Touch screen devices can be a pain to type on, although admittedly the issue isn’t as bad as it used to be as many of us have had a good few years practice now and screens, as well as keyboard applications, have improved greatly over the years. Then you’ve got PlayStation, where entering data to the on-screen keyboard via the controller can be a very tedious process. To solve any issues, or at least mitigate the issues a little, you can invest in a separate keyboard, such as the Arion KB100B-BK which I have with me today.
This little keyboard isn’t nothing too fancy, but for a small keyboard, it does pack an interesting feature set into such a small device. You’ve got a QWERTY keyboard, all the major functions you would expect to need on your mobile device, desktop OS or console and even a built-in speaker phone. It uses Bluetooth to connect to iPads, Android devices, smart TVs, consoles and pretty much everything with Bluetooth support.
The keyboard comes bundled with a mini-USB to USB charging cable, as the device has an internal rechargeable battery.
It’s pretty simple in terms of design, with a durable yet lightweight plastic body and rubberised keys that are clearly labeled with all their major functions. To cram as many features in as possible, almost every key has an Fn-Shift function.
On the underside of the keyboard, you’ll find a small microphone and speaker setup, which can be used to hands-free calls. Not much use to smartphones which already have this function, but it could be useful for some tablets, smart TVs and consoles for services such as Skype.
The super slim design means it’s a very manageable device; it’ll fit in your pocket or bag easy enough.
Around the back, you’ll find the mini-USB charging port, as well as a master power switch to help conserve the battery.
It is quite small, so touch typing with all of your fingers isn’t going to be possible, but you can still type fairly confidently if you’re writing a quick email, although perhaps not suitable for writing your dissertation.
When powered up, there’s a small blue LED in the top right, which blinks red when the battery is running low.
As you can see, it’s really not too big, clocking in a little smaller than my Xperia Z3.
Here it is next to an iPad Air, although admittedly the unit is better designed to type using your thumbs while holding it in your hands, it wouldn’t be impossible to use it while sat at a table.
Setting up the keyboard was a super easy, it’s a humble Bluetooth device after all, so it’s simply a case of powering it on, searching for it on your compatible device, then entering the required pin to complete pairing; it’s that simple.
Using the keyboard as an input method for my phone seems like a pointless endeavor, obviously why bother holding a small keyboard when I could just use my phone. If your touchscreen is particularly limiting in any respect, this could be your saving grace, but VS my Xperia Z3 I’d rather just input directly on the phone. The same can be said for the iPad, the touch screen is very good to use for typing vs a small keyboard. However, if you’re a little tired of holding the tablet while trying to type, it can be a little more practical for writing a few emails via the Bluetooth keyboard.
What really shines, is the PC and console support. While I wouldn’t be replacing my desktop keyboard with this, ever, it’s a charm for my HTPC. Being able to keep a small keyboard next to my TV remotes that I can use for text input is most helpful. When using software such as Plex, it’s great for typing in the names of albums, or doing quick YouTube searches and it’s also a little more accessible than loading the required remote app on my smartphone.
Text input on PlayStation is great too, as I can quickly type in product names in the PlayStation store, or messages to my friends without having to deal with the cumbersome on-screen keyboard input.
The built-in microphone and speaker and a nice addition, but one that I just didn’t find practical at any time. The microphone is hypersensitive, picking up almost all ambient noise and while you get a clear voice call, the other person may be bothered by the sound of my music or game in the background; something my smartphone manages to filter out using noise cancellation and dynamic microphone sensitivity. The speakers not too bad though, so it can be handy for making a quick Skype call from your TV, console or any other compatible device if you really needed to.
The Arion Bluetooth Keyboard KB100B-BK seems in limited supply right now, the only listing for it being on eBay in America, but at $20 and a further $9 to ship it to the UK, it’s hardly expensive and actually very good value for money given the range of features on offer, although admittedly there are a lot of similar solutions on the market around the same price.
The Arion Bluetooth Keyboard is small, lightweight and very easy to use. If you need it at home, it’ll sit alongside your phone or your TV remotes, ready to pick up and use when you need it most. While I can’t see myself getting a lot of use from it, it’s a nice thing to have when you’re faced with searching streaming content applications on your console, TV or navigating your HTPC. It’s not a great keyboard overall, in fact it’s a little too small to be practical, but when compared to a small touch screen, arrow key or number key input from a remote control, or D-pad input on a console, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of any of them.
I could happily have this in my pocket or backpack without any ergonomic concerns, plus it’s cheap enough that I wouldn’t be too upset if it was lost or damaged. Build quality is pretty good, or at least as good as you would expect for a small plastic and rubber construction keyboard, so it should survive more than a few knocks and bumps without any issues.
The internal battery is infinite as far as I’m concerned. I charged it a month ago, have used it a couple of times a day, most days of the week and it’s still going strong. Of course, I would expect heavy use of the speakerphone function to put an increased drain on the device, but there’s really no practical reason to rely on this feature day-to-day, so that’s unlikely to become an issue for you.
The multi-format support is easily the biggest selling point here, being able to connect to virtually any Bluetooth enabled device and with all the major function keys in place to help you navigate each of them.
- Highly portable
- Affordable price
- Good build quality
- All major functions easily accessible via Fn-shift
- Built-in speakerphone
- Long battery life
- Too small to be practical vs a regular keyboard or some touch screens, such as those on tablets
- Microphone is too sensitive
- Retail availability is limited
“If you need a small, easy to use keyboard with support for multiple devices, then the Arion keyboard is certainly worth considering. It’s perfect for controlling your media center, HTPC or games console text input and it’s certainly easier than trying to type using a D-pad on PlayStation.”
Thank you Arion for providing us with this sample.