This past February I went on a quest to find the very best wireless, HTPC/Media-friendly keyboard. My personal favorite was the Vidabox Premium Wireless Keyboard. Well just this past month, Vidabox has updated that very keyboard and sent me a review unit so I thought I’d provide an update of the review with details on the changes.
Whether you have a full-blown Home Theater PC (HTPC) setup or simply want to control your computer from a distance, you’re going to want a solidly built keyboard, with the keyboard layout to be smart and functional, great wireless reception and a good way to control the mouse. I’ve been using the Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard with Laser Trackball with my HTPC, a SageTV HTPC extender and even in my office as a simple wireless keyboard.
Vidabox is a New York-based company that sells Home Theater, Home Theater PC and Home Automation. Their primary customer base is the higher-end Media Center enthusiast and custom installers, but they sell products such as this keyboard directly from their online store as well.
The Vidabox keyboard is made of black plastic with gray keys. The keyboard looks nice and is feels solid – It’s not as tiny as the Logitech DiNovo Mini, but it is smaller than a standard-sized desktop keyboard.
What's been updated with the new keyboard?
The Vidabox Premium Wireless HTPC Keyboard with Laser Trackball is the latest version of Vidabox's popular HTPC keyboard.
- Windows 7 compatible (also still compatible with Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP and Vista
- Battery Life is slightly longer – up to roughly 6 months with an auto-shutoff feature on the keyboard when not being used.
- Improved Documentation
- 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
- Battery Life: 6 months stand-by time
The Vidabox HTPC Wireless Keyboard comes with:
- 3 x AA Batteries
- USB Receiver (a small USB dongle with a “connect” button)
- 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.
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.
I didn’t even have to synch the review keyboard – I just plugged the USB dongle into the computer and after the drivers self-installed on my Windows system it just worked. If you do this and it doesn’t respond you can press the sync button on both the USB dongle and the keyboard to get the two to sync up. When I used it with my SageTV HD Theater extender/player I did need to restart the extender for it to recognize they keyboard.
The Vidabox is only 13" long, very thin and pretty compact – about the size of a laptop keyboard. 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 even for an RF wireless keyboard.
The trackball, located at the top-right of the keyboard provides excellent mouse motion. The 2000 dpi laser trackball pointing device with mouse buttons is very accurate and easy to use. It’s also located in the perfect spot on the keyboard to control with your thumb without having to set the keyboard in your lap. 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.
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.
- 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 – still more than some of the cheaper options, but less than the tiny Logitech DiNovo Mini
- 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.
I used the slightly older version of this keyboard for over a month earlier this year and this updated keyboard for about a week. The excellent wireless range, nice look feel and layout and well designed trackball mouse functionality makes the Vidabox Premium Wireless Keyboard a success. This is by far my favorite wireless media keyboard – highly recommended!
Where to Purchase:
You can pick up this keyboard at the Vidabox Online Store. The keyboard’s MSRP is $94.99, but is available now for pre-order at $69.99
Stay tuned for info on how you can win this keyboard at GeekTonic.