GCN LAB REVIEWS
Lenovo remote keyboard goes the distance
Multimedia device effective when space is tight or distance is great
- By Greg Crowe
- Jan 18, 2011
Desk space can sometimes be so tight that a full-sized keyboard and mouse might take up too much of it. And for the times when a user needs to take a netbook or other tiny computer on the road, a regular keyboard might not be compact enough for travel. In those situations, something smaller and lighter that combines both mouse and keyboard would be ideal.
The Multimedia Remote with Keyboard N5901 from Lenovo is that device. It comes as close to full functionality as possible in an incredibly portable package. It would be a boon for government types who are addicted to PowerPoint presentations. You won’t find a more compact, fully functional tool for managing your latest production.
Lenovo Multimedia Remote with Keyboard (N5901)
Pros: Compact; excellent control distance.
Cons: Might be too small for some users.
Ease of Use: B+
We were impressed when we found that the Multimedia Remote weighed a mere 4.5 ounces and is only 5.5 inches long by 5 inches wide by 1 inch thick. You would hardly notice it when adding it to nearly any laptop PC case or even a tiny netbook bag.
The device was easy to set up. We just inserted two AAA batteries into the main unit and then plugged in the USB 2.0 dongle to a variety of computers, which were running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. We could immediately send input through the remote, and the cursor responded on the computer.
For mouse input, the remote uses a trackball, which is the best way to move a mouse in a small space and is not too difficult to get used to, in case you have never played with one before. We found the sensitivity of the trackball to be just about right. It also is positioned in the middle of the handheld device, so you can use it with equal ease with either your hand or thumb, and it gives no preference to left- or right-handed users.
Operating the 69-key keyboard on the N5901 might take a bit of getting used to if you are unaccustomed to typing on a small keyboard. However, the main square keys are five-eighths of an inch on a side, and all of them are beveled to be raised in the center so that it would be hard to miss the key that you were aiming for even if you have really big hands.
Lenovo boasts a control distance of about 32 feet for the Remote, and we found that claim to be understated by at least 35 percent.
After installing the dongle onto a computer in the back corner of the lab, we checked for control at increasing distances. At about 30 feet, we ran out of line-of-sight, but it didn’t matter because we couldn’t see what the monitor was displaying anymore anyway. At that point, one lab tester stood at the monitor and reported cursor and typing activity to the labbie who held the remote. We annoyed everyone in the office by essentially doing our version of the Verizon guy commercials, though it was hardly our fault as the reach of the N5901 exceeded the size of the lab.
We actually got as far as 55 feet before the control activity became spotty. Of course, that is farther than the 32 feet the manufacturer promised, and it’s also farther than would be practical for most uses.
The only application that we could think of in which this distance might be needed would be for a presentation in a large auditorium, where the presenter might be a fair distance from the computer but can still see the display clearly because it’s on a large screen. In any case, Lenovo exceeded even its own claims in this area — a refreshing change from the typical ideal case claims that come with many products.
The list price of $39 is just about the right amount for a device that performs as well as this one does. That is especially true when you consider that it does the work of a wireless keyboard and mouse.
The Lenovo Multimedia Remote with Keyboard is a great choice when on the road or when keyboard/mouse desk space is a priority. It also would be ideal in large presentation environments, such as classrooms, where more interaction than just “next slide” is needed.
Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.