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Tech Reviews: Flexible USB Keyboard and USB Car Charger from BudgetGadgets.com

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The two gadgets under scrutiny today both come from BudgetGadgets.com.  The first is the blue silicon USB flexible keyboard and the second is a car cigarette-lighter power adapter that accepts USB cables like those used to charge the MP3 players, cameras, and GPS devices.  How do they stack up, and is any quality sacrificed for a bargain price?  Let's take a look.

First, let's preface any comments about this sort of flexy keyboard with the fact that — at least from the user reviews of flexible keyboards on Amazon and New Egg — these keyboards don't function well for typing.  As ridiculous as that sounds, many people still like them for the portability, ease of cleaning, and virtual indestructibility.  For certain environments high in moisture, dirt, or dust, these keyboards would endure well.  You still need to consider that touch-typers hate them, lamenting the force and excess precision needed to register some keypresses; pressing the edge of a key or hitting it unevenly or at an angle will get you no output.  Those who hunt-and-peck fare better with them.

With all that said, this keyboard performs just like the rest, for better or worse.  The silicon exterior feels good under the fingers, but the responsiveness of it is iffy at best.  Here is an example of what you can expect.  The top sentence was touch-typed directly on my laptop keyboard, and the bottom is what I got trying to touch-type the same sentence with the flexible USB keyboard:

I like to go outside
ilike togotide

Playing at the park is fun
playingtte prk i fn

Lundqvist lunges forward
Lndqist lungesfoward

It's a four-on-three situation
it' four-o-the iuion

I wish this keyboard would actually work.
 whthi kebordd tuy wr.

It's as if I were having a seizure while typing.
itasf Iwere ng a aseizurewe tyng

Having used one of these flexy keyboards myself now and seeing that this particular one reflects the rule, not the exception, it makes those flying-fingers typing scenes by Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard seem about as believable as Goldblum's virus that took down Independence Day's aliens.

I thought maybe it just needed broken in, but I've been using it for a few weeks now and it's no better than the day I bought it.  On the upside, you can roll it up, fold it, submerge it in water, or deform it just about any way you want and it still works fine.  Just don't fold it up while plugged in and using it; this can cause keys to stop working or generate random output.  It's also the most portable type of keyboard ever made, and this particular make/model has a full set of keys, something many do not, including a numerical pad, Print Screen, Scroll Lock, Pause, Page Up/Down, Home/End, Insert/Delete, a Windows key, and special buttons for Wake Up, Sleep, and Power.  Now, if only it were more responsive and forgiving to typists.

For very limited or emergency use or for specific situations that a standard keyboard would never survive, this isn't a bad alternative; just know the shortcomings going in.  It does no worse than the others of its ilk, but it can be a pain to use.  The brief manual has a number of typos, grammatical, and mechanical errors I can only assume are translation problems (BudgetGadgets.com originates in China).  Some more localization and clean-up would have been nice, but it's not terribly necessary since the keyboard is totally plug-and-play.  No drivers are needed, and no software is included.

The other gizmo I'm looking at today is a car charger designed for devices that typically charge off a powered USB port.  Many MP3 players can only be charged this way without a special adapter, and other devices have come to accept a USB charge over the years.  The charger's rated for 12-24V DC input and 5.0V DC output, and current of 800MA.  This should be compatible with a fairly wide range of devices; the ones I tested it with were an Apple iPod Nano, a Creative Zen Mozaic, and a Sony NV-U44 GPS unit.  

About Mark Buckingham

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    I’ve never used one of these flexy keyboards, but somehow this doesn’t surprise me. The big heavy clicky IBM keyboards are still my theoretical ideal, though I don’t use one any more.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Sounds like the keyboards used for my typing class in high school. The firm and loud clicking feedback definitely let me know when the keypress registered.

    I have non-flexy Logitech slim backlit keyboard I got around Christmas I’ve been meaning to review that I really like, despite its quietness and shallow key press depth.

  • http://www.ehow.com/how_5042075_iphone-iphone-apps.html w I Got a Free iPhone With Free iPhone Apps

    I was just now googling around about this when I came by your post. I’m simply stopping by to say that I very much liked seeing this post, it’s very well written. Are you going to post more on this? It seems like there’s more depth here for later posts.

  • Jack

    I used one of these flexible keyboards when they first came out.

    I dont know where these keyboards are at with current improvements but the ones i found I agree they cant be used for fast typing which rules out a lot of things.

    In my opinion they are ok for admin tasks but i dont know how they would fare for gaming, i believe they are portable which is fine but they might not be accurate enough for fast paced activities

  • Netty

    I own such a flexible keyboard and use it most time outside (“in nature) where nature would destroy a normal keyboard (sand, water etc.)

  • Julius

    I have these 2 the flexible keyboard and the dual usb wall charger. Unfortunately my Keyboard has been broke because of tea spilled in it.