Lenovo Multimedia Remote Keyboard

I get asked a lot about this nifty little gadget that i use to run my HTPC rig when ever the need for a keyboard arises.. which when running XBMC + Imedian + games + media server seems to occur on a frequent enough basis. Will they ever co exist.. *sigh*.

No really, i jest.. it really all works quite well and nothing beats an open full fledged OS based platform as a multipurpose rig. Its nothing short of brilliant imho. I digress… This little gadget would be the last thing you would expect coming from Lenovo. But yet, here it is. and when on sale.. available for under 40 bucks is the cats meow of HTPC keyboards. Consider that most folk never use a HTPC keyboard for anything more than configuring settings. Theres web browsing…. but i find that best left to something like a notebook or netbook. I find web browsing using a HTPC over a 54″ plasma mounted over the fireplace a little cumbersome.. to say the least.

Coming back to the keyboard itself. Its a nifty little thing. Fits well in your hand and lends itself well to hunt and peck two thumbed typing. The keys are clicky enough to provide tactile feedback when its pressed. Each key is slightly rounded which also helps avoid pressing the key next to it. Spacing is tight but adequate, and only those with real large fingers will have trouble with individual keys presses. It lacks F keys.. which as it turns out, ive never missed.

The Lenovo keyboard actually brings Logitechs Media Play mouse to mind which in itself is one brilliant piece of kit. Shame they’ve discontinued them .. Its so good, i have one spare. Yes, it is that good. Excellent range, ergonomic, media buttons well placed for one handed remote like use.  Oh, did i say its really really good?

Build quality is slightly iffy. Good enough but not great. No obvious creaks but doesnt feel solid in your hand. I wouldnt bet on it if it fell onto a tiled/hard floor from 5 feet. The trackball is a bit of hit and miss. It’ll work but it could be better, much better. Its a little skippy and a chip on its shoulder sasses you with less than stellar obedience. Imagine furiously scrabbling way at the trackball and getting no movement of the mouse. Its not frequent but it does happen. Range is fair at best. Other reviews have mentioned stellar range…. it doesnt. The media play mouse has much better range. If i plug the receiver in to the back of the HTPC which is backed into an alcove (not in a media case, but on it), i get a really bad connection. When plugged in front it works fine. This is a HTPC dedicated remote after all… if it doesnt work well when backed into a corner or stuffed into a media center case.. whats the point. Having good range when plugged into my regular workstation is pointless at best.. much like a chocolate teapot. But there it is.. and i worked around it using a USB extension cable bringing it to the front. It could be a combination of RF interference from the HTPC/receiver/amp and the wireless G  bridge all in close proximity.. whatever the case may be.. this reflects pretty much the kind environment it would need to work in. HTPCs dont usually live in an area of isolation in the upstairs spare bedroom. The image gives you an idea of its diminutive size. Its positively liliputian when it comes to keyboards. Side by side with the Nokia N82 and Logitechs Harmony 510 programmable universal remote (a mandatory tool when running multiple components!), the tiny RF receiver simply disappears. Its real small. small enough that it can be a pain getting a good grip on it when reaching around the back of a slightly unaccessible pc.

It lacks backlighting which Logitechs Dinovo keyboard has. The Lenovo does work fine in anything except really low light. The contrasty white on black lettering is easily enough seen. If low light mini keyboarding is for you, then shelling out extra for a Dinovo is definitely the way to go, avoiding Motrin relieved headaches from eye strain brought on by low light and a HTPC keyboard. Try explaining that at the water cooler at work. The Dinovo is built better and has a couple of features the Lenovo doesnt. The two dont compare except for savings in price. Theres a on/off power switch at the back for energy saving. It really isnt a battery hog. Its runs off two AAAs and its been several months now and its still going strong without ever having being shut off. Its scores well here in my book….. battery life is exemplary. Under the cover is a little slot that stores the diminutive receiver which when unplugged i imagine, will have no problem finding its way to some dark cozy corner never to be found again.

For under 40 bucks when on sale, this keyboard is worth every penny. It has its quirks which i imagine the Dinovo doesnt but the Dinovo also cost much more and if you, like me, use it for nothing more than occasionally to configure settings or potter around the OS, this is all the keyboard a HTPC will ever need. At its full retail price, it may well be worth looking at the pricier Dinovo, but when on sale, i would recommend this in a heartbeat.

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