with mouse buttons
- Auto shut-off preserves battery life
- Uses 3 AA batteries (included)
- Battery Life: 6 months stand-by time
- Anti-dust keyboard pouch included
The Vidabox HTPC Wireless Keyboard arrives in a small, white cardboard box
- 3 x AA Batteries
- USB Receiver
- Wireless Keyboard
- Anti-dust keyboard pouch - this is a nice touch on the part of Vidabox to include this as it just gives you that feeling that you're dealing with a "premium-quality" product.
Vidabox, a New York-based company is no stranger to the Home Theater and HTPC market. Their marketing focus is typically to the higher-end Media Center enthusiast and custom installers. That "premium" focus shows with their attention to detail even with something as seemingly simple as a HTPC keyboard.
The Vidabox keyboard is made of black plastic with gray keys. It looks very nice and feels solid - This keyboard isn't tiny, but it just seems more compact then the BTC 9019urf I reviewed last week.
Installation as you might expect from a keyboard is very easy.
- Install the three AA batteries into the keyboard.
- Plug the receiver into to a USB (1.1 or 2.0) port of your computer.
- Press the tiny (so tiny you need a pen or paperclip to press it) sync button on the USB receiver for 2 or more seconds
- Finally press the sync button on the keyboard and the computer should then recognize the keyboard input.
Like most (if not all) media center keyboards the Vidabox doesn't have the number keypad of the desktop keyboards. The sides are shaped with curves to better conform to your grip. As I mentioned in the BTV9019urf review, I really was used to the "handlebars" of that keyboard which made it pretty easy to handle (pardon the pun), but this vidabox's shape is really perfect for your grip and it's thin enough I consider it even easier to manage even when using on the couch or recliner. You'll notice the media keys at the top of the keyboard and the small trackball/mouse at the top-right. The keyboard layout is excellent - they didn't stick any keys in unfamiliar places making the transition from your desktop or laptop keyboard to this one very easy.
In the photo above, you see the Vidabox keyboard (bottom) next to the BTC 9019urf (top). The Vidabox is only 13" long, much thinner and really feels and looks smaller and more compact than the BTC. The keyboard is black, sold plastic with mouse buttons on the top-left, media keys across the top and the mouse-trackball on the top-right. The standard qwerty keys are colored gray while the other keys are all a darker shade of grey. All text on the keys are white except for the NUM-Lock and Num-Pad keys which are both blue and the Scroll-lock key text which is red.
To save space, many of the function keys are slightly smaller than on a standard keyboard but the arrow keys are nicely separated and all keys were placed nicely.
The 10 media keys are placed across the top of the keyboard with the RF receiver in the center.
The media (and sync) keys from left to right are as follows:
- Left/Right mouse click buttons
- Media Center
- Volume Down
- Volume Up
On the right side:
- And finally the 2000 DPI Laser Trackball for mouse control
The underside of the keyboard reveals the battery compartment, four rubber "feet" and a nice inset cutout for easy grip when holding the keyboard in your hands. Details like this are appreciated and really show after a little time with this keyboard.
The battery compartment is pretty small, but holds three AA batteries (included) and has a red ribbon to make it easier to remove the batteries.
The RF range is very, very good. I was able to use the keyboard up to 28 feet away from the HTPC. I tried it from a nearby room through walls and it worked without errors - something quite amazing for an RF wireless keyboard.
The trackball, located at the top-right of the keybaord provides excellent mouse motion. The 2000 dpi laser trackball pointing device with mouse buttons is very accurate and easy to use. The trackball feels solid and works without effort to move the mouse pointer around the screen. Something that can't be said for all HTPC keyboards.
I've been using this review keyboard for several months and can say without a doubt this is the best wireless keyboard I've ever used. Build quality is very solid, it is light and easy to handle, the trackball mouse is the best keyboard trackball I've ever come across - it's very responsive and handles the mouse functions with ease. The blutooth wireless reception is excellent - and worked from across the room and even in an adjacent room during testing. The keyboard isn't perfect, but its pretty darn close. Whether you've heard of Vidabox or not, just know that they've been in the business for a long time and are focused on high-quality HTPC products and this Vidabox Wireless HTPC keyboard is no exception.
- Nice layout for typing - keys are spread out enough as to not impair normal typing
- Solid build quality
- Installation is plug-n-play - no driver or software required for installation
- The size is perfect - not to big or heavy, but not so small it's painful to type on
- Priced competitively
- Battery life is excellent. I've been using since November and haven't needed to replace the batteries yet.
- The built in laser trackball is ideal for mouse control. I like it even better than the joystick control on my BTC 9109urf keyboard.
- While smaller than a full-size keyboard, it might still be too large for some
- Trackball is on right side, right and left-mouse-click buttons are on the left side. This works for me, but might be a problem with some left-handed people.
- Two hands required to operate the mouse and keyboard. This is a common element of media center keyboards.
Are you Interested in this Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC keyboard for your own setup? Thanks to the folks at Vidabox, this very review keyboard will be given away to one lucky GeekTonic reader. Stay tuned for more information on how to win!
Where to Purchase:
Vidabox direct $69.99 (see below for a special 10% off)
UPDATE: VidaBox has extended a special offer to GeekTonic Readers - 10% Off at time of checkout: just "geektonic" (without the quotes)
If I were purchasing a new wireless keyboard today, this is the one I would purchase without question.