I just got my hands on the new mini keyboard from Lenovo today. Targeted at HTPC setups, this wireless wonder solves the problem of needing full PC controls in a remote form factor. But does it work as well as one would hope? Mostly.
The overall feel of the device is nice. It fits in your hand as you would expect from a well made remote. The underside is a soft matte plastic that I wish they had continued on the top of the device. The shiny black plastic around the trackball isn’t nearly as supple and quickly accumulates fingerprints (see pic below). At 126 grams with batteries the device is noticeably lighter than a Tivo remote (164 grams). The fact that you don’t need a driver disk is another bonus.
The Lenovo N5901 uses 2.4G wireless promises up to 10 meters of range, and in my testing I had no problems at 23 feet or even at 27 feet through a wall. At 35 feet and through two walls the controls would work sometimes. Needless to say, if your media room is larger than this thing’s range – you can afford a much more elaborate solution. The fact that the micro transmitter fits inside the battery compartment is a nice touch especially if you are using this for on-the-road power points instead of sofa surfing.
Levovo is famous for keyboard quality and this mini is no exception. The keys are straight off any good texting device, and provide solid feedback when thumbing away. However, since this “media remote” is targeted HTPC use, I would have like to see back lighting on the keys. Which would come in handy during dimly lit movies. The media buttons across the top are a welcome addition. The orange button launches your “my computer” window – good for easy DVD access or an extra HD filled with media.
This is the most disappointing part of the otherwise top notch package. The trackball seems cheaper than the rest of the device. The feedback is just a tad off. It can both seem too jumpy when clicking a link and too slow when moving around the screen. Again this isn’t a huge issue, it is just not a smooth as you would expect. Another problem is that trackball is too tall. (see pic below) It is too easy when right clicking to hit the track ball and move the curser. (Lefties would have the opposite problem) A slightly larger trackball sitting lower probably would have reduced this problem. And the Lenovo eraser nub may have been the best solution. Though it may have been price considerations that left that off the table.
Is the Mini Wireless Keyboard perfect? No. However considering the other options on the market, you’d be hard pressed to find a better solution anywhere near the $60 list price. Watch for a coupon from ThinkPads.com and it becomes an easy decision.