Mobility is a challenge that many gamers face but it seems even more apparent when you look at military gamers. Off Duty Gamers hunts for more ways to increase effectiveness while decreasing size and weight in order to give our friends some tech ideas they can pack on the next deployment or change of station. Today’s feature is the CandyBoard bluetooth keyboard by VisionTek.
The CandyBoard keyboard is a full Query Keyboard, Touchpad mouse and Laser Pointer packed into the size and weight of a standard TV/Stereo remote control. Let’s have a look:
Our goal for this device was to find a suitable solution to the HTPC (Home Theater PC) which more and more of you are getting comfortable with. The HTPC is a great way to watch TV, streaming internet or even game on that bigger monitor (TV) but introduces the issue of controlling your PC from the couch. Even a standard size wireless keyboard and mouse combo means you have to move these around, find a flat surface and contend with the generally unsatisfying feeling of being chained to your input devices. If you don’t have a wireless keyboard and mouse then if you find yourself linked to the ‘sweet spot’ where the keyboard and mouse are able to be reached, this limits your viewing choices as well. If you’re going to go out looking for a wireless keyboard and mouse, we want you to look at spending SMART money and think about space.
Charge it, pair it, use it. That’s really it.
Right out of the box the CandyBoard does exactly what you’d expect. With our HTPC setup we pulled out the Bluetooth USB dongle and plugged in, then hit the Bluetooth button on the keyboard and it was paired in a few seconds. On a mobile phone, a simple pairing was done with no issues or complications allowing a phone to have a full physical keyboard.
The device is light, less than 4oz but still feels sturdy enough to chuck it over to your buddy when they need to use it across the room (yeah, we’ve tested that a few times)
Due to the placement of the touchpad, typing can be a little harder with your right hand as you work to stretch further left while holding the device. You can overcome this to some degree by holding it beneath the keyboard and will take a little practice even for the skilled smart phone keyboardist. The device is clearly meant for short entries and basic usage where using an on screen or controller based ‘move, select and enter’ would be much more time consuming.
A clever idea that isn’t immediately appreciated is the CandyBoards ability to have the touchpad go from horizontal to vertical. This change (a function/button key-switch) allows you to hold the device just like your standard remote while you navigate with your thumb on the pad. This is perfect for ‘most’ TV style navigational surfing.
The small factor of the touchpad does demand a little tweak to mouse sensitivity on the device you’re trying to control and our tests made us feel like we had to be very deliberate in the touch responsiveness and overall travel distance.
Battery life on the unit is all dependent on how use of course and while initially we left it ON for the quick pickup and use, the infrequency of use led to more times than not finding it dead when needing it. The solution was fairly simple, turn the CandyBoard off when you’re not using it. When you turn it back on, it does take a moment for it to link back up to the device you’re controlling. When we did charge this device it was a simple matter of using the provided cable and leaving it overnight, the next day you chuck it back on the couch or coffee table for a few days or a weeks usage.
As mentioned our main goal for this unit was using it for an HTPC so using it to move around the Windows Media Center guide to change channels, select photos and videos or searching out Netflix account all went off without a problem.
Distance control worked very well and in most cases staying inside of 20 feet (something that shouldn’t be a problem for controlling a device you actually want to SEE) saw no problems even though other reports have noted issues, this may have been due to interference of other devices yet with two WiFi routers, countless WiFi devices and a lot of electronics, there didn’t seem to be any noticeable impact.
The LED back-lighting is strong enough to make the device easily usable in the dim/dark room but not so bright that it will ruin your night vision.
As stated, the parts, feel and size all feel well balanced. Light but not cheap feeling and as different users with different typing styles used it, there was never a feel of creaking or possibility it might break.
The battery lasts much longer if you turn it on and off between usage sessions but even heavy use will find that the charge will go a long way. Left on, we felt like 2-3 days with light usage was good before putting it on the charge for an evening.
The CandyBoard will run you about $50 from most retailers and is half the price you’ll pay if you you were thinking you’d have to invest in a good wireless/bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo. The real value comes in when you can reduce your electronic clutter and create a very flexible solution in your living room. The CandyBoard is easy thrown in a bag or pocket for trips or business when having a presentation pointer or keyboard for your small factor device would be handy.
We like it, we’ll keep using it. This one is a recommended solution for you road warriors and/or space savers.