Sendo produce a foldaway keyboard specifically for the Sendo X. Thomas takes a look at it to find out if it is actually usable.
I have tried various foldaway keyboards before - the Palm Wireless Keyboard and briefly, a Freedom Bluetooth Keyboard as well. Given that Sendo have a dedicated keyboard for the X, I thought I'd give it a whirl...The first thing that strikes you about the keyboard is its folded size. About the same width as a CD case and slightly shorter, it does fold away quite neatly. The top cover is metal and does give the keyboard a very solid feel.
However, beauty is only skin deep, and so it's time to have a look at the keyboard itself. The cover lifts back on itself to form a sturdy support, with the phone connector placed at the main hinge. The keyboard is split approximately into thirds - as both the left and right sides are pulled outwards simultaneously, the centre section rises upwards. The left and right thirds are then pushed back inwards to lock everything in place. In practice, what I found was unless the left and right thirds were pulled firmly out, they would tend to slope downwards as they were pushed back in. Once I'd got the knack of it, the keyboard locked together beautifully.
Initially I concerned as to how fragile the phone connector was and whether pushing the phone on would put a lot of stress on the keyboard. I needn't have worried as the phone connected without any problems or need for excessive force. As the phone connects, it plays a series of notes to let you know connection has been successful. An icon also displays in the Status bar at the top of the screen.
Whilst the phone did not ship with a driver CD, I found that my phone already supported it - perhaps this was a little extra that was included in a firmware update. The keyboard folds out to a size that is slightly smaller than one you would find on a typical laptop; however the keys themselves remain a reasonable size.
I'm no touch typist by any means but due to the size and minor layout changes, I think this is more suited for the two fingered typists out there (like me). Even using two fingers only, it is quite possible to get a reasonable number of words per minute.
Because the keyboard is designed as a phone attachment, it does have a number of useful shortcuts. Along the top level of letters are a number of application shortcuts that can be accessed by holding down the function key: Voice Recorder, Internet, Calendar, Tasks, WAP, Calculator, Contacts, Messages, Photo Album, MP3 and Games. The Menu button is in the very top left of the keyboard and the Now! screen can be quickly accessed by using Fn+Space. If there is an app you would like to make a shortcut to (say, Bluetooth, for example) this can be done using the Keyboard app in the Tools section of the Main Menu. The program also allows for keyboard clicks (a guaranteed way to annoy people on a train!) and for turning the backlight off the phone's number pad. The other noteworthy features are to the left and right of the space bar. On the left you have Call Receive and Hang up and on the right you have keys for the two softkeys on the phone itself, which prove to be incredibly useful when switching between apps.
The other advantages that this keyboard has are its price (some �20 to �30 cheaper than a Bluetooth equivalent) and because it is attached to the phone, it is powered by the phone itself, thus saving on batteries. There are also various versions available for our friends in the US and Europe, with appropriate keys.
My only concerns about the keyboard are its longevity - I'm not sure how much wear and tear the folding mechanism can take. The only other downside is the keyboard's VERY limited compatibility. As Sendo fans know, the new X2 uses a mini-USB connector and unless Sendo brings out an adaptor (which I doubt) existing X users will not be able to take the keyboard with them.
Summary: Overall, I am quite impressed by the Sendo keyboard. It has a good solid build (although time will tell with regards to the folding mechanism), a user friendly layout and lots of handy shortcuts. Despite the fact that the X2 will not be able to use the keyboard, Sendo could a lot worse than use this one as a template for a mini-USB or Bluetooth version. Oh and in case you were wondering, I did type this review using the Sendo Keyboard�
Overall rating: 86%