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.

Last  year, we visited some vendors at CES to look at the options on display for interacting with HTPCs. Our criteria for paying attention to a device included the following:

  • 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.

I have been using a Logitech K400 for more than a year, and it has managed to become the mainstay in my HTPC setup. 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.

In today's piece we will be looking at three different wireless HTPC interaction solutions with MSRPs ranging from $50 to $70:

  1. IOGEAR GKM561R 2.4GHz Multimedia Keyboard with Laser Trackball and Scroll Wheel
  2. SIIG JK-WR0412-S1 Wireless Mini Multimedia Trackball Keyboard
  3. SIIG JK-WR0312-S1 Wireless Multi-Touchpad Mini Keyboard

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. All the three units we are covering today operate in the 2.4 GHz band and have an advertised range of 33 ft (under ideal conditions). We will not be covering the range factor any further in this review.

IOGEAR GKM561R - Features & Usage Impressions
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  • sxr7171 - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    IMHO this is the best (and cheap): http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/itemdetails/0C51503/4... Reply
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    Logitech dinovo mini is the best in size with little sacrifice. Too bad it's now discontinued without a serious replacement in sight. Reply
  • hughlle - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    I bought the mini, and yup, its was pretty good, but soon replaced it with the edge. And despite the occasional Bluetooth dropout, (one of mine, a Spanish version does it a lot, my UK version, rarely, odd) I've never looked back. Best keyboard I've owned. I LOVE laptop style keys :-) but I truly wish HP would make a version of their kt1087 with a touchpad. I absolutely adore it for typing and its so small and light and well made :-) Reply
  • pintos - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    I currently use the Dinovo Edge that I bought on sale some years ago for $30. I chose it mainly because it comes with a charging dock. I never have a dead keyboard unless I forget to dock it.

    I wonder if there some good quality wireless keyboard/mouse combos that can be charge over USB. Maybe even have the option to work over USB while charging.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    I also use a Dinovo Edge. It's great. Unfortunately I paid close to $300 for mine... Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, March 05, 2014 - link

    I've been using K400 keyboards on a few of my HTPCs for over a year after going through a number of ***** keyboards. Still haven't changed the batteries... Logitech just announced this, it's a K400 with Harmony functionality:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/harmony-smart-key...
    Reply
  • Havor - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    Yeah i love my Logitech diNovo Mini, i use it the most for my HTPC if i need a keyboard, next to that i have a Logitech diNovo Edge standing on the table next to my couch, for when i need to do a lot of typing.

    Next to that they both work real well, they also look so nice that i dont even have to hide them.

    Something i would do for sure with to days contenders!
    Reply
  • Jon Tseng - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    DiNovo mini great also works nicely with PS3

    One annoying thing thought - no Function Keys!!
    Reply
  • rwpritchett - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    I have a Dinovo Mini and had nothing but trouble with it with my HTPC. HOWEVER, I discovered this little-known Logitech gem:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008JGU3YA/ref=oh...

    It's the exact same as the Dinovo Mini except it uses standard RF instead of bluetooth and a few button changes. The battery life is incredible, it's still available, AND it's much cheaper than the Dinovo Mini. Anyone considering the Dinovo Mini should consider it.
    Reply
  • ddrum2000 - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    A few years ago I bought and returned the Lenovo unit in favor of the IOGear. For the limited typing I do I couldn't get used to the keyboard. Additionally, I found the wireless signal to be significantly stronger with the IOGear (maybe its the auto frequency hopping). For the Lenovo, I had to put the USB receiver on the front of the HTPC box with disturbed the aesthetic where as the IOGear receiver can be used on a rear USB port with no problem. Reply

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