gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Sandberg Wireless TouchPad Keyboard

It’s only fitting that I should type the entirety of this review upon the Sandberg Wireless TouchPad Keyboard which it concerns. So that’s exactly what I’ll do. It took me only seconds to get used to the slightly bizarre “ergonomic” key layout which was one of my staggering total of two initial gripes with this board so it shouldn’t be too painful.

The second gripe, which has been rectified in part by some slightly surprising discoveries about the TrackPad, is the choice of mouse button placement and ergonomics. The left and right mouse buttons are actually quite sensibly located on the left hand side of the keyboard opposite the trackpad, as this particular keyboard is designed to be used from a sofa it’s assumed mousing will be done with your thumbs whilst holding the keyboard like an oversized game controller.

This works well enough, but I still find the mouse buttons clumsy and fiddly, particularly the right button which is far more important. Why? Well you can tap to click with the TouchPad itself, which even supports two finger scrolling OSX style (that was a big surprise!). Unfortunately tapping to right click involves a slightly bizarre three finger tap unless you use OSX and can simply hold down CTRL.

I actually discovered the three finger tap whilst playing with the trackpad to mouse around and save this review draft. I guess the manual will say as much but I just can’t bring myself to do anything more than skim instructions for something as trivial as a keyboard, who could? I was previously attempting to right click with two fingers a-la OSX and accidentally mashed three fingers on the pad, flashing up the contextual menu. After struggling for a few minutes to re-produce this effect I finally discovered the three finger tap.

I have to hand it to Sandberg; left clicking with one finger, scrolling with two, and right clicking with three is a pretty smart design choice. After playing with the trackpad for a short while and getting used to the three-finger-right-click there really isn’t any way I can fault it… okay so it’s a little small, but otherwise it really does the job even if a three finger tap is a little unusual.

So, in the course of writing this review on the Sandberg Wireless TouchPad Keyboard I have effectively eliminated my two major gripes with its design. The non-ergonomic “ergonomic” key layout is easily adjusted too and the trackpad is full of surprises. So, what else can I pick apart?

Clacky keys! The keys on the Sandberg Wireless TouchPad Keyboard are chunky, clacky and a have a little bit too much travel for my personal liking. I’ve become far too used to the solid press of the Saitek Gaming Keyboard (at work) and the MacBook Pro/Apple Wireless Keyboards at home. Alas! I can’t see myself adjusting to the noise or feel of the Sandberg in a hurry but users of less over-the-top keyboards may have better luck.

On the subject of keys, all of the function buttons on the Sandberg look suspiciously like something on the face of a 1990s corded telephone; round, chunky and not terrifically visually appealing. The central media center button is similar but picked out in a not-so-fetching neon green. It’s not easy to press any of these accidentally. Fortunately, and to their credit, they have a satisfying level of tactile feedback and a whopping 2mm of travel that finishes with more clicky sounds.

If you can see past the not-so-good looks of the Sandberg Wireless TouchPad Keyboard (or are a fan of black/silver color combinations) and are at home with a keyboard that has a high degree of tactile and audial feedback (read: is noisy) then it’s a pretty good choice to combine with a Media Center PC, Mac or Playstation 3. Despite being light it’s reasonably well built and the trackpad is excellent, there’s even a clip on the underside in which you can safely tuck the wireless dongle away when the keyboard is not in use. Alas, it’s still no nearer to my dream of a back-lit, multi-touch trackpad equipped wireless Apple keyboard; one can only dream.

Finally; the Sandberg Wireless TouchPad Keyboard also works brilliantly with the PS3, including all the TouchPad features; single finger tap, two finger scrolling and three finger right click (for bringing up side menus).

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008, Personal Computing.