Downsizing from a full desktop PC to a portable has its charms, but it can also impose some unexpected productivity compromises.
Here are three clever devices that fill the gaps in mobile hardware, plus a device for recording your life on the go.
Wireless keypad makes small keyboards complete
We all know that laptop PCs have their limitations. But when I gave up on a desktop PC in favor of a 13-inch portable, one compromise became obvious almost immediately: I really missed a dedicated numeric keypad. I soon discovered I use that keypad for quick data entry far more often than I’d thought. A laptop’s smaller keyboard just isn’t productive when doing heavy numeric entry into spreadsheets or databases.
Add-on keypads are common, but most are either wired or use a wireless USB connection. Unfortunately, like most laptops, my PC has only three USB ports — all of which are in use. (For adding more USB ports, see the review following this one.) NewerTech’s Wireless Aluminum Keypad (U.S. $49; info) solves that port problem by using Bluetooth to connect to personal computers.
The NewerTech keypad’s aluminum housing and white keys are obviously designed to match Apple’s wireless keyboard. But it works well with any brand of Bluetooth-equipped laptop, tablet, or phone. To add to your productivity, the keypad includes dedicated keys for page-up, page-down, home, end, tab/clear, delete-back, and delete-forward — plus three extra function keys.
The keypad design makes data input quick and accurate. The keys are well spaced and responsive, a slight tilt makes using the pad more comfortable, and grippy feet keep it from sliding on the desktop. I found Bluetooth pairing always quick. (Pairing was a significant problem with early Bluetooth devices but is much less so today.) The keypad is powered by two AA batteries that should last for ages.
Why not just attach a full-sized keyboard to the laptop? That’s certainly an option, but I like having the flexibility of placing the keypad where it’s more comfortable to use — something that left-handed PC users might appreciate.