PS3 wireless keypad; worth it?
For as long as the PS3 has been around, a proper keyboard has been the best way to handle the situation. But a full size keyboard means you have to stop using the controller and grab a separate device.
So is the new Wireless Keypad the answer to all your chatting needs?
Unboxing the Wireless Keypad is a bit of a pain, but since Sony has announced they are dropping the impossible-to-get-into plastic packaging we would hope this isn’t an issue for very long. After neatly cutting all the way around the package just to get in to the darn thing, the keypad sits nicely in your hand.
Under the pad is a spring-loaded arm that allows you to snap the device convincingly to your SixAxis or DualShock 3. It feels solid and looks the part, following the contours of the controller without issue. The design has clearly been thought about for more than 5 minutes, since the arms do not shield any part of the controller that could be deemed as important.
You can still see all the lights so you know what device number you’re holding, and the USB port is fully available so you can charge without having to remove the keypad. The keypad has its own PS, Select and Start buttons included and these overlay onto the host controllerâ€™s buttons.
The Wireless Keypad has its own battery and a USB port that allows you to charge it up. A full charge took only 20 minutes and the battery life appears to be pretty solid, lasting much longer between charges than the controller it sits on – but that’s no surprise really. The keypad features a power-save mode that switches it off if you don’t type for a while, further prolonging visits to a USB port near you.
Pairing is as simple as possible. Just like the new official Bluetooth Headset, you pair the device by simply plugging it in to the PS3 via a USB cable. A couple of flashing LEDs later and the process is complete.
The keypad features all the usual character buttons plus a range of specialist keys. There’s a key that takes you to your Messages on the XMB in a single press, and one that takes you to your Friends. Since these are in the same place on the XMB, one of these seems a little redundant and better use could have been made of the other key (or it could have been dropped all together). I think Sony missed a trick here, as a Home button might have promoted a little extra use of the service.
You’ll also find a ‘touchpad mode’ button, but more on that later. On the ‘shoulders’ of the controller are two extra ‘shift’ options; one coloured blue, the other orange. These allow you to access the additional symbols available on the keypad, such as !, Â£, $ and &.
Typing on the keypad is a breeze. It is really just like using a Blackberry or a Sony Ericsson P-990. When using the keypad, you find that the best position for your hands it to slide them forward slightly to put counter-pressure under the board. This means you really just slide your hands forward a touch to type, and back again to play or control the cursor using the analogue sticks.
Certainly, moving your hands slightly to type is a lot faster and more convenient than having to move to a different device altogether, such as a full size keyboard. And typing is definitely a lot quicker than using the standard key entry schemes built-in to the PS3, even with predictive text.
The keypad has one extra trick up its sleeve. Pressing the button that activates ‘touchpad mode’ allows you to ‘stroke’ the keys, which in turn moves the cursor or pointer on screen. It operates just like a touchpad on a laptop. When viewing websites that don’t act exactly as you’d expect, it turns out this option is a real boon.
Take Gmail for example. If you check your Gmail account online using your PS3, you will no doubt have noticed that when you use the d-pad to move the pointer around (which should be a shortcut), it jumps across the screen with abandon. Sometimes it can take a while to get the checkbox next to an email selected. The touchpad makes this selection much easier, with two buttons at the bottom of the keypad acting as the left and right mouse buttons accordingly.
The mouse speed is a little slow for my liking, and I couldn’t find a way to adjust it, but it does work well.
It can’t all be roses in the garden though, can it?
In a dimly lit room, it can often be difficult making out the blue and orange text on the black background of the keypad, so knowing which button to press to get that all important symbol into your chat can be a challenge.
The shoulder buttons work well, but they do make me contort my hands just that little bit too much on occasion. And I really wish they hadn’t put the hyphen on the orange button (which sits on the right) and at the same time on the right side of the keypad, since it makes this much used symbol a little harder to select than I’d like.
Neither of these issues gets in the way of how well the unit works overall. The Wireless Keypad certainly makes the whole process of showing everyone what a literary genius looks like without getting in the way of a good fragging.