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EFO iPassport review

iPassport backlitOh aren’t living room computers just the best idea!  There’s nothing like having a huge keyboard on the coffee table hugging that hardcover copy of ‘Finest landscape photography’, and how about that wireless mouse which can double up as a paperweight for the New York Times when the windows are open.

Hmmm…someone needs to make a cute, tiny and usable media center keyboard and mouse which can be hidden away real quick when necessary.

To be fair there’s already one solid player in this market, the Logitech diNovo Mini, which at $150 is quite pricey.

Fortunately there’s now a more affordable contender in the form of the EFO iPassport.  Available for around $40 plus shipping, this mashup of a smartphone-style thumboard and notebook trackpad aims to take two familiar input methods and turn them into a tiny wireless solution for controlling a computer…and it works.

Unboxing the EFO iPassport

iPassport front view

The EFO iPassport ships in retail friendly clear plastic (which can easily be opened without needing a saw, yay!), and includes a USB dongle and separate USB charging cable.  The main unit sits comfortably in the hand and is exceptionally light.  Some may find it lacks a quality feel, although the plastic body seems fairly sturdy.  The keys are rubber with similar travel to a typical smartphone.  The keypad also has a backlight, which is a nice touch and essential for theatre-style viewing.

The trackpad buttons have a similar feel to the keypad buttons with minimal travel, but the trackpad itself defaulted to tap-to-click upon install which improves the experience in my opinion.  The one feature lacking from the trackpad is a scrolling area, so you’ll need to call upon the arrow buttons on the keypad.  There’s no multitouch support either, so no MacBook-style two finger scrolling which is a feature every trackpad should have.

Installing and using the EFO iPassport

I installed the iPassport into my ancient living room Pentium 4 which is running Windows 7 RC, and the OS had installed a device driver in the five seconds it took me to get back to the sofa, seriously!  Everything worked just great and my previous (very nice) wireless keyboard with its built-in trackball started the process of gathering dust.  The included documentation notes that recent Windows releases and Linux are supported but according to the reseller’s website the iPassport also supports Mac, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.

Now this device might not be the best choice for everyone.  If you struggle with the keys on smartphones then you may also find this thumboard tricky to handle.  Equally if you type a lot then you will probably get more words per minute with a larger keyboard on your lap.  Personally I find myself using my living room media center for watching media and surfing the net, neither of which requires a huge amount of typing.

iPassport side viewSome compromises have also been made regarding the selection of keys on the device, probably due to the size of the unit.  For example there are neither F1-F12 keys nor a Tab key, which I missed when navigating web forms.  Other keys are curiously placed, such as the Enter key which is near the middle of the keypad instead of being on the right.  The arrow buttons straddle the Space bar instead of being clustered on the right and the numeric keypad is in two rows on the left instead of being grouped in threes.  I would have preferred to see a layout closer to a typical BlackBerry thumboard, or one inch of extra width added to the iPassport to accommodate more keys.  Text selection can also be a bit finicky as the arrow keys sometimes behave erratically.

The other caveat is around the design of the iPassport.  This device is likely to live on a coffee table and get plenty of curious attention from visitors.  Put simply the Logitech diNovo Mini kills it in the looks department, so if you’re a design conscious person then the iPassport might not meet your expectations.  It does come in white or black, but it goes about its business in a more functional than designer way.

Is the EFO iPassport worth a try?

Overall I’ve been impressed with the iPassport.  Aside from a quirky key layout, for the money it’s a fun and unique controller.  The backlight and multi-platform support are the icing on the cake.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Oct 12, 2009 - Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] a refresher in case you haven’t read or are too darn lazy to read our iPassport review, the device was a backlit and wireless thumb-board with trackpad. It offered the essential […]

    Pingback by EFO iPazzPort Review « theONbutton | Apr 19, 2010 | Reply


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