As keyboards continue to grow smaller and slimmer in size, the alpha numeric keypad is usually the first casualty. For engineers, accountants, and other professionals who spend their days crunching numbers, this can present something of a headache. The iCalc Bluetooth Calculator Keypad ($59.99 list) offers up a standalone keypad and calculator peripheral that wirelessly connects to your computer via Bluetooth. Still, its inclusion of some useful features, like magnetic alignment and a twelve digit numeric display, is not enough to justify a steep price that costs more than some full-sized keyboards with integrated numeric keypads. Unless you’re dead-set on keeping your current keyboard, better and more cost-efficient options exist.
The iCalc Keypad’s all-plastic chassis measures 2.2 by 5.8 by 7.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 9.9 ounces, making it portable enough to fit into just about any laptop bag. Like a standard calculator, it sports a 12-digit keypad LCD at the top. Its two-tone color scheme consists of white chiclet-style keys set against a silver frame. If that design sounds familiar to you, that’s because it purposefully mimics the look of Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, from the colors right down to the slightly tapered profile and smooth beveled edges. Even its all-white underside is modeled after the Apple Wireless Keyboard, albeit with a few minor differences: There’s a battery compartment for two AAA batteries (included), a power switch, and a button that toggles between a PC or Mac connection.
By modeling itself so closely after the Apple Wireless Keyboard, the two can be placed alongside one another to create the appearance of a single unit. This illusion is further enhanced by the included magnetic wedge, whose adhesive strip affixes to the bottom of your keyboard; consequently, the iCalc Keypad automatically aligns itself with the right side of your keyboard. It’s almost convincing, notwithstanding the fact that Apple’s Wireless Keyboard is housed in an anodized aluminum chassis, not plastic.
While the iCalc Keypad is compatible with Mac (OS X and later) and Windows (2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8), users of the latter operating system will almost certainly not be using an Apple keyboard. The end result will look incongruous and, moreover, deprives Windows-users of the option to use the magnetic strip.
Setting up the iCalc Keypad is a straightforward process similar to that seen in other Bluetooth devices. After selecting the proper operating system on the bottom of the unit and pressing the “Connect” button, it becomes discoverable. Once detected, your computer generates a passkey; typing that on the iCalc Keypad’s completes the pairing process.
The iCalc Keypad does exactly what it purports to do. Pressing the “Mode” button lets users toggle between Keypad mode (where it functions as your keyboard’s numeric keypad) or Calculator mode (where it behaves as a standalone calculator and displays calculations on its 12-digit numeric display). When in Calculator mode, users can send the results displayed on the keypad’s LCD to their computer by pressing the “Send” button. Although it’s not as solidly built as Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, the iCalc Keypad’s keystrokes are appreciably deep and make for an overall comfortable one-handed typing experience.
On its own merit, the iCalc Keypad is nice device. For $60, however, its usefulness is called into serious question. For that much, users can simply purchase a wireless keyboard with a dedicated numeric keypad. Some even cost less, like the Logitech Washable Keyboard K310, and the Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360, while others like the Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard cost the same. In all instances, though, users can performs the exact same function as the iCalc Keypad with a single device. Ultimately, this makes the iCalc Keypad a tough sell.
By merging a calculator and keypad into one device, the iCalc Bluetooth Calculator Keypad is a good idea that’s helped by some useful features, such as magnetic alignment and a twelve digit numeric display. Still, that’s not nearly enough to justify its steep price tag, especially when full-sized keyboards with integrated numeric keypads can be obtained for less. Unless you’re absolutely set on adding a numeric keypad to your current keyboard, better and more cost-efficient alternatives exist.
More keyboard reviews:
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc