The folks over at the rather splendide French site blogeee.net have got their hands on a prototype of an Eee Keyboard from Asus, a media centre computer shoehorned into a keyboard.
We last saw this at CES 2009, where Asus said the keyboard had a 1.6GHz Atom processor inside, 1GB of memory and a solid-state hard drive. There's a 5-inch touchscreen at the side running a customised version of Windows XP, and an HDMI port for hooking it up to a hi-def TV.
Weighing just under a kilo, as you can see in the picture, and with Wi-Fi, two USB ports and a memory card reader, we were impressed with the concept. There's still no word on pricing or availability of this, but until firm plans are made for launch, you can click through our photo gallery to see what blogeee's Pierre Lecourt thought of the whole thing.
Blogee.net says, "The version we tested was a pre-production model, and only two tabs out of five available in the interface were working. The interface reminded us of the first Eee PCs -- Eee Fun and Eee Tools looked like the features found on netbooks running Xandros. The shortcuts on the screen launch things like the alarm or the calculator, which also display on any screen connected to the system."
They continue, "The power button and the button that calls up the menu on the little screen are to the left of the touchscreen. They're more recessed, and require more pressure, than the other keys, which keeps you from accidentally turning on the keyboard or launching the touchscreen. When it's turned on, the keyboard lights up with LEDs and the screen displays the Windows XP launch screen."
Pierre Lecourt says, "The screen had several LEDs and status icons that indicated the status of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the time, any alarms, the volume level and the battery level. These status icons let us monitor everything on the screen, but they showed us how the keyboard-computer can fall down.
"On a normal PC, you see those elements in front of your face, on the screen. You don't have to look away from the screen to find out the state of the Bluetooth or the Wi-Fi, a simple glance down or up on the screen is enough. The plethora of LEDs and icons showed that fitting everything on to a totally self-contained system is tough -- and what are the benefits of such a system?"
"With its netbook-like configuration -- an Atom N280 processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of memory -- the Eee Keyboard can't pretend to be a complete media centre. The 16GB is certainly enough to handle a few MP3s and videos, but it's not enough to blow other options, like the iPod, out of the water.
"It's not any better for surfing the Web than an iPod, either. A wireless keyboard would be just as good if all you want is a keyboard, and the battery life isn't enough to make the Eee Keyboard truly portable. It's great that it can output a 1080p signal, but it lacks the ability to decode an HD signal, so it's useless."
"The screen was fairly bright and responsive, with good resolution. Images on the screen looked clear, and it was bright enough to compensate for its shiny surface. The touch surface takes a bit of getting used to, and we found that using a fingernail worked just as well as tapping hard with a fingertip. We used the screen for a few hours, and found it accurate enough that we could tap the little X that closes a tooltip in Windows."