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Old 01-20-2006, 09:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default REVIEW: Two External Bluetooth Keyboards [ThinkOutside Shasta] + [Freedom Keyboard]

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Photo Review:
Two External Bluetooth Keyboards


Models Reviewed

Freedom Keyboard - www.freedomkeyboard.com
ThinkOutside Shasta Keyboard - www.thinkoutside.com


What Are They?

These keyboard are external foldable Bluetooth keyboards that can be used with all Bluetooth-supported BlackBerry models. Supported BlackBerry models includes 32MB models and newer, generally all BlackBerry models released in 2005 and later. External keyboards allow the thumb touch typist to type very quickly into the BlackBerry, and makes it easier to leave behind a laptop. These keyboards can be used for the occasional extra-long email message, or even for word processing using products such as Dynoplex eWord.


Photo 1: Freedom Keyboard came with a protective carrying case.
Photo 2: ThinkOutside Shasta keyboard came in a nicer box.
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Photo 3: Comparision of both keyboards, closed.
Photo 4: Comparision of both keyboards, open. Freedom is at top, Shasta is at bottom. Notice that ThinkOutside Shasta has bigger keys.
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Photo 5: Comparision of both keyboards, end view. Shasta at top, Freedom at bottom.
Photo 6: Comparision of both keyboards, side view. Shasta at top, Freedom at bottom.
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Photo 7: Comparision of keyboards, with BlackBerry 8700r stacked at top.
Photo 8: Comparision of keyboards, with a third Bluetooth keyboard on top. This is the PocketPC/Palm/Phone ThinkOutside Stowaway XT Bluetooth keyboard, which is unfortunately not BlackBerry compatible.
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Photo 9: Freedom Keyboard, closed, with BlackBerry 8700r on top.
Photo 10: Freedom Keyboard, open, with BlackBerry 8700r in its holder.
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Photo 11: ThinkOutside Shasta Keyboard, closed, with BlackBerry 8700r on top.
Photo 12: ThinkOutside Shasta Keyboard, open, with BlackBerry 8700r in its holder.
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Photo 13: Comparision of PocketPC with Stowaway XT (left), with BlackBerry with Shasta (right)
Photo 14: All three keyboards having fun lounging, a demonstration of their foldability. (From left to right, 1: Shasta for BlackBerry, 2: Stowaway XT for PocketPC, 3: Freedom Keyboard for BlackBerry)
(Click for bigger versions of photos)


Look & Feel Impressions


Since the keyboards are pending updated BlackBerry 8700r-compatible drivers, I will comment on visual impressions at the moment, with a test on feel. The most noticeable difference is the key size. The Shasta keyboard feels significantly more comfortable to type on. The key caps are very similiar to my DELL laptop, and touch typing feels very natural on the Shasta keyboard. It appears to take more pratice to type on the Freedom Keyboard. From other users, both keyboards are reported to have some slight lagging issues on BlackBerry, probably due to the BlackBerryOS overhead of the 'Keypress Injection' since the BlackBerry itself needs to simulate a keypress on the BlackBerry itself. Lag is supposed to be much less noticeable on faster BlackBerry models, and the model 8700 should be no problem. It is observed that the Stowaway XT keyboard for Pocket PC, feels somewhat more solid in typing, with less flexing than either of the two BlackBerry keyboards. The typing on this non-BlackBerry-compatible keyboard feels more solid despite the lack of the numeric row. However, both BlackBerry keyboards have a numbers row, which is presumably very important to the business executive market which the keyboards may be marketed to. Also, the Shasta keyboard has a minor flex - if you press the D and L keys down very hard, you can see the Shasta keyboard flex. However, the Freedom Keyboard is much more difficult to type on, so the Shasta keyboard wins in feel. The ThinkOutside keyboard automatically shuts itself off, while the Freedom Keyboard has a power switch. I made the battery die in the Freedom Keyboard by accident, by leaving the switch on, so it appears that the Shasta design is better. Neither keyboards are stable enough to be used on the lap, they both require a solid surface, although I found that even a simple magazine sitting on my lap was sufficient to keep either BlackBerry keyboard stable enough for typing from the lap. So there should be absolutely no problems with a desk, table, airlane seat tray, or other hard surfaces. Overall, one star is deducted from Shasta for the minor observed problems, and 2 stars are deducted from Freedom Keyboard, with the additional deduction mainly because of poor touchtyping feel.

Preliminary Rating For Physical Looks & Feel:

ThinkOutside Shasta: 4 berries out of 5


Freedom Keyboard: 3 berries out of 5




Manufacturers


Freedom Keyboard - www.freedomkeyboard.com
ThinkOutside Shasta Keyboard - www.thinkoutside.com
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Last edited by Mark Rejhon : 04-05-2006 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 01-20-2006, 09:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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(Placeholder for future addendum of actual usage - Once 8700r is successfully tested. Both keyboards is pending updated drivers for the newer model 8700r)
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Old 01-23-2006, 05:08 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Nice pictures, Mark. Just a brief comment that we'll also be testing the Shasta keyboard with the 7130e once the driver is ready. I had it working for a while and was very impressed with the feel of the keyboard and the functionality available. It is a nicely designed unit. I wouldn't buy it, however, until Think Outside confirms on its web site that the keyboard driver will work with your particular Blackberry device.They are very clear about which Blackberries are compatible now and which are still being worked on.

Last edited by Blackberry fiend : 01-23-2006 at 05:11 AM.
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Old 01-23-2006, 08:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Great news. After speaking with Think Outside today, it turns out that the problem is not with the keyboard but rather with the owner's manual which is missing a critical paragraph that was inadvertantly left out. I'll now proceed to test the keyboard's use with the Blackberry 7130e and get back to Think Outside about any issues that are noted. I'll also post here when it seems reasonable for other 7130e owners to proceed with a keyboard purchase. It's looking very promising. Mark and Bar John will be providing the full review of this keyboard. I'm simply ensuring compatibility with the 7130e.

Last edited by Blackberry fiend : 01-23-2006 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 01-23-2006, 10:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Great photos and initial impressions. I will be getting my test unit in a day or so and will add to your comments as well as doing a more complete review. I too wish the Thinkoutside keyboard had a driver as I have one and liked it.
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Old 02-22-2006, 08:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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@ Mark Rejhon : I just received my Thinkoutside Stowaway Shasta Bluetooth keyboard but i got a little problem.
I installed the driver in my blackberry 7290 ( Hong-Kong OS 4.1 ) and after that when I tried to pair it with the keyboard, I got this error : "Uncaught exeption : net.rim.device.api.system.ControlledAccessExeption " .
Do you know an issue for this problem?
Thank you for your help
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Old 02-22-2006, 10:17 AM   #7 (permalink)
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What about MSRP and street pricing for each device?
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Old 02-23-2006, 02:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Ok I got it, this error is well know by RIM, I will try to follow the instructions here http://www.blackberry.com/knowledgec...18328&vernum=0

Hope I will succeed

Last edited by hadji : 02-23-2006 at 04:58 AM.
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Old 02-23-2006, 05:07 AM   #9 (permalink)
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My own 8700 is no longer on a BES, so that complicates things about getting the EventInjector API running. It looks like it's disabled on my 8700. Do I have to reconnect to a BES in order to re-enable EventInjector on my 8700, or can I just get an appropriate new policy.bin file installed?
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Old 02-23-2006, 05:17 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Ok to solve the problem, you will have to follow this instructions :
1. Open Options/Security/Application Permissions

2. Select Stowaway Shasta

3. Select Edit Permissions from the menu

4. Configure the Security Permissions to "Allow" for all categories.

5. Save the changes

6. Open the Stowaway Shasta application from the main launcher screen

7. Select Connect keyboard from the menu

8. Press the Discoverable button located next to the battery compartment. (Top Left)

Works fine for me

Last edited by hadji : 02-23-2006 at 05:42 AM.
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Old 02-24-2006, 02:54 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Unfortunately, that's not possible. The only option for step 4 is "Deny". The security policy stuck in my BlackBerry (no longer on BES) has removed the "Allow" option for the Keypress Injection setting. So I can not proceed further with keyboard testing at this time. As this is my own BlackBerry, that I brought into a company with BES and then moved on, it has been removed from BES, and it appears that the BES has suppressed the Keyboard Injection API.

I do have a friend that can install new policy.bin files on my BlackBerry, but there is no setting that co-relates to Keyboard Injection for the policy.inf configuration text file. (If any of you with access to newer BES 4.1 settings, instead of BES 4.0 settings, please send me a PM with the name of the setting I need to add to policy.inf to fix this Keyboard Injection "Deny"-only problem)
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Last edited by Mark Rejhon : 02-24-2006 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 02-24-2006, 05:23 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Hy Mark,
Well mine is not on a BES and I think this is why the solution worked for me but if u are in BES, RIM says to follow this steps:

To enable Event Injection for the third-party application, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server administrator can perform the following steps:

1. From the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, open the BlackBerry Handheld Configuration Tool.
2. In the left pane, click Software Configurations.
3. Select a software configuration and click Edit Software Configuration.
4. Click Add New Configuration.
5. Enter a name for the new configuration and enter a description (optional).
6. Enter the Handheld Software Location in standard UNC format or select the Change button to browse to the location of the Program Files\Common Files\Research In Motion\ directory that was shared in the steps above. For more detailed information on Handheld Software Configurations, see the section entitled, “Defining Handheld Software Configurations” in the Handheld Management Guide.
7. Click the Policies button.
8. Select a policy from the left pane and click the Properties button, or create a new policy by clicking the New button.
9. Find the label for Event Injection and change the value to Allowed.
10. Click OK to dismiss the policy properties screen.
11. Click OK to dismiss the policies screen.
12. Expand the Application Software tree.
13. In the Policy column, use the drop-down list to select the policy that allows Event Injection for the desired third-party application. Or, select the policy at the end of the row in order for the tree to apply the policy to all third-party applications.

But to do this steps, I think that you (or the administrator) must have access to the BES of the company where the BB belong.
It's all I can say, I don't know if I'm really helpfull
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:54 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Hi Mark,

Could you install the BES 30 day Trial and do this?

PHT
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Old 02-25-2006, 04:16 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Think Outside Shasta Keyboard and the 7130e

Think Outside has not yet cleared it's Shasta BT keyboard to work with the 7130e. However it does work pretty well, though not perfectly. My biggest problem is the inability to use the keyboard to select an item from a list, e.g. an address from the address book. You currently need to use the Blackberry itself to address a memo. As with the 7130e and some Bluetooth headsets, there are occasional resets with this Bluetooth keyboard. Overall, though, my experience has been positive.

The current release driver 1.0 will work with the 7130e. Due to the security policy that is configured on this BB you will need to do the following after installing the Keyboard Software.

1. Open Options/Security/Application Permissions

2. Select Stowaway Shasta

3. Select Edit Permissions from the menu

4. Configure the Security Permissions to "Allow" for all categories.

5. Save the changes

6. Open the Stowaway Shasta application from the main launcher screen

7. Select Connect keyboard from the menu

8. Press the Discoverable button located next to the battery compartment. (Top Right)
-------------------------------
P.S. They may still be looking for some additional Blackberry 7130e users for beta testing. Go to their website and sign up if you are interested.

Last edited by Blackberry fiend : 03-23-2006 at 12:05 AM.
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:35 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I just bought the Freedom Keyboard. (Which I like).

I'm able to get the keyboard to work well - except - when I'm in 'Messages' - I can't use the shortcut keys to do things.

R - Reply
C - Compose
ENTER - Open Message


these don't seem to work.

Interestingly - when I'm in Calendar - 'C' creates a new appt OK.

Any ideas?

Last edited by hopetindall : 02-28-2006 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 02-28-2006, 05:00 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hopetindall
I just bought the Freedom Keyboard. (Which I like).

I'm able to get the keyboard to work well - except - when I'm in 'Messages' - I can't use the shortcut keys to do things.

R - Reply
C - Compose
ENTER - Open Message


these don't seem to work.

Interestingly - when I'm in Calendar - 'C' creates a new appt OK.

Any ideas?

try the free-trial. I think you'll like their drivers better. it seems to do more thatn the Freedom and ThinkOutside drivers.

http://www.mymobilegear.com/software.html
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:10 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mauiboy
try the free-trial. I think you'll like their drivers better. it seems to do more thatn the Freedom and ThinkOutside drivers.

http://www.mymobilegear.com/software.html

wow - thank you.

You're right - theirs seems to work MUCH better. Is this officially supported?

PHT
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:31 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Never mind - I've just understood - that yes - these drivers are written for the bk600 keyboard (which is what the Freedom Keyboard actually is).

I received a good explanation from MMG.

PHT
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:53 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Good to hear that you that you like their drivers. I have 2 keyboards, Freedom(BK600), Thinkoutside Stowaway Shasta and they make drivers for both of them and their drivers are way much better than what I reveived with the keyboards.
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Old 03-09-2006, 02:41 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hopetindall
Hi Mark,

Could you install the BES 30 day Trial and do this?
If I knew for sure that this would work on a home computer, then I'd go for it. I do not have Microsoft Exchange though.
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