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Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Bluetooth Keyboard Review

Rating: 8.0.

At the beginning of this year we reviewed the Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Wireless Keyboard, today we are looking at the new Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Bluetooth keyboard. If you have a media center in your living room you have probably been looking for that perfect combination of wireless keyboard and mouse … because for many media applications a TV remote just doesn’t cut it.

There are a few other media solutions available today, including the Xebec Tech iTouchpad Diamond Series. Unlike many other models on the market today however, the Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Bluetooth Keyboard uses a Bluetooth connection, not a 2.4 GHz wireless connection.

There are several advantages with Bluetooth, including better range and less interference problems to deal with. Obviously the system needs a Bluetooth receiver installed but this is commonplace today with a media system build.

Specifications

  • 10-15m wireless range due to a Bluetooth connection.
  • Simple installation procedure using an on screen pin entry system.
  • Power saving On/off switch.
  • 73 keys- 13 hotkeys (including 11 media hotkeys) and 11 further enhanced function keys.
  • 11 media hotkeys are: www, e-mail, back, forward, previous track, next track, play/pause, stop, volume up, volume down and mute.
  • 11 further enhanced function keys activated via the “fn” key.
  • 6 MCE hot keys: My music, my video, my picture, my TV, my radio and DVD.
  • Gestures on the touchpad include 2 finger scrolling.
  • Built in and ergonomically placed rear positioned left and right click buttons.
  • Weight: 170g.
  • Dimensions: 163 x 121 x 28 mm.

The packaging hasn’t altered and is very simple in its design … a white box with a product picture taking centrestage.

The back of the box shows a diagram of how the keyboard will work with several different devices, as well as listing the main features.

The box has a lid that can be opened so you can see the actual product through a transparent cover. That said, it doesn’t actually explain the product in much detail.

Inside the box is a very short user guide, detailing how to install the included batteries and how to pair with a Bluetooth-enabled device.

The keyboard is small, however Xebec have fitted many extra buttons on top of the standard QWERTY keyboard, including various media control buttons. According to the specifications there are 73 keys with 11 hot keys (including  4 internet hotkeys and 7 multi-media keys) although we didn’t count them all! There is also the track pad at the top of the device, which is a smaller than the version you find on your laptop.

The keyboard is thin at the front, although it gets thicker towards the back – meaning it sits up slightly on the desk. Much like on laptop keyboards extra functions for each key can be accessed by pressing a Fn key.

For instance the standard number keys actually have 3 distinct functions (e.g. ‘1’ / ‘ !’ / ‘Open music library’ being all accessible from the 1 key) .

From the back we can see there is a small switch to turn the device on or off, although it will go to sleep automatically after 2 hours.

The back has been designed using a rubbery surface which allows for easy grip. We can also see the battery compartment at the top, as well as the pairing button in the middle. There are two other buttons on the back labelled L and R and these are your standard mouse buttons and are placed similarly to trigger buttons on games console controllers.

The battery compartment takes 2 AAA batteries, no rechargeable batteries are supplied unfortunately.

In terms of usability there are several great features incorporated into this device. It has an incredible range, I was able to use this device at the furthest extreme of my house without any problems, although of course you are never really going to use it outside of the media room.

Another great feature are the hot keys, they are numerous and very useful in real world terms. Being able to mute sound with one press has always been a nice feature, but the Xebec Tech HTPC mini Bluetooth keyboard goes a step further with full play controls and volume control … all just one click away.

Unfortunately, as with the Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Keyboard the keys are just too close together and too small for it to be a serious keyboard. It’s perfectly useable for surfing (typing something into Google for instance) but trying to write an email will become tiresome. I understand the desired market for the Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Bluetooth keyboard, but slightly more physical space would be beneficial to overall usability.

We were generally impressed with the track pad that is built into this device, even though it is small, it is both smooth and easy to use. The hot keys on the top of the keyboard are not brilliant, as they have a rubber coating which feels a bit tacky. The cursor keys are also stiff and aren’t pleasant to use.

The rest of the design is simple and effective, but we feel there is still some room for improvement.

Xebec have crammed many features into a small design, but this product is primarily targeted at those who already have Bluetooth capabilities. After all it will become slightly expensive to also purchase a Bluetooth dongle at the same time.

If you desire an HTPC keyboard to actually type with on a regular basis then the full sized Xebec Tech iTouchpad Diamond Series will make for a better investment. That said, if you want a smaller remote for your media center and only want to type on it occasionally then this Mini Keyboard is fine.

We also need to praise the signal strength, as the usable range is fantastic.

The Xebec Tech HTPC Mini Bluetooth Keyboard costs only £30.98 at Overclockers UK. At such a competitive price point it really is hard to fault.

Pros

  • Plenty of multi-media keys.
  • Brilliantly compact.
  • Track pad is very easy to use.
  • Impressive range.
  • great value for money.

Cons

  • Keyboard is too small for serious use.
  • Top set of buttons aren’t that pleasant to use.

Kitguru says: An attractively priced and genuinely useful product from Xebec.

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