Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth keyboard review: Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth keyboard

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Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth keyboard

(Part #: 101876) Released: Jun 4, 2004
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Compact and sleek design; comfortable keyboard layout; included carrying case and batteries.

The Bad Pricey compared to other keyboards; no support for Palm devices until December 2004.

The Bottom Line Fashionable and functional, the Stowaway keyboard is the perfect accessory for those who want to do more with their PDA.

8.0 Overall

Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard

Think Outside--well, the name says it all. When it comes to PDA keyboard design, the company's Stowaway Universal Bluetooth keyboard is a perfect example of thinking outside of the box, and with it, Think Outside has successfully delivered a fully functional input device in a sleek package. Compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled PDA running Windows Mobile 2003 or any smart phone with Windows Mobile 2003 or the Symbian OS (support for Palm handhelds will be added around December 2004), this $150 keyboard accessory is a perfect travel companion for the road warrior or anyone who wants to type on their mobile device.

Encased in an attractive silver and charcoal-gray package, the biggest advantage of the Stowaway is its thinness, unlike the Targus and Belkin keyboards, which are bulky and thick. At 5.5 by 3.9 by 0.5 inches when closed and weighing 5.6 ounces, the svelte Stowaway glides right into your bag for easy storage; better yet, you can use the included carrying case. To open the keyboard, you lift the PDA stand, which acts like a clasp, then press a release button on the left side. Voilà! Unlike other accordion-style keyboards that fold out, the Stowaway utilizes a sliding mechanism--a smooth and innovative touch--and it locks into place so that you can even work with it on your lap. The detachable PDA stand lets you position your PDA in Portrait or Landscape mode, but it doesn't provide the most secure support. This is no matter, though, as you probably won't be moving the whole setup while in use. The bottom of the device has two rubber grips that prevent the keyboard from moving around when on a flat surface, and a release lever is located at the top right for when you're ready to pack up.

We paired the Stowaway with the high-end Dell Axim X30, and getting started was a breeze. Just insert the installation CD, and a wizard walks you through the setup process. After a hotsync operation, you'll find a Stowaway Keyboard utility that helps you connect the two devices; configure settings, such as key-repeat rate and caps-lock notification; and program up to 10 hot-hey functions. You'll also find the Stowaway listed under your input options, along with the standard Block Recognizer, Transcriber, Keyboard, and Letter Recognizer. To turn on the Stowaway, you have to simultaneously press the Ctrl, blue Fn, and green Fn buttons; a small green LED will blink to indicate activation.

The Stowaway's 18mm spacing made for a comfortable typing experience, as the buttons were well positioned and tactile. In fact, the keyboard was almost comparable to those found on most notebooks, but the company had to make some compromises to achieve that goal. There are no dedicated numeral or symbol keys; instead, they share space with the top row of letters. You can access them via the blue and green Fn keys. We appreciated the fact that you could open applications, such as Contacts, Word, Excel, and Tasks, and documents with the keyboard and not have to touch the PDA. As for battery life, the Stowaway operates on two included AAA batteries, and Think Outside says with intermittent operation, it can last four to six months; with heavy usage, expect three months. We've had the keyboard for the past three weeks, and it's still going strong.

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