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Palm Ultra Thin Keyboard

Slimmer and lighter for greater portability

by David MacNeill

Posted May 23, 2003

The latest folding keyboard to carry the Palm brand again comes from design house Think Outside, who also license their designs to Targus who sell them under the name Stowaway for a variety of handheld computers. The Ultra-thin is a marvel of mechanical design, with a reassuringly solid feel to the folding and latching mechanisms. Though slightly taller than the older Stowaway folding keyboard, the Ultra-thin is less than half the thickness and weight. Closed, it measures only 5.5" x 3.9" x 0.5" and weighs a mere 5.6 ounces. It is also narrower than a standard keyboard. Compared to the full-sized Stowaway, with a measurement of roughly 179mm from the center of the Q to the center of the P, the Ultra-Thin measures roughly 164mm. Many typists will prefer the standard size, but I, having spent far more time working on small notebook computers and PDAs than on desktops, actually prefer this compact design. It does not hinder my clumsy six-finger modified hunt-and-peck at all.

As one of the world's least talented typists, I'm in no position to tell you how great the Palm Ultra-Thin Keyboard is for lighting-fast typing efficiency. For that illumination, I asked my wife Leslie, who can type like the wind. She reports that she has no trouble achieving her usual speed with it and that the only thing she would have to adapt to is the placement of the backspace key.

The new keyboard has a new Palm-prop that lets you alter the angle of the device, a thoughtful touch that really helps when using this rig outside. As a heavy user of VersaMail on my Tungsten-T, I really appreciate the dedicated New and Send commands that are activated with the left Function key along with N and >, respectively. There are many of these shortcuts for commands and launching applications. If you miss your favorite app among these, you can easily assign Command 1-9 with whatever you like.

Due to its unique, cantilevered design, this keyboard seems to favor a lighter touch, else it can rock a little on its suspended outside edges. I adapted in a matter of minutes. The only thing that continues to throw me off is the split spacebar, but I know it's a psychological thing that I'll get over soon. As for finding accented and other advanced characters, there is an online help system to guide the way.

The only compatibility glitch I encountered was a lack of number support in Documents To Go, but a quick download of the latest version (5.004) from Dataviz solved that problem.

This keyboard uses Palm's universal connector, making it compatible with the Tungsten-T, i705, and the entire m-500 series. This is an attractive, remarkably well-designed product that works perfectly. US$99.

-David MacNeill

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