I have am fond of, and use on a regular basis, Pocket PC devices. I even write software for them, starting back with first generation devices. I think it is safe to say that I have logged some time with the platform. Along the way I have discovered some very good software that others have written that really opens up the capability of such a device. One place that this really shines is for mobile document creation. To take advantage of this, one thing proves itself rather quickly – you need a keyboard to do any volume writing.
So, now is the question – what kind of keyboard? First, it needs to be small enough to be easily transportable. A rule of thumb that I use, as silly as it sounds, is this: It has to fit in an average pocket. Luckily clever manufacturers have solved this requirement by devising folding keyboards. These will fit in a jeans or jacket pocket quite easily.
Second, it must be able to connect to our mobile device. Most modern Pocket PCs (now called windows mobile) support two basic forms of connection, IR (Infrared) or BT (blue tooth). I have used both with satisfactory results. However, the range of mobility is much more limited with IR keyboards, since any break in the IR beam results in a loss of keyboard functionality. For this reason they usually stay stationary, with a mount arrangement to hold the PPC. BT keyboards are not limited by line of sight, so they can be moved into a comfortable position quite easily. A lot of BT keyboards also have the mount to hold the PPC, but I usually dispense with these (they tend to snap on) and use it sans positioning device. A device I currently carry, a PPC6700, sits nicely on its side in landscape mode, allowing independent positioning of the keyboard.
Third, the keyboard must sustain itself with reasonable sipping of its power sources, keeping it ready to go when you need it. At one point I had a HP Bluetooth keyboard, which was notorious for draining its own batteries. I had considered BT keyboard technology to be not ready for prime time.
But that was before I went for it and got a Think Outside BT keyboard. I have not looked back since. This device works as designed, and as you would want. It pairs quickly, and without issue. To use it, I simply unfold it and literally start typing. The letters start appearing on the PPC screen quick enough, and you soon forget the connection mechanics with continued use. Once you are through with the keyboard, fold it up and put it away. There is no separate on/off switch.
The unit, especially when folded in its nice clamshell, is quite sturdy. When folded, it measures about 5.5 by 4 inches. When unfolded it is about the size of an average laptop keyboard, with a nice enough 3mm of key travel. It is not a tri-fold design, but rather a sliding fold that works rather well.
The keyboard can pair with other devices (laptops, phones, Blackberries, etc.), so it may outlive your current device. Battery life is good on the unit, going quite some time before a battery change is needed. – your performance may of course vary depending on how often you use the keyboard. When it is time to change the batteries you only need two AAA cells, not a special charger. This is great when on the road, since you do not have to carry extra gear to support the device.
All things considered, I have found the Think Outside BT Keyboard to be a favorite of mine. There are others on the market, and HP has revamped their BT keyboard offerings to something that I hope manages its power better, but I do suggest looking at this device if you are in need of a mobile keyboard solution. For more information you can check it out here: Think Outside BT Keyboard. Important thing to remember is to always make an informed decision before purchasing, research is very easy to find on the web these days.