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Brando HTPC Wireless Keyboards Review

Brando 800M-BRF 2392RF

Brando wireless keyboards 800M-BRF (top) and 2392M-BRF (bottom)

Brando makes a lot of keyboards, mice and all manner of computer accessories. Within that arsenal of gadgets are a selection of wireless keyboards, some of which also have a trackball or trackpad. This makes them good candidates for the Home Theater PC (HTPC) market or other use-cases where portability is important, as with the EFO iPazzPort which we recently reviewed. So here we have are a couple of Brando’s wireless controllers under review, let’s see if they’re any good.

First impressions of the 800M-BRF

The 800M-BRF is a mid-size wireless keyboard with trackball.  It is a black plastic design with a large number of silver quick launch buttons flanking the keyboard.  There is also a scroll wheel and two mouse buttons on the opposite side of the unit to the trackball.  The 800M-BRF is powered by two AA batteries and is supplied with a USB RF transmitter which requires a one-time quick frequency pairing to the keyboard.

Using the 800M-BRF

The 800M-BRF is light enough to hold for extended periods both hands.  The keys are slightly too small for comfortable desk typing so it seemed to be easiest to type by gripping both sides and using it as a large thumb-board.  Since the keys Brando 800M-BRFare densely packed with flat tops and little separation between each one, I occasionally pressed two keys at once but overall the experience was good.  The width of the 800M-BRF meant that typing in this way gave my thumbs plenty of exercise and those with smaller hands might struggle to reach the middle.  This would mean trying to use it in a more traditional desk typing orientation.

Brando managed to squeeze most of the important keys into the 800M-BRF without requiring a secondary key press.  I say most, because the direction arrows require a Fn key press to activate them.  While the scroll wheel takes care of up and down movement, I did miss not being able to use the horizontal arrows to quickly navigate through text for cursor positioning.  The trackball can of course be used for this purpose.

Since the mouse buttons are on the left side of the keyboard and the trackball is on the right, the 800M-BRF must be held in two hands for almost all activities.  Again this is not a major problem, but it would have been nice to have the buttons at the corners like with the 2392M-BRF to enable one handed for web surfing.

The quick lunch buttons around the sides and above the main keyboard are a mixed bunch.  Some of them such as the media buttons on the left worked perfectly, whilst the application launchers seemed to have no effect.  These launchers include dedicated buttons for Word, Excel and Powerpoint as well as copy and paste functions.  I was unable to get any of these buttons to work in Windows 7.  The ones on the top which mainly control web functions did work however.

In terms of tactile response, the main keyboard is fairly soft while the silver buttons are overly resistant and need a good press to be engaged.  The scroll wheel feels perfect.

I’ll conclude on the 800M-BRF at the bottom of the review after covering the 2392RF, but I will say right now that both of these gadgets need better names!

First impressions of the 2392M-BRF

Like the 800M-BRF, the 2392M-BRF is finished in black and silver although it looks a bit smarter with its silver surround.  The 2392M-BRF manages to pack in much larger looking keys than the 800M-BRF as they are raised and separated similar to a traditional keyboard.  The trackball on the 2392M-BRF is at the upper right corner of the controller and its left and right mouse buttons are at the front-facing corners.

Brando 2392RFThe underside has a thoughtful cut-out for storing the unit’s RF transmitter, which requires a frequency pairing upon first use.  In fact the transmitter looks identical to the one supplied with the 800M-BRF.  If you’re wondering, the transmitter can only pair to one device at a time, it is not a Bluetooth transmitter.

The silver buttons on each side of the keyboard provide media controls, the top buttons are for the web and the ones below the trackball are Word, Excel and cut/copy/paste.

Using the 2392M-BRF

The keyboard on the 2392M-BRF is just about big enough for brisk lap typing.  Sine the keys are well positioned and almost a full keyboard set is present without requiring secondary key presses, I was able to work up a decent typing rate with minimal errors.  Do be aware though that some of the keys, such as Tab and the top row are small so they need to be targeted.  Overall though the 2392M-BRF gave a much better typing experience than the 800M-BRF, with superior key action, sizing and spacing.

I also liked the positioning of the mouse buttons, since swapping the primary and secondary button actions in Windows enabled one handed web browsing on the 2392M-BRF.  My thumb was on the trackball and my index finger was on the right corner button which was now switched to act as the left click.  This arrangement worked well, although the mouse buttons are fairly stiff which meant they were harder to press than I would have liked.  In fact as with the 800M-BRF all of the silver colored buttons were a little too stiff for my liking.

The web buttons performed as expected but, as with the 800M-BRF, the application launchers and cut/copy/paste buttons had no effect in Windows 7.  The media buttons worked well and look like they’re conveniently positioned on the sides of the 2392M-BRF.  However in day-to-day usage I instinctively held the 2392M-BRF in both hands and by doing so it was easy to press down on one of the media buttons by mistake.  I should also note that for a while the track forward button on the 2392M-BRF stopped working, although it then recovered after a couple of days.

A couple of issues common to both the 800M-BRF and 2392M-BRF

There is a power saving feature on both units which puts them to sleep after what feels like a few seconds.  While this does an excellent job of preserving battery life, it felt to me like the sleep function engages too quickly.  For example if I was reading a lot of of text on a webpage, by the time I wanted to move the mouse pointer it had fallen asleep.  This quickly became frustrating because both devices took a second or so to wake up.  I’d prefer a time delayed sleep of, say, five minutes or so.

The build quality on both the 800M-BRF and 2392M-BRF is not quite up there with the keyboards produced by the likes of Logitech, Microsoft or Apple.  Both controllers do feel solid, but some of the silver colored keys were occasionally unresponsive and feel cheap when pressed.  Nothing popped off but as I mentioned earlier one button on the 2392M-BRF failed for a day or so.

Brando 800M-BRF 2392RF

Brando wireless keyboards 800M-BRF (top) and 2392M-BRF (bottom)

Additionally one omission from both controllers is that neither is backlit.  This makes them difficult, although not impossible, to use in a dark environment.  HTPC owners who enjoy watching movies or web surfing in low light rooms might prefer the Logitech diNovo Mini or EFO iPazzPort if a backlight is critical.

Are the 800M-BRF and 2392M-BRF worthwhile investments?

There are actually remarkably few good portable wireless keyboard and mouse controllers on the market.  Those which do exist are often a compromise; some have a large keyboard but are too difficult to hide on the coffee table, while others are too small to provide a good typing and navigation experience.

The 800M-BRF and 2392M-BRF sit somewhere between these two extremes and are both good attempts to answer the HTPC controller question.  While I preferred the selection of buttons and key separation of the 2392M-BRF over the 800M-BRF, the latter was easier to hold due to its button placement.  I certainly look forward to seeing version 2.0 of these in the future when some of the build quality concerns have been addressed and I do feel that they would benefit from a backlight.  In the meantime I’m sure both of these will find many willing buyers as they are both usable and unique solutions for either an HTPC owner or someone who needs to carry a controller between many computers.

Link to the product page of the 800M-BRF

Link to the product page of the 2392M-BRF

Neil Berman

facebook.com/theonbutton

theonbutton.com

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Apr 25, 2010 - Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hi,
    I’ve bought the product, the wireless keyboard 2392RF (strangely as Commodore brand) and the button corresponding to the left button of the mouse is not responding while the right one is. I haven’t been able to install the drivers since the CD that came with the keyboard came empty.

    could anyone kindly:
    1) tell me where I can download the divers (2392RF)?
    2) is there a way to switch the mouse buttons making the right one operate as left?

    thanks and best regards, Santiago.

    Comment by Santiago | Nov 24, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Santiago,

      If you’re using Windows or Mac then I don’t think you need to download drivers for the keyboard. We just plugged the transmitter into a Windows 7 64-bit PC and it worked. Same with Vista 64-bit. You can swap the mouse buttons in the Mouse section of Devices and Printers of Windows 7.

      Comment by theONbutton | Nov 24, 2010 | Reply


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