Archive for the ‘review’ Category

I’ve spent the past few days using Dell’s solution for those who need a keyboard for their Venue Pro 8 tablet. It has come in handy when needing to write emails and edit documents. I have yet to write code with it, although I plan to soon. Unfortunately, while the keyboard and case match the Venue Pro 8 perfectly, it’s hard to recommend this accessory for medium to heavy duty work until Dell treats the keyboard with the attention to detail afforded its laptop-bound brethren.

Every time I use a compact keyboard I am reminded all designers of such keyboards must be sadists. They move keys around to obscenely hard to reach places. Sometimes they remove keys altogether, making the keyboard worthless. Dell’s Tablet Wireless Keyboard for their Venue 8 Pro is no exception. Take a gander at the photo below. Why does the keyboard need two Alt keys? Couldn’t that second Alt be used for the apostrophe, which is explicably a Function key combination? Why is the question mark key on the left, next to a full size shift key, when it could have been put in its normal position next to a smaller right shift key?

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That’s not to say it’s all bad. Actually, the keyboard itself is quite good for short emails and corrections to documents. Expectations are usually low for compact keyboards, so this is better than some when it comes to comfort. I didn’t make many mistakes, although any time I needed certain punctuation I had to stop and think. It’s the ergonomic and functionality decisions, and aforementioned omissions, that make absolutely no sense. For example:

  • The keyboard has no backlight. If Microsoft can insert a backlight in a keyboard half as thin, why can’t Dell?
  • Two watch batteries are required. Yes, it comes with them, but those things are expensive. Why isn’t there a rechargeable battery that could charge via MicroUSB from the Venue Pro’s USB port?
  • I said it before, but come on – what in the world were they thinking with the apostrophe and quote keys? They’ve moved from a normal location – next to : and ; – to requiring a Function Key combination. But they left { and } intact? Who uses those often while typing in Word or web sites? Maybe developers, like me, but we need the quote and apostrophe, too!
  • The keyboard connects magnetically to the case – which is awesome – except, the keyboard doesn’t deactivate itself when the magnet is engaged. That causes key presses to turn the tablet on, thus draining the battery. It also drains the keyboard’s battery. It sounds like a simple engineering task, magnet turning off the power circuit, but maybe I missed something? The magnet is also a bit weak. Don’t treat this like Microsoft’s Surface keyboard. You’ll want to place the keyboard elsewhere if you’re only going to use the Venue Pro 8 as a tablet.
  • If the on-screen keyboard can fit all keys on the Venue Pro’s screen, why can’t the physical keyboard that has more physical room?

If you were a product manager, would you let this thing ship with such obvious issues?

Those gripes aside, I like the keyboard, and its design complements the Venue Pro 8. The design of the folio case, it’s built-in pen holder, and magnetic grip of the keyboard to the case all make this a worthwhile addition to your Dell Venue Pro accessory list. Just don’t expect to get much work done with it if you need apostrophes, dashes, or quotes.

Pros: Keyboard perfectly matches contours of the Venue Pro 8, and connects magnetically. Package comes with a case that looks very nice and can hold the digitizer pen. Keyboard can be left in the car, at home, and so forth, so you don’t have to carry it around when not needed.

Cons: The keyboard + case combo seems to weigh as much as the Venue Pro, practically doubling the weight. Alcohol must have been involved when deciding the keyboard layout. The magnet is a bit weak. The keyboard isn’t good for any long documents due to the layout’s inexplicable key locations.

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Figure: The keyboard connects magnetically to the flap on the case.

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Figure: The keyboard looks great even when not being used. That doesn’t mean it folds back like the Surface – it will fall off if you treat it like Microsoft’s prodigy.

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Figure: The keyboard runs off two CR2025 3 volt batteries. The tray is a bit difficult to remove.

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Figure: The keyboard.

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Figure: Unwrapping.

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Figure: The packaging. Front.

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Figure: The packaging. Back.