Once upon a time keyboard computers were very popular, and some companies have tried to bring keyboard computers back to market in the last few years with limited success. PiPo is giving it a try too with PiPo K1 keyboard PC powered by an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor.
PiPO K1 preliminary specifications:
SoC – Intel Atom Bay trail processor (likely Z3735F or Z3736F)
System Memory – 2GB
Storage – 32 or 64 eMMC + micro SD port
Keyboard – QWERTY with multi-touch touchpad
Video Output – HDMI and VGA
Audio – Stereo speakers
Connectivity – Ethernet and WiFi
USB – 2x USB host ports
Misc – Power button
Battery – Maybe…
Power – TBD
The keyboard should be pre-installed with Windows 10, and the touchpad support gestures like pinch and zoom. There may also be a battery to be able to use the keyboard from the sofa while connected to WiFi, and using Miracast. PiPO K1 should be available next month, but pricing has not been decided/announced yet. PiPO marketing team must have limited imagination or/and memory, as there’s already a PiPo K1 page, but it’s for a Mediatek based tablet…
There are already some flexible Bluetooth keyboards that you can roll into your bag or pocket after being done typing on your smartphone or tablet, but LG is about to launch Rolly Keyboard, a solid Bluetooth keyboard for mobile device that can be rolled into a stick, which should may be sturdier than flexible keyboards, and it can also hold a smartphone or tablet in upright position with a display of up to 10″ in size.
LG’ latest keyboard (model KBB-700) is comprised of 17mm keys – a standard keyboard comes with 18mm keys – arranged into four rows, that can be folded into a stick as shown above. The company also claims the keyboard offers “satisfying tactile feedback not found on flexible silicone keyboards”.
The keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries supposed to last about 3 months during typical use, and pairing over Bluetooth 3.0 occurs automatically to up to two devices as you unfold the keyboard. If the keyboard is paired to two devices, you can switch between them by pressing a key.
The Rolly Keyboard will be unveiled at IFA 2015, and start selling in September in the United States, and soon followed by “key markets” in Europe, Latin America and Asia in Q4 2015. LG did not disclosed pricing nor availability.
Low cost Intel Bay Trail mini PCs such as Pipo X7, MeegoPad T01, MeLE PCG03, etc… almost all share one thing in common: they lack an IR receiver, and for people who’d like to use their box as a dedicated HTPC running Kodi for example, this could be a problem as connecting a keyboard might not the best of solutions. Since I’ve been asked about this recently, I’ve decided to dig into the issue to see what options could be available, and I also hope to trigger a discussion in comments to discover other interesting solutions.
RF Air Mouse
I’m using MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse during my reviews, and such device can be used with HTPC. You just need to connect a tiny USB RF dongle to one of the USB ports of your mini PC, and you’d ready to go with having to configure anything. In Kodi, you would not use the air mouse function, but the remote mode is working well, and you can use the QWERTY side for the rare times when you need to input text.
This type of device is compliant with USB HID class, so it should work with all common operating systems. MeLE F10 Deluxe sells for about $30, but you can also find cheaper model like Tronsmart TSM01 that goes for $17. Whatever air mouse you choose, make sure a play/pause button is included, as it’s not always a given.
Small form factor RF or Bluetooth Keyboards
If you don’t mind something a little bigger, but still smaller than a full-sized keyboard, a wireless Bluetooth or RF keyboard may be an option, such as the popular Logitech K400, which beside a keyboard also includes a multi-touch touchpad.
It should also be easy to setup, as you just need to connect the “USB unifying receiver” to your mini PC, and you’re good to go. Logitech K400 costs $25 on Amazon US. I also mentioned iPazzport KP-810-35BTT Bluetooth keyboard recently with backlit keys, and a touchpad that can be used as a numpad.
USB IR Remotes
If you don’t need something too fancy, and just want to control Kodi with the arrow keys and enter most of the time, you could get a USB IR remote. The cheapest one could be SANOXY Wireless USB PC remote control / mouse that sells for $5 on Amazon US.
The remote is said to be driverless, so even though the specs says it only works with Windows, it should also work with Linux or other operating systems. You just need to connect the USB IR receiver into a USB port of your mini PC, and it should work. In case of issues, you may have to double check “Remote control sends keyboard presses” is enabled in “Input Devices” menu. Reviews are mixed on Amazon with some people saying it works great for the price, while others complained it only lasted a few weeks, and the range is 10 feet (3 meters) max.
Use your TV or AV Receiver Remote Control with HDMI CEC
HDMI CEC allows you to control multiple devices over HDMI using a single remote control, and in theory you could use your TV or AV receiver remote control to control Kodi on your mini PC. Unfortunately, HDMI CEC is not usually implemented in computers, but there’s a workaround thanks to HDMI USB CEC adapters such as the one provided by Pulse Eight.
It looks pretty straightforward to use: connect the HDMI out and USB port to your mini PC, and the HDMI IN part to your TV or AV receiver, and it will be automatically detected in Kodi, and you should be good to go.
You can buy on Pulse Eight website directly for $44.60, and it’s also available on Amazon US for $49, where you’ll find mixed reviews. I’ve also tried to find Chinese clones / alternatives, but without success.
Remote App with an Android Smartphone
A final way to control your HTPC is to use your smartphone, or if you prefer recycle one of your old smartphone, with a remote control app such as Yatse.
This may not be as easily to use as the other solution above, but it should be much more powerful feature-wise.
That’s all I could come up with, so I’m now eagerly waiting for your suggestions, or just let us know what you use.
I’ve read many people praise Logitech K400 Bluetooth keyboard for use with Android mini PCs, as it’s functional and costs just $25 on Amazon. I’ve just come across another similar keyboard with iPazzPort KP-810-35BTT that adds backlit keys and the touchpad zone can be switched to numpad by the touch of a button.
Click to Enlarge
Key features listed for the keyboard:
Backlit QWERTY keyboard with touchpad supporting multi-touch and scrolling bar.
Connectivity – Bluetooth 3.0; max distance: 10m
Power Supply – 3x AAA Batteries
Dimensions – 314 x 112.5 x 17mm
Weight – 218g
Material – ABS
It’s a standard Bluetooh HID keyboard so it should work with any OS including Windows, Linux, Android, Mac OS, iOS… One possible downside is the lack of left / right mouse buttons. I have such touchpad without separate physical mouse buttons on Acer Aspire E5 laptop, and while a left click is easy to do, a right click might be more complicated, and click and slide – for example to move a window – is a real challenge. The specs mentions multi-touch support, but I’m not sure that mean gesture like pinch and zoom are supported in Android.
When Coolship keyboard computer was announced in 2013, it caught the attention of some people, but unfortunately the crowdfunding campaign was a disaster despite reaching their funding target, and few people, if any, ever received the device. But if you are a nostalgic and still would like a Commodore C64-like computer in a keyboard, a company call Acooo has designed OneBoard PRO+ based on Rockchip RK3288 processor and with a backlit mechanical keyboard housed in an aluminum case.
OneBoard PRO+ specifications:
SoC – Rockchip RK3288 Quad Core Cortex A17 up to 1.8GHz with ARM Mali-T764 GPU supporting OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0, Open VG1.1, OpenCL, DirectX11
System Memory – 2GB DDR3
Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash + SD card slot up to 32GB
Keyboard – 83-keys QWERTY keyboard with backlit keys made of ABS plastic
Video Output / Input – HDMI output, DVI input
Audio Output / Input – HDMI, 3.5 mm jack for headphone
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port for Android only, 1x USB 2.0 port to connect a mouse.
Misc – Power button
Power Supply – 5V/2A
Dimensions – 332 x 178 x 40 mm
Weight – 2.76 kg
The Android 4.4 keyboard comes with a power adapter and cable, a “PC-line connect cable” with DVI connector on one side, and HDMI + USB on the other side, an HDMI cable, and a “DIY accessory tool box”. The keyboard is actually designed be used both as an Android system and a normal keyboard for your PC or Mac, acting as a dual operating system computer. The connection diagram below makes it clearer.
So the PC line is for the display and keyboard connection to your computer, and the video is always outputted via HDMI, but a USB mouse can be connected on a USB port and be used by both the computer and keyboard. The top right Yin/Yang key is used to switching between Android 4.4 and the computer input. Chinese speakers may want to have a look at the promo video.
I quite like the idea, and the design looks pretty neat, although I would have personally preferred a 104-key keyboard with a numpad. The price, however, is what may put off most people, as it sells for $289 on Banggood, or $299 on Aliexpress. For reference, OneBoard PRO+ can be found for 1299 to 2099 CNY on Taobao ($207 to $335 US).
Leap Motion is a tiny device tracking your hands, fingers, and joints movements to control a computer, device, and even a quadcopter. The product was announced in 2012, and HP started selling computers with the technology in 2013. But later this month, you’ll be able to buy a gesture control keyboard from HP for $99, instead of just the Leap Motion USB device for $75.
HP featured Leap Motion in notebooks such as “HP ENVY17 Leap Motion Special Edition”, and this keyboard was actually available previously, but only with some of Hewlett Packard’s desktops, and all-in-one PCs, and you’ll be able to purchase it separately. The company says the keyboard can be use with any Windows 7 or 8 computers or tablets as long as you install the software. Leap Motion software is also supported on Linux and Mac OS, so I’d assume it might also work with these operating systems (TBC).
It’s pretty easy to find Bluetooth keyboards if you want to a keyboard to type more easily and faster on your phone. They have two small inconveniences however: they need to be paired, and need to be recharged. The first one is not really a problem, but the second can be. If your phone supports NFC, you can now get One2Touch Softpad C1 or S2 wireless keyboard using NFC technology. These do not require pairing, nor charging (but uses CR2025 batteries).
You can watch the video below for some of the use cases with Softpad C1.
I could not find Softpad C1 for sale, but Softpad S1 is available for $99.99 from Brookstone which ship to the US (for free) and abroad. That’s about 3 times more expensive that some of the Bluetooth keyboards I’ve seen for sale. It’s supposed;y available from some other partners too, in Japan and Norway.
Remote Solution, a small technology company based in Hong Kong South Korea, has shown off an Android 4.0 powered keyboard controlling an Android STB at CES 2013. The device is designed to be used as an advanced TV remote control, looks like a small tablet with 8 control button, and can be inserted into a full sized QWERTY keyboard for faster typing.
The specifications are as follows:
SoC – ARM Cortex-A8 processor @ 720 MHz (I’d guess a TI OMAP3 or Sitara processor at this freq)
System Memory – 512MB RAM
Storage – 2GB flash
Display – 3.5″ touchscreen display (480 x 320)
Connectivity – WiFi and Bluetooth
Misc – IR port to be used as a universal remote.
The touchscreen allows you to launch apps on your TV, move a cursor by using a virtual touch-pad, use an on-screen keyboard (when the screen is not connected to the keyboard), enter voice-commands via the built-in microphone, etc…
There’s currently no pricing or availability information availability. and the company does not appear to have a website. There’s no mention about this device in the company website, but this could be part of their TSR series.