Adesso Wireless Keyboard and Remote for HTPC

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Product: Adesso Vista IR Remote (ARC-1100)
Provided By: Adesso
Price: $29.99 USD

Product: Adesso 2.4 GHz RF Wireless Mini Keyboard w/Optical Trackball (WKB-3000UB)
Provided By: Adesso
Price: $69.99 USD

 

Introduction:

While not many of you may have heard of Adesso, they are a company that is not new to the computer peripheral business.  They have been around for a few years and today we are looking at a couple of their wireless devices and using them in a Home Theater environment.  We’ve got the Adesso Vista Remote Control as well as the 2.4GHz RF Wireless Mini Keyboard with Optical Trackball.  Either one of these devices can make your Home Theater PC experience more enjoyable, but will be using them together to see if we can create the “Ultimate” wireless connected HTPC experience.  All we need now is a decent HTPC…

 

Remote Control – First Look:

The packaging of the remote is very basic and ships with merely the remote, some light documentation and the USB Infrared dongle.  The remote doesn't include any drivers at all and doesn't need drivers for use in Windows XP or Vista.  Buttons on the remote simply work as hotkeys and keystroke combinations that work without drivers.

 Remote Box
Remote Box
 Remote Bundle
Remote Bundle

 

The IR Remote has a ton of buttons and works equally well under Windows XP Media Center Edition and Vista Premium - or any other version of Vista that includes media center.  The handy thing about this remote is that it is detected and installs as an HID USB device.

 Remote Full Profile
Remote Full Profile


As we look at the remote up close below, you can see that there is a lot of quick navigation buttons that links you quickly to Photos, Videos and TV functions of Windows Media Center.  This remote claims to give you total and complete functionality of the Media Center.

 Remote Top Close
Remote Top Close
 Remote Middle Close
Remote Middle Close
Remote Bottom Close
Remote Bottom Close

 

The very top of the remote has the Power button and a shortcut for Internet explorer.  As we move down we've got the Media Center buttons for TV, Music, Photo and Video.  Below that row of colored buttons and the common media player controls that allow you to play/pause, fast forward/rewind, skip ahead/back and stop/record.  Already we've got a few handy functions covered, but there is much more.

Below the media player controls is a "Back" button that works in WMC and internet browsers (tested Firefox and Explorer).  Then, still in the top picture we've got a big "OK" button surrounded by arrow keys.  This is used for navigating in WMC and even DVD menus.

 

Moving down to the middle picture you can see the left and right "mouse buttons" at the top corners or a round area.  This big round "button" allows you to move the mouse pointer in any program that allows mouse movement.  Many other remote controls don't have this feature or if they do it's not as multi-directional as this.  Think of the pad as an analog stick from your PS2 controller.  Below this, we find the volume controls and channel controls (if you have a TV Tuner in your HTPC).  Also there is a tiny "Mute" button and of course the green Media Center Button.

At the bottom of the remote are all the number buttons that can be used to enter channel information, or anything else you typically use number buttons for.  Also on the very bottom row are "Close", "Clear" and "Enter" buttons.  The Close button will close the active window that you have open, Clear deletes everything in a dialog box and Enter, well, is like pressing Enter on a keyboard.

 

Installation & Usage:

Installation of this remote couldn't be easier.  If you have at least two fingers and a spare USB port, it can be installed in a few seconds.  Simply plug it into a spare port and wait a couple of minutes while Windows detects and installs built-in drivers for the HID USB device and you are good to go.

Once it's installed usage of the media center functions can be accessed by hitting the green button in the middle which in turn launches Windows Media Center.  At this point, all the other functions work just fine.  If you want to use this device as a simple mouse or for any other non-MCE functions, the large circular pad in the middle controls the mouse pointer.  Two buttons exist for right and left mouse buttons as well.

In reality, all of the functions of a mouse and a nice remote are bundled up in this one product.  This is a nice addition to other remote control products for Windows that don't incorporate much mouse functionality and mouse movement is on a two-axis plane.  The Adesso remote control D-Pad (as it were) permits mouse movement in virtually any direction much like an analog stick on a PS2 controller.  While it is much slower than a mouse, it does get the job done and is better than having a wireless mouse sitting beside you on the couch.

On the next page we'll take a look at the Adesso 2.4GHz Mini Keyboard with Optical Trackball and see how that fits into the HTPC experience.


Keyboard Package & First Look:

The Adesso 2.4GHz RF Mini Keyboard comes in a box big enough to hold a much larger Logitech G15 keyboard, and when I initially saw the box I didn't think the keyboard would be that "mini".  As it turns out the box was a lot bigger than it needed to be.  In the box, along with the keyboard were four "AA" batteries and an RF receiver.  The keyboard takes all four batteries and this adds a bit of weight to the unit.

Keyboard Box
Keyboard Box


The actual key area on the keyboard is about the size of a regular laptop keyboard.  The housing entire keyboard however is quite a bit bigger and thicker than that.  As you can see below, there is a an optical trackball in the top right corner of the board and due to the shape of the keyboard, this is readily and comfortably accessible when holding onto the keyboard like a steering wheel.

 Full Keyboard
Full Keyboard
 Backside & Batteries
Backside & Batteries

 

The keyboard has a nice underside contour that makes it very comfortable and stable to use when placed on your lap.  While other flat-bottomed keyboards will rock around on your lap, the Adesso WKB-3000UB is made for this environment.

USB Receiver
USB Receiver

Closer Look:

On the top corners of both the right and left sides of the keyboard are "mouse" buttons.  On the left side there are two - a right mouse button and a left mouse button.  Also on the right side on and the front is a scroll-wheel that mimics the function of a regular mouse scroll wheel.  This is located in an excellent position and is readily used when gripping the keyboard in both hands.  On the right side of the keyboard is the afore-mentioned optical trackball as well as a single button that acts as a left mouse button.  For light web browsing and other windows related tasks, this leaves the left hand free for quick typing while the right hand takes care of mouse movement and clicking.

Scroll Wheel
Scroll Wheel
 Trackball & More
Trackball & More

 

As we look at the top of the keyboard, we see a skimpy set of keys that are devoid of a number pad and a few other keys.  We also see a "FN" lock key that allows some of the keys to perform double duty as a makeshift number pad - much like many laptop keyboards.  Along the top of the main keys, are a set of multimedia and multifunction keys that can be used for everything from opening documents, your web browser, media player and more.  There are also keys to control volume, skip tracks and more.

 Mouse Buttons & Keys
Mouse Buttons & Keys
 Trackball & Keys
Trackball & Keys

 

While this keyboard is a little light on keys and a bit heavy in the weight department, it is actually a very capable and comfortable keyboard to type on - when sitting in front of the TV hooked to your HTPC or when sitting on a desk typing this review.  I've used this keyboard quite a bit over the past few weeks and while it's not ready to replace my main keyboard anytime soon, it still a handy replacement for day to day tasks.  The only major downside to this keyboard is the thickness of it when sitting on a desk.  If you're used to the think "zero tilt" style of keyboards popular on the market today, this keyboard will feel like you're trying to type on the side of a mountain.  That being said, key response is very smooth, quiet and for the little I've used it on a desk, it works very well.

 

Please keep in mind that this keyboard isn't meant for the desktop market.  It's too small, is missing some vital keys for Excel work and is a bit bulky for normal desktop use.  It's made for the HTPC and in this regard it works very, very well.  I wondered how hard it would be to get used to a trackball embedded in a keyboard for web, picture, movie and document navigation on the TV, but it is comfortable and really feels second-nature in a matter of minutes.

 

Final Thoughts:

If you've got a Home Theater PC, or any PC that you like to use as a media center, there are a couple ways to control it.  1) You've got a bulky wireless keyboard and mouse sitting beside you on the couch or next to your chair.  While these work, they are big, awkward and are not convenient.  You may also have a remote for some limited functionality that only works after you launch certain applications.  2) You've got the Adesso WKB-3000UB and ARC-1100 setup and are happily doing whatever you need to do with a couple of small, tidy, comfortable peripherals.  The remote control works wonderful for a host of Windows tasks - not just media center, and the keyboard is handy enough to use all by itself at a media PC or even to sit on a desk and use as a regular keyboard.  While the height may be a deterrent for some in an office environment, I find that it works great when placed on the surface of my desk instead of on my keyboard tray.  As I mentioned before, I've used it for a few weeks hooked to a HTPC and then on my main computer and have been using it in place of my regular keyboard.  Overall, I'm very happy with the key response and feedback.

On a desk situation, the trackball is not very handy, but this keyboard is meant to be used on your lap in place of a keyboard and mouse and it fulfills this roll very well.

Because these two devices complement each other so well, we are rating them together as a pair.  If you have a HTPC and you want to use your TV as a monitor for things other than just watching movies, you really owe it to yourself to pick up the WBK-3000UB keyboard and save yourself some hassle.  While you're at it you might as well pick up the ARC-1100 remote control for all other media related task.  It's a great combination that wins our Top Pick.

 BCCRating

 Top Pick

We'd like to thank Adesso for sending up this keyboard and remote to play with and review.  It will be the hooked to a HTPC for a long, long time I'm hoping.  Please post your comments, questions and feedback regarding this review in the forum at the "Comments" link below.