SHANGHAI -- As manufacturers turn almost every device into something smart and connected, Beijing-based AC000 has come up with a smart keyboard that actually makes sense -- a self-contained computer that can run either Windows or Android operating systems.
While keyboard peripherals have been all the rage for modern tablet devices, OneBoard looks to flip the relationship. It's a computer contained entirely within the keyboard, and all a user will need to do is plug it into a screen.
OneBoard has three versions available: one for family, one for office and one for gaming. The gaming model is the OneBoard Pro+, an 86-key layout using Cherry MX Plum mechanical keys with either an ARM or an Intel Atom processor.
The keyboard runs Google's mobile OS Android on the ARM version, or Microsoft's Windows 8 on the Intel Atom-powered model. Both pack 2GB of RAM, with either 16GB or 64GB of onboard storage for Android and Windows versions respectively. The Android model supports UltraHD output, while the Intel Atom-powered keyboard goes up to full-HD only.
While the OneBoard Pro+ runs Android, it's a custom version of the software made by the company, called oneOS. ACooo has its own app store that you can download games from.
ACooo says that because you can use a mouse with the Android (an OS for mobile devices) keyboard, users will have an easier time playing the games on offer. I tried out and found it was a lot easier to pilot a plane with a keyboard and mouse than touch controls, for example. If you want to use it as a normal keyboard for your PC or Mac, you can do so by simply hitting a button on the top right corner which switches your video output to the one on your computer.
According to AC000, the magic behind this feature is what appears to be a DVI port, but in reality is a custom port the company has engineered to work with the HDMI 1.4 video port of your PC or MAC and a USB port. You'll just need to plug in your computer using the custom cable to the keyboard, and you can switch between the keyboard's OS or your PC.
The OneBoard Pro+ retails for $299 (about £195, AU$380) in China. The family-focused model, the OneBoard Easy, will have a cheaper ARM-powered core and simple plastic keys that will go for a much cheaper $99 (around £65, AU$125) while sporting the same specs.