Input Devices Guide
First Looks: Prolink PCML-5308G Slim Mini Wireless Touchpad Keyboard
Too Slim for its Own Good
Lugging a keyboard around would have been an impractical suggestion a decade ago, but times have changed. Options like the small and wireless Prolink PCML-5308G keyboard are aplenty, but what sets it apart is that this device comes with a built-in touchpad, and is dangerously thin.
Slick and Black
The minimalistic keyboard is not only impressively slick, but also sports a black matte overcoat that is chic (but sadly, prone to scratch marks). The gadget ships with two extremely important accessories: a portable charging dock and a plug-and-play receiver. While we liked the convenience of not having to swap AA batteries every now and then, we would have very much preferred for it to feel less flimsy and be fastened properly unto the keyboard while charging.
With that said, setup is extremely simple: to charge the keyboard, plug in the USB receiver and you are done. Well not quite - if you look closely at the back of the product, you realize that there are two pop-out stands you can extend to keep the keyboard elevated. However, it doesn't make much of a discernible difference.
Due to obvious space constraints, the usual numeric keypad is left out and replaced by a small power-on button, a built-in touchpad with left/right click buttons and a host of volume controls; the Shift and Ctrl buttons have been moved around, and the Spacebar has been halved in length. Sported at the bottom right is an orange highlighted "Fn" key, one that is instrumental in alerting us the position of the dedicated internet and multimedia hotkeys, but Prolink has strangely left out information about remaining battery life and the strength of its wireless signal (only visible when switching on).
The key selling point here is that not only does the keyboard come with, well, keys, but that it also sports a built-in touchpad with left and right click buttons. However, since the gadget itself is slightly less than two thirds the size of an average keyboard - the touch pad and buttons takes about one quarter of that space - the 85 keys are cramped too closely together for an accurate and comfortable typing experience.
While using the trackpad makes for a rather surprisingly responsive and smooth experience, Prolink has also made a strange decision of putting the click buttons on top of the touchpad, and we find ourselves fumbling each time we want to select and drag something. This is definitely not a keyboard that focuses on ergonomics, as we found out the hard way - putting our arms too close to our bodies while typing for 3-4 hours left us with terrible aches in our wrists.
Too Small to Handle?
At the end of the day, we applaud Prolink for its effort in producing a light and small portable keyboard, one that can be easily slipped into a bag, but the question here is, where's the real need for it? And at what cost? We figure that they might be targeting it at owners of tablets, like thiPads, but suffice to say, the keyboard isn't recommended for long-term desktop use.