Logitech's diNovo Mini does for home theater PC keyboards what Apple's iPod did to the MP3 player. Granted, there are many more digital music listeners than HTPC owners out there, but if you are a member of the latter category, you'll love the diNovo Mini because it solves one of the main dilemmas of HTPC ownership: how to take full control of your PC and its media functions without relying on multiple or clunky input devices. The price of the diNovo Mini is $150, which admittedly is steep for what's essentially a BlackBerry keyboard with a control pad and a Bluetooth connection. We'd pay it, though, when the diNovo Mini comes out at the end of February, because the tiny keyboard so effectively addresses what's been a nagging issue for an entire product category.
Like the iPod, the Logitech diNovo Mini boasts a pleasing visual aesthetic that seems inseparable from its functionality. The clamshell design feels right in your hand, and it would look as at home on your coffee table as any remote control. It weighs only 0.4 pound and is roughly three-quarters of an inch high and six inches long. Open it up and you're treated to a small-scale, 61-key keyboard, backlit in either orange or green, depending on the mode of the control pad.
The control pad itself lets you change from analog, touch-pad-style control, to directional up-down-left-right controls by sliding a small switch. The idea is that you'd want it in touch pad mode for navigating a Web page or the Windows desktop, but that the directional controls are better for working your way through a set of linear menus, such as those in Windows Media Center. The middle of the pad acts like your main mouse button, and you hold down one of the function buttons and a menu button on the keyboard for right-clicking. It's more intuitive than it sounds, and our only complaint is that the d-pad mode was sometimes not as responsive as we'd like. The analog mode is fine though, and consistent with the quality of Logitech's MX Air mouse, itself a major improvement over the touch pad on the old diNovo Edge keyboard.
Typing on the diNovo Mini is fully in the BlackBerry school. Especially since the width is about that of your average game controller, you're encouraged to use your thumbs for typing. The keys are large enough so that thumb-typing isn't a problem, and you might be surprised at how well basic touch typing familiarity translates from your 10 fingers to only your thumbs. We wouldn't use the diNovo Mini to type a dissertation, but for password entry, instant messaging, keyword searches, and typing in the occasional Web address, it's perfect. In other words, it's designed to serve the most common needs of a home theater PC owner.