In the crowd of notebook, desktop, WebOS and various announcements of 2010, HP has quietly sneaked out their Mini Wireless Keyboard. The HP Mini Wireless Keyboard is a compact keyboard without a number pad, geared at home theater PC and desktop owners. The direct competitors to the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard which I could find include the Microsoft Arc Keyboard, Verbatim Mini Wireless Slim Keyboard and the Apple Wireless Keyboard.
When I first got this keyboard, I thought it would be really handy if I could finally use a dedicated keyboard when hooking up my EliteBook to an external monitor, instead of the ol’ good and cheap way of tilting the EliteBook’s display back and using its keyboard and trackpad only with the monitor. I liked the keyboard’s no-nonsense looks with its dark matte keys and surface… I see this as an advantage over its competitors (specifically the Microsoft Arc Keyboard) if you don’t like fingerprints to be seen all over the place.
The keyboard comes with an HP Link-5 USB dongle, which enables you to link up and use up to 5 compatible HP devices with a single dongle. If you’re using the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard exclusively with your home theater setup or want to use just the keyboard, this might not be a big thing for you, but if you’re looking to get more HP stuff like a wireless mouse, then it helps save them precious USB ports for other devices.
I tried connecting an older HP wireless mouse I have lying around (that one could share the same USB dongle as the keyboard it came with) to the Link-5 dongle but it was rather unsuccessful. I assume the Link-5 dongle will only work with products with the HP Link-5 name and compatibility mentioned. Wireless signal was pretty good as long as you have the keyboard within line of sight of the wireless dongle.
The HP Link-5 dongle has a ‘contacts exposed’ USB design to make it slimmer than ever. Compared to the G-series USB dongle that my Logitech G700 gaming mouse uses, the HP dongle is very slightly smaller (but the difference is negligible and almost unnoticeable at first glance) and a fraction lighter in weight too. H0wever, I don’t quite care for the exposed contact design because the dongle feels kind of flimsy and tended to flop and wiggle around (though to give it credit, it did stay in place) in the USB port when I carried my EliteBook around with me. Again, for home theater or desktop users, this might not be an issue if all you’re gonna do is just “install and forget” it.
And before anyone asks, no, the HP Link-5 dongle isn’t compatible with Logitech devices (or vice versa for that matter).
The HP Mini Wireless Keyboard, as its name implies, seems to have its roots shared with the keyboards of most netbooks. The HP Mini Wireless Keyboard measures the same size as a HP Mini netbook’s keyboard, which is slightly but noticeably (to my fingers at least) than the keyboards found on HP’s ultra-portable EliteBook business notebook line (like the EliteBook 2530p/2540p/2560p and 2700p series).
I did not find the size of the keys to be an issue and managed to type comfortably (for most part) on the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard. The keyboard has chiclet-style keys like most modern keyboards. However, I did bump into several annoyances while using the keyboard, although your mileage may vary according to what you use the keyboard for. First off, the bottom row (the “spacebar” row) of keys are a fraction of a millimeter shorter than the four rows above it, and my hands felt cramped and frequently missed the Ctrl or Spacebar keys when typing.
I didn’t quite care for the arrow-cluster/right Shift key either. This is the first time I have ever used an ‘undersized right Shift key’ on a keyboard for longer than short term usage (I’ve used Asus and Acer laptop keyboards with similar designs but not for extended usage/typing) and I was highly frustrated that I kept hitting the ‘up’ arrow for most times I had intended to press Shift. Another side effect is the undersized slash/question mark key, which led me to many accidental period-key presses instead. It’s nice, however, that HP has included a second Function key on the right for those who want to page up/down quickly with one hand.
The final thing that irked me was the row of Function keys at the top, which have inverted functions like on HP’s consumer notebooks to have media-related functions placed as a priority over traditional F-key functions. To access the F-functions, you’ll have to press the Function key along with the F-key you want to activate. The difference here, with an external keyboard, is that you can’t disable that from happening as you could do it in the BIOS for the built-in keyboards of HP’s laptops. I did not appreciate having to press two keys to do stuff I could normally perform with one: Function+F5 to refresh my pages, Function+F11 to go full screen or Function+F12 to save documents/files.
However, the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard did an excellent job for the task it was made and marketed to do… when it was time to unwind after a day’s work with some TV and movie-watching, I kicked back on the couch and found the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard great for couch surfing and remote operation of my Windows desktop/VLC media player.
The keyboard is very light and compact enough to type using both hands/thumbs in a fashion similar to texting on your mobile phone (I have medium-sized hands). It also has one very unique feature which I don’t think I’ve seen on any other external keyboard before: built-in mouse and left/right click. There are two circles on the top edge of the keyboard, one on each side, and they serve the purpose of left and right click respectively. The right-click circle also doubles as mouse control since it hides an optical trackpad beneath, and that lets you move the cursor around.
The HP Mini Wireless Keyboard has a very plain but attractive ‘no nonsense’ design. It uses two AA batteries for power (HP includes two non-rechargeable alkaline ones with the keyboard. HP doesn’t mention anything about battery life but I suppose you’ll know when the batteries are out of juice when your keyboard doesn’t work one day! I used this keyboard for about two months and it still worked quite well with no battery life related issues. There’s also a ‘connect’ button on the back of the keyboard in case your keyboard forgets its partnership with the wireless dongle. One thing I missed here was an on/off switch, which needs you to remember to unplug the wireless dongle from your notebook while traveling or the keyboard will wake your notebook up!
Ultimately, the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard is a great looking, compact and fairly functional keyboard that will go along very well with your computer or home theater setup. If you like couch surfing or need a keyboard for your home theater, or just like maintaining a clutter-free desk while updating your Facebook/Twitter statuses, the HP Mini Wireless Keyboard might be for you. It has a very unique feature of having a built-in optical trackpoint and left/right click. However, it’s not exactly a good choice if you’re a big time typist or gamer.
- Simple and stylish looks
- Optical trackpoint with left/right click
- Tiny wireless dongle, compatible with up to 5 Link-5 enabled HP accessories
- Quick access ‘media’ Function keys
- Tiny/crowded right Shift key and arrow key cluster
- No on/off switch
Sitting on the fence (your mileage may vary):
- Wireless dongle feels a tad flimsy
- Not the best for working quickly on long typing sessions