Deciphering
Glyph
( )
I am from Typographic Circumstances (Review of Belkin MediaPilot)

Sun 17 July 2005

The last keyboard I bought was a last-minute purchase, almost entirely at random. The keyboard that I really had my eyes on at the time was the Belkin
MediaPilot
, which seems a rather transparent competitive answer to the DiNovo. Wandering through Microcenter this weekend, I saw a copy; and since I was still well within the "no questions asked" return period with my Eclipse, I purchased one to see how it would stack up.

See the "mood" header to see how it did.

Cons

The MediaPilot is a mediocre execution of a really great idea. On the surface this keyboard looks great: slimline form-factor; integrated pointing device; a few extended function keys without going insane; detachable "small" wireless keyboard while still providing full 104-key functionality when docked; dock to avoid batteries running out on you at an awkward moment.

Much as the Eclipse was a terrific keyboard that didn't look terribly good at first blush, this is a keyboard that looks terrific but somehow just doesn't measure up.

First of all, the key switches are absolutely the lowest quality that you can buy anywhere. Straight out of the box, this keyboard has keys that stick or randomly get double-typed. The keyboard actually shipped with the "0" key on the numeric keypad detached; I fixed it myself. The keyboard's plastic is so chintzy that it deformed before I opened the box; this means that when it's in "docked" mode, the keyboard has a tendency to rock diagonally, slightly.

While they haven't committed any unforgivable sins, there are still some serious problems with the layout of this keyboard. The right-most row of keys on the mini-board, for convenience, I suppose, is "Home, PgUp, PgDn, End, Right". This means that if I feel my way along the right edge of the keyboard to hit a key such as backslash or enter, I am always over one key too far. Because these keys are already provided on the mini-board, the dock-board provides "Insert/Sleep/ScrollLock/Delete/PrintScreen/PauseBreak" in the space where the 6-key set of Insert/Home/PgUp/Delete/End/PgDn is normally located,

Pros

It's not all bad, though. It is a slimline keyboard, it is relatively comfortable to type on; the wireless portion of the keyboard is extremely light and easy to toss around; the integrated pointing device also contains an integrated scroll wheel which is really handy. Pretty much all of the extended function keys work with Linux (although some only show up in 'showkey' and not in 'xev', so there are a few which would be impossible to bind to an X event out of the box).

Also, the "universal remote" functionality is very very cool if this is going to be hooked up to a computer hooked to a television set.

Conclusion

If I were going to buy a keyboard for a computer attached to a really nice plasma television, where I would frequently want to grab the keyboard and sit back on the couch to watch movies on it, but would sometimes want to sit closer-up to work on code, this keyboard would be ideal. In such a situation its sins would be forgivable and its features would be fantastic. However, in a normal office environment its warts are horrible and the fact that part of it is detachable does almost no good; in trying to experiment with different positions I could type with it in, I discovered that a major reason I like a wireless keyboard in an office is to move the keyboard aside to clear the desk real estate for some other activity, and the MediaPilot's wireless feature doesn't help with this at all.

I gave this keyboard a last chance by typing up this review on it, but my conclusion stands: as it is, though, I'll be returning this keyboard and sticking with the Saitek Eclipse.