The Favi Entertainment SmartStick FE02RF-BL ($39.99 list) is a full QWERTY keyboard with an integrated touchpad that’s been condensed to the size of a remote control. Thanks to its compact size, it gives users a way to control their home theatre PCs (HTPC) from the comfort of their couch without having to lug around a full-size keyboard and a separate mouse. With its media playback controls, built-in laser pointer, responsive (and backlit) keyboard, and rechargeable battery, there’s plenty to like about it. That said, its appeal is undermined by its lack of Bluetooth connectivity and hard-to-reach middle section of the keyboard.
Design and Features
The SmartStick FE02RF-BL’s rectangular chassis measures 0.3 by 6.3 by 2.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.8 ounces, making it compact enough to be slipped into your backpack or in between your couch cushions without attracting any attention. It plastic frame sports a black matte finish, so you don’t need to worry about all the smudging and fingerprints that often plagues glossy-faced keyboards like the AZiO Wireless RF Multimedia Keyboard with Trackpad (KBP336RP).
The SmartStick FE02RF-BL was designed to be held horizontally in both hands, leaving both of the user’s thumbs free to maneuver around the keyboard and touchpad. The top row of the SmartStick FE02RF-BL features volume and media playback controls, and off to the right side is its integrated touchpad. The left- and right-click buttons, meanwhile, are on the left side. Android hot keys (Home, AppMenu, Back, and Search) are beneath the touchpad, though some their functionality is lost on a PC; the Home button launches your web browser, the AppMenu button functions as a right-click, and the Search button opens your operating system’s search tool. The keyboards’ lower row features a Windows Start button and two function keys that, among other things, turns the Enter button into a Ctrl+Alt+Delete button.
The rounded edges of the SmartStick FE02RF-BL house a few additional features. In addition to the power button on the left side, the front edge sports a trio of buttons designed with presentations in mind, like Page Up and Page Down buttons that can cycle through PowerPoint slides and, most interestingly, a switch that controls the built-in laser pointer located the right side of the unit. Outside of PowerPoint, the Page Up and Page Down buttons can scroll through websites or documents. What you choose to do with the laser pointer, on the other hand, is entirely up to you, though we don’t recommend shining it in yours or anyone else’s eyes. Unlike the Lenovo Mini Wireless Keyboard N5901, the SmartStick FE02RF-BL’s keyboard is backlit, so users won’t have any difficulty typing in the dark.
The underside of the SmartStick FE02RF-BL has a sliding battery compartment that houses its 2.96Wh Li-ion battery, which can be recharged by connecting the unit to your computer via the included USB cable. This compartment also doubles as a storage area for the included USB wireless receiver.
The SmartStick FE02RF-BL is compatible with Windows (Vista/7/8) and Mac OS X. In Windows 8, the SmartStick Wireless Keyboard’s Start button lets you switch between the Start screen and traditional desktop mode. If you’re looking for something that features Windows 8-specific function keys, though, the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard offers significantly more functionality in that arena.
No software is needed to use the SmartStick FE02RF-BL, so setting it up requires little beyond plugging in the USB receiver and waiting several moments while the driver is automatically installed. The receiver transmits over a 2.4GHz wireless frequency, and I experience no latency or lag during use. That said, the absence of Bluetooth connectivity limits the usability of the SmartStick FE02RF-BL, especially for tablet users or those with limited available USB ports. It’s also a puzzling omission given the inclusion of Android-specific hotkeys. At any rate, users looking to avoid wireless receivers altogether should check out either the Bluetooth-compatible Wedge Mobile Keyboard or, even better, the Logitech diNovo Mini, which offers both USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
During use, the SmartStick FE02RF-BL’s dual-thumb operation felt right at home for anyone who has ever composed a text message on a cell phone. At any rate, the keys offer a comfortable typing feel and a good amount of resistance. However, since the SmartStick FE02RF-BL was designed to be held rather than placed on a flat surface, reaching the middle of the keyboard with one’s thumbs is nearly impossible. In order to do so, I needed to slide one of my hands closer to the unit’s center, which compromised my thumbs’ ability to readily access the touchpad or left- and right- click buttons. For a device whose primary function is typing, this is a considerable design flaw. The touchpad, on the other hand, was responsive and accurate thanks to its slightly textured surface. For users who prefer something other than a touchpad, the Lenovo Mini N5901′s trackball is a good alternative.
The Favi Entertainment SmartStick FE02RF-BL ($39.99 list) is a decent compact keyboard that gives users a way to control their home theatre PCs (HTPC) from the comfort of their couch. All said, however, its appeal is undermined by its lack of Bluetooth connectivity and, more significantly, its keyboard’s hard-to-reach middle section. For these reasons, the Logitech diNovo Mini continues to retain its Editors’ Choice for home entertainment keyboards. Still, the SmartStick FE02RF-BL remains a good choice with plenty of good going for it.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc