The cord-cutting trend has made streaming STBs (set-top boxes) and HTPCs (home theater PCs) popular. Remotes are bundled with all OTT (over-the-top) boxes and Android media streamers, and Media Center remotes are common for HTPCs. However, as media consumption becomes more interactive (for example, consumers explicitly searching for a movie to play on Netflix), the use of remotes with limited functionality becomes cumbersome. As an option for interacting with HTPCs, we pay attention to devices which fulfill the following criteria:

  • The device should be wireless and optimally sized (neither the mini- varieties which make typing with large fingers difficult, nor the full-sized combos which come with separate keyboard and mouse units)
  • The device should come with either an integrated touchpad or a trackball
  • Ergonomics and ease of use with a layout as similar as possible to a traditional keyboard while also allowing for short-term single handed operation common in HTPC scenarios
  • Be adaptable for the occasional prolonged typing / computer interaction task with properly sized keys

Some of the other desirable features include prolongation of battery life by going into sleep mode (either automatically, or through an explicit toggle switch), 5 GHz communication frequency (to avoid the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum) and an integrated rechargeable battery with a charging dock. It would also be nice to have ease of use with Windows 8.x (in terms of replicating touchscreen functionality on a touchpad). Obviously, features have to be traded off to hit an acceptable price point. So, the options we want to look at might not hit any of the desirable features too.

The Logitech K400 is one of the most popular HTPC keyboards. Frequently available for less than $30, its feature-to-price ratio is simply unparalleled. Unfortunately, the keyboard does have a few drawbacks with respect to ergonomics and key placement, making it challenging to use it for extended typing duties. With a better budget, would it be possible to improve the HTPC interaction experience? That is what we hope to answer with our 'Interacting with HTPCs' series. Our first review in that category was our extended look at the options from IOGEAR and SIIG earlier this year.

In today's piece, we will be looking at the various interaction options from Adesso, with MSRPs ranging from $30 - $75:

In addition to the above five models, Adesso also sent us the SlimTouch WKB-4210UB. However, the sample had some issues with a stuck touchpad button and we will not cover that in this review. In addition, the batteries supplied with a couple of the samples were dead, but that doesn't have any bearing on the aspects that we will cover in the rest of the review.

We will first take a look at the features offered by each of these keyboards in detail along with some usage impressions. This will be followed by the comparison of the pros and cons of each of these units on a single page. Note that most of the aspects presented in keyboard reviews are subjective and dependent on test environment. For example, even the wireless range may vary from one test location to another because the 2.4 GHz channel being used might exhibit interference issues under certain conditions. This could result in improper functioning and range issues. While one unit relies on Bluetooth for communication, the other four are RF-based and operate in the 2.4 GHz band with an advertised range of 30 ft (under ideal conditions). We will not be covering the range factor any further in this review.

Adesso SlimTouch WKB-3000
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  • Vidmo - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I rarely use my keyboard/mouse combo with my HTPCs. I would like to see a round up of Media Center remotes instead.

    I have yet to find a good replacement for my Microsoft A9O-00007 Media Center Remote. The A9O-00007 allowed you to program the second power button for the TV, no other dedicated Media Center remote does this even today (that I can find). Please comment if you know of one.
  • ayejay_nz - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I use a Logitech K830 for my HTPC, really happy with it. Back lit, nice design, track pad, battery life seems good. It's quite big for the lounge but I personally find that the design mitigates that a little, it's nice to have a decent size when searching the net too. $79 USD on Amazon.
  • Eiffel - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I also own a K830 and think it is the best solution on the market today, thanks to its combination of features (backlight, a few media keys, not too big, decent touch pad, very good battery life, Win8 gestures, etc.).

    It's not exactly cheap, but works well (I wish it was less prone to finger marks, that the keys weren't entirely flat and would have much preferred a trackpoint a la Lenove to the touchpad)

    The Microsoft Arc keyboard I had before for typing, but lacked mouse control, backlighting and media keys. It was also less reliable and ran more often out of power.
  • meacupla - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    imo, any android device using some form of RDC or remote app is far better, at the cost of price, obviously.
  • Alan G - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I've been using a Logitech K400 for almost a year now and have had zero issues with it. The WMC keyboard shortcuts are second nature and it's also easily used for Netflix and Amazon Prime searches as well as finding Internet streams of interest. I paid $25 via Amazon and I recommend it for the users of HTPCs I've built for family and friends.
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Not sure why battery life is a concern. Most remotes/keyboard battery will last month and months at at time.. I have not had to replace mine in like 6 months.
  • pramod1969 - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I agree with the commentor above. love this HTPC keyboard/mouse. But I still miss a good trackball for faster movement across 160" projector screen.
  • markbanang - Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - link

    All of these keyboards, and the requirements list miss one essential HTPC feature - a backlight!

    When sat in a dark room, TV or projector being the only light source, how can you be expected to type your search terms if you aren't a touch typist?

    It is frustrating that there don't appear to be any wireless backlit HTPC keyboards from reputable manufacturers in this price range.
  • azjeep - Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - link

    I was disappointed when I read that they will not be discussing range in this review. I have a TV in a conference room and a Lenovo Tiny PC behind it. Getting a keyboard and mouse to work from as little as 10 feet away requires a USB extension cord and placing the receiver in direct line of sight to the keyboard which, IMO is completely unacceptable. I wish someone did a review on the true range of these things as it is very annoying.
  • - Sunday, November 2, 2014 - link

    Cool need one of these

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