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SRG Sites > NewTechReview > Reviews > Adesso WKB-3100UB Wireless Mini Trackball Keyboard

Adesso WKB-3100UB Wireless Mini Trackball Keyboard

Manufacturer: Adesso, Inc.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided NewTechReview with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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I needed a new computer keyboard… one that would allow me to move around the room, rather than being tied down by a cable (ie. wireless). I also needed the keyboard to be compact – similar in size to a small laptop keyboard. In addition, I needed mouse control without the mouse (which meant either a built-in touchpad or trackball). My search led me to the Adesso WKB-3100UB Wireless Mini Trackball Keyboard. While the WKB-3100UB may not be absolutely perfect for some people, I have found that it fits my remote keyboard needs nicely.

Adesso WKB-3100UB Setup
To get up and running with the WKB-3100UB is a simple matter of installing some batteries and plugging in a USB dongle. Take the two included AA batteries and pop them into the compartment located on top of the backside of the keyboard. Plug the USB dongle (which acts as a wireless receiver) into any available port on any machine that supports a standard USB keyboard. This means that the WKB-3100UB can be used with PCs running Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7 and Mac OS X. It can even be used with other devices like the PlayStation 3 (which I'll talk about later). Once the dongle is connected, you turn on the keyboard with the switch on the upper left of the backside and press the Connect button on the upper right of the backside for about two to three seconds. Adesso says the batteries should last approximately 3 months under normal use, and although the keyboard goes into a 'standby mode' after eight minutes, you can save more power by remembering to turn the keyboard off. Unfortunately, there isn't a power indicator light so it can be easy to forget to flip the switch sometimes.

Adesso WKB-3100UB Wireless Workability
The keyboard and dongle are automatically synchronized with each other using any one of twelve 2.4GHz-based radio frequencies along with an ID (of which there are 65000 for each channel). This means that with multiple keyboards being used at the same time in the same place, you're highly unlikely to have a problem with keyboard interference. However, because the WKB-3100UB uses the 2.4GHz standard, you may have trouble with interference with some other devices (like cell phones, Wi-Fi, and even microwaves). I tested the microwave scenario and sure enough, the closer the keyboard is located to the microwave, the more interference (in the form of lost typed characters) occurred.

Another concern some people may have is security. The WKB-3100UB does not provide signal encryption, so theoretically it is possible that someone could find the frequency you're using and capture the text that you type. Of course, they would have to be in fairly close range. Adesso says that the WKB-3100UB can be used up to 30 feet away from the dongle, although during my tests I was actually able to go as far as 50 feet. But your experience may be different depending on your environment. If there's interference around (as I explained earlier) or if there are obstructions (like walls), you may need to be closer. In reality, you probably won't be more than 10 feet away since you still need to see the screen on the device that you're controlling, and at that distance you should have a strong signal.

Adesso WKB-3100UB Comfort Quotient
The WKB-3100UB is a 12-inch (actually 11.75" x 6" x1") mini size keyboard with a built-in mini trackball and left/right mouse buttons. Because of its small size (along with the location of the trackball and buttons), it can take some getting used to. For the most part, the key size and location is the same as any standard laptop, but with some exceptions… some of the keys (such as the right shift key and the spacebar) are slightly smaller. In addition, the location of some keys (such as the delete and insert keys) is different. If you use the hunt-and-peck method of typing, then you'll be just fine, but if you're a traditional typist, you may make a few more mistakes than usual until you get the feel of the keyboard. You may also need to slow down a bit because if you're a very fast typist (let's say 70 words per minute or higher), you might experience delays between your keypresses and the text display.

The trackball and mouse buttons are located at the top of the keyboard – trackball on the right and buttons on the left. If you're left-handed, you could turn the keyboard upside-down and remember that the buttons are reversed, but ideally the WKB-3100UB is made for right-handed users. Like with the keyboard, it can take some time to get comfortable with the trackball. It's an optical trackball with an 800 DPI resolution and a size of 0.64-inches. I find it to be a bit touchy at times, making it difficult to do anything with precision – just the slightest touch can move the mouse, which can be annoying when you're trying to press a small on-screen icon or button. Basically, you need to learn to lift your thumb or finger directly up off the ball so there's no movement once you have the mouse positioned. It's gets easier the more you use it.

Adesso WKB-3100UB In Use
I tested the keyboard in a variety of situations, but my two main uses are in my multimedia studio with my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) PC and in my living room with my Sony PlayStation 3. In the studio, I use the WKB-3100UB to remotely control my PC. The way things are set up in the studio, I have the main desk on one side of the room and my music keyboard on the other. The WKB-3100UB allows me to control my music software when I'm composing and recording with my music keyboard. The WKB-3100UB fits nicely on top (in the upper right corner) of my music keyboard and lets me type in track names and other data, while also allowing me to control the mouse. Because of the trackball, I can't really do any precision editing, but that's fine because that type of task is reserved for when I'm sitting at the main desk.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if the WKB-3100UB would work with the PlayStation 3 since Adesso doesn't provide that information in their specifications, so I was pleasantly surprised when it did. As with a PC, the setup is exactly the same – just plug in the dongle, turn on the keyboard and go. You can navigate the PS3 menus with the mouse or with the arrow keys (with the Enter/Esc keys allowing you to enter/exit menus and answer yes/no prompts respectively). More importantly, however, is that you can put aside your controller and use the keyboard to navigate the Internet when you launch the PS3 web browser. You can also use it to text chat with other PS3 users online or on the PlayStation Network. If you have a PS3 and don't yet have a keyboard, get the WKB-3100UB now so you can get the full use of your gaming system – it's so much nicer than trying to enter text or navigate online with a controller. One thing you need to watch out for though is the Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock keys. Even though the Adesso Quick Guide says that the WKB-3100UB provides lighted LEDs for each key, it does not. This means that you can accidentally press those keys (putting the keyboard into their respective modes) and never know it until you go to type something. This can be annoying and this is the one major thing I don't like about the keyboard.

Adesso WKB-3100UB Works For Me
Other than the few things I mentioned, the WKB-3100UB performs nicely. The keys are soft and quiet, the keyboard only weighs about 1.07 lbs, and you can even store the dongle in a dedicated slot on the back when not in use (although I usually keep mine plugged in since I use it regularly). I really wish it had the indicator LEDs that I mentioned earlier (especially since they are stated in the specifications), but otherwise I like the keyboard. Some people who need a keyboard for everyday serious typing may not like the WKB-3100UB, but it's not really made for that. It's made to be compact, simple, and useful as a remote control device. Once you get comfortable with the keyboard, light to medium typing tasks can be accomplished and for remotely controlling a PC (or other device), it works very well.

For more information: Adesso WKB-3100UB Wireless Mini Trackball Keyboard
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