AZiO's Mini Wireless Keyboard: From Meeting To Media Room

Mac Azio

Here's a handy little keyboard that's cute enough to make the eTrade baby jealous. The KB531RT from AZiO is a pint-sized wireless keyboard with built-in trackball that would feel as comfortable in the hands of that infant stock trader as those of a Twitter-happy teenager or a chairman of the board.

With overall dimensions of 11.5 by four inches, the KB531RT is about a quarter the size of a standard keyboard. It isn't as likely as the TV remote to slip below your slipcovers, but in a pinch could slip into a jacket pocket or purse. With edges wide enough to easily grab, it's a good size for passing around at a meeting to offer control to anyone at the table while avoiding accidental key presses. The device weighs just over eight ounces including its tiny USB dongle.

The key layout itself measures about 8 inches by three inches, a bit cramped for everyday typing, but certainly adequate for entering log-in credentials an a short URL or two. And its wide edges make it comfortable to hold with two hands for mousing. The right-hand thumb controls the ball, and the left side is for clicking and right-clicking (there are two buttons, and their layout makes it easy to guess which is which). It runs on two AAA alkaline batteries, included.

Next: Uses For USB

Mac Azio

A USB cable is included and can of course be used to tether the keyboard to a computer. But it's really intended as a charging cable. That's right. Pop in a pair of rechargeable AAA NiMH batteries and you've got a rechargeable wireless keyboard. A blue LED flashes to indicate charging, and shines solid blue when full. To preserve battery life, the keyboard goes into sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity; pressing any key wakes it up again. There's also an on-off switch on the underside for extended storage.

Although the KB531RT officially supports only Windows, it also worked well with Mac OS X. When we plugged in the USB dongle, it invoked the keyboard control panel, which Mac OS X uses to figure out where certain keys are located. After about 30 seconds, we were off and running. Even the keyboard's preprogrammed multimedia keys, implemented as two-press FN keys, were compatible with Mac OS X. They include volume/mute, stop/play/pause and fast-forward/rewind. There's also a "Windows" key, which on Macs is mapped to the "Apple" (command) key. There are also dedicated internet keys for home, email and back navigation.

The unit operates on the 2.4 GHz RF band and has a maximum specified range of 30 feet. We tested it at exactly 30 feet and it worked perfectly through two walls. The one negative aspect we found was a lack of a storage compartment for the USB dongle anywhere on the keyboard. Still, we recommend the AZiO KB531RT, which lists for $69.99 and sells online for $49 or less, including a lifetime warranty that might even cover baby formula spills. It's also available in white.