Preview: Stowaway XT
Mon Oct 28, 2002 - 12:15 AM EST
Ok, let me clear the air. The Stowaway XT is only available for the Palm Universal connector, and Think Outside will not comment on future products (Read: no Treo Stowaway yet).
However, after working with this device for the last couple of months, I encourage all of you to read this because the device I am about to tell you about is beyond words.
Today, Think Outside, makers of the original Stowaway keyboard, and Palm Inc., released the new Stowaway XT. (Palm has named it the “Ultra-Thin” keyboard, but we will refer to it as the Stowaway XT in this article).
For anyone who thought that the Stowaway was a marvel of engineering, you won’t believe this. While still keeping a full size keyboard this new model is half the volume, half the height, and 30% lighter than the original Stowaway. This means that it is thinner than a Visor or almost any Palm OS PDA. It can actually fit in your pocket – no, not my teenager cargo pants, a real pocket.
Instead of having a dual-fold “W” approach, Think Outside went back to the drawing board and constructed an ingenious single fold design. It doesn’t just fold in half – it folds in half while sliding, giving it a rigid back and centering the connector in the middle of the keyboard. One of the major drawbacks of the original Stowaway was that you really couldn’t type with the keyboard resting on your lap. With the rigid back this is no longer, and while working with it I found that to be true. The unit and much of the mechanism is made of solid anodized aluminum – it is just as strong, if not stronger as the original.
To save space, the keyboard utilizes a four row design instead of the normal five. While the key spacing and key travel are full size, this means that if you type numbers or anything on the top row of a keyboard you must press a modifier key. Also, the space key is broken up into two almost identical sized keys. It took just a little bit for me to get used to where the FN keys are located, but after that was done I had no trouble touch typing any numbers. Because the keys are full sized, typing was a breeze. My words per minute (WPM) has not suffered while using this keyboard; Using this helpful Palm OS WPM utility, I calculated that I was typing at 80 WPM – the same as my average speed on the desktop as measured by online speed tests (I have 20 WPM graffiti and 40 WPM on Treo thumb-board).
The only thing that bugged me on the entire keyboard was that the backspace key was a bit short and I had gotten into a habit of pressing the very right hand side of the key, so I missed it a lot.
The most striking thing when you look at this keyboard is its beauty. Pictures do not do this gadget justice. The black and the natural metal color go beautifully together, and the design reminds you of a bird – the keyboard has wings. The size is unreal, and hopefully, just hopefully, there will be other versions coming out soon. (Handspring and Think Outside !!!!please!!!!) When in use, the PDA sits on a wide sturdy cradle that disappears into the unit.
You see? The Treo looks so nice sitting in the keyboard. You can tell Handspring that you want a Stowaway XT here. The Stowaway just wouldn’t have worked with a Treo, it was too big. The new design works perfectly with the Treo – let’s hope that somewhere somebody is listening. Of course, you can go and buy a Palm with a universal connector and use it, but than you lose your beloved Treo.
The Stowaway XT is $99, while older the original Stowaway models for Palm and Handspring are $79. Sony Is $89 and Kyocera models are still $99.