More than a year ago, we reviewed a curious but cool PDA accessory called the VKB Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard (BTVKB). Using lasers, it projected a virtual keyboard onto a flat surface and was designed to work with Bluetooth-enabled PDAs and smart phones. While we dug its concept and novelty, we were turned off by its frustrating setup and poor support. In the end, it just wasn't worth the trouble. So we were a bit wary when we heard about the similar Celluon Laserkey CL800BT ($199.99). Still, we put our apprehensions behind us and gave it a shot. The good news is that CL800BT didn't give us much trouble during setup, and it performed its duties as a keyboard. However, it's not compatible with the latest crop of PDAs, and we still prefer the feel of tactile keys under our fingers. For our money, we'd much prefer the Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth keyboard.
At 3.6 by 1.5 by 1.4 inches and 3.8 ounces, the Celluon Laserkey CL800BT has at least one thing going for it: a compact form factor. The CL800BT easily fits into your bag and comes with a carrying case. The CL800BT is attractively designed, with a slick black and silver casing, but one look at the futuristic device and you might think, "What the heck is it?" Fortunately, it's easy to use, and it's equipped with minimal controls. To turn it on, there's a power button on the back; a small window on the front projects the keyboard onto any surface. Unlike the VKB Bluetooth Virtual Keyboard, the Celluon Laserkey stays on even if the device is accidentally knocked over, so take care, as this could cause unnecessary battery drain. To charge the battery, there's a power adapter port on the back as well as a communication port, which are both covered by an attached rubber cover. If you're running low on juice, a small LED on top blinks orange to alert you, while another LED blinks blue for Bluetooth. Aside from the aforementioned protective case, Celluon includes an AC adapter, an installation CD, and a Quick Guide in the box. Check the company's Web site for the latest drivers, and it might be worth the time to download the more detailed user's guide while you're there.
Unlike with the BTVKB, we didn't run into any problems installing the driver onto the HP iPaq hx4700 and pairing the two devices via Bluetooth. Our biggest issue was the limited number of compatible devices. Currently, the CL800BT is compatible only with Pocket PC handhelds running Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. The list of supported Palm PDAs is also a bit outdated. You can check for a full list of compatible devices here.
On the upside, the projected keyboard is bright, clear, and spacious. You get dedicated number keys as well as row at the top with shortcuts to your home screen, in-box, calendar, contacts, and other frequently used apps. It also supports a number of keyboard shortcuts, such as Ctrl + X to cut copy and Ctrl + V to paste; a list of these combination keys is located in the Quick Guide. While the individual keys were large, we still had problems adjusting to the lack of tactile keys. There's an option to turn on a clicking sound to let you know that your keystrokes have registered, but still, it's just a strange sensation to be clacking away on a desk. True, you get more accustomed to it after time, but some might never feel 100 percent comfortable with it. That said, we found the keyboard to be responsive to our touch. There are also options to adjust the key repeat rate, the brightness, and the standby and power-off time. The CL800BT's battery is rated for about 3.6 hours of continuous use.