Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller Review

Thanks to Lenovo, I’ve been given an interesting new gadget to review – the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. It’s a compact sized wireless keyboard, designed for usage from a couch.

For a long time, I’ve used a computer plugged into the main loungeroom TV for a variety of things – watching TV shows and movies via local copies of content on Kodi, streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, as well as general web browsing.

The sticking point on doing all of this from a couch rather than a desk, is how to drive it all. I’ve tried a fairly vast array of devices:

  • A standard wireless keyboard and mouse, an ‘air mouse’ – too clunky and no nice flat surface to use the mouse on.
  • An ‘air mouse’ which is what happens when you breed a keyboard and Nintendo Wiimote together – inaccurate and slow to type on.
  • A dedicated remote control for ‘media’ content – too limiting in what you can do with it, no keyboard for typing.
  • Smartphone as keyboard/mouse – keyboard too slow to type on, mouse too tricky to use, always need smartphone around.
  • All in one keyboard and trackpad – the current winner for me (Logitech K400

The all in one keyboard and trackpad gives me what I want – a full keyboard experience so I can type fast, a multi-touch trackpad so I can move the cursor around fairly well, and use gestures like scrolling through pages. However, it’s still rather large, and doesn’t really like being dropped (the batteries generally go flying).

That’s why I was looking forward to trying Lenovo’s solution to this, and compare it to my currently winning solution.

The box turned up which looks simple enough, and shows what you’re getting :

Opening the box, all that’s inside beyond plastic and manuals are the keyboard itself, a tiny dongle, and a USB extension cable.

The keyboard itself looks and feels very well made. I was expecting something of average quality, but this feels premium. It has a reasonable amount of weight to it and the keys feel very solid – there is no cheap plastic to be found:

Getting the back cover off was a bit tricky – I needed to apply a lot more force than I was comfortable with, but that’s probably good for a device that’ll probably get thrown around and dropped. It takes two AAA batteries (included in the box in some countries) which will last up to 8 months – about normal for a wireless keyboard.

After clicking the back cover back on, I had one more look at the device. It has a decent amount of weight to it which helps with the premium feel, and a curved back sort of like an old iPhone 3GS, but a more emphasised curve – again, a really nice design that feels good to hold:

After plugging it in to my Intel NUC running Windows 10, the device was ready to use. When I first looked at the device (I decided to approach it with no research until after I’d finished playing), I assumed the bottom section was a trackpad. It turns out, the entire keyboard area is a trackpad! Everywhere from the top left Escape key, to the bottom right arrow key is one giant trackpad – despite the keys actually being individual buttons that press down. It even supports gestures, such as scrolling.

Quick demo of using the device as a trackpad

The bottom section are dedicated left and right click mouse buttons, with no touch abilities. The keyboard itself can be used to click also, just like a trackpad and using a tap motion rather than actually pressing down on it.

It’s also worth noting that the cursor sensitivity can be adjusted via the keyboard itself, with the Fn + F9 and Fn+F10 key combos – personally I upped the sensitivity a bit.

After using it for a while, here’s the pros and cons I formed about this device:

Pros:

  • High quality device – good materials, good weight, not flimsy in any way
  • Compact – it’s about the size of a large smartphone
  • Touchpad accuracy – fairly accurate with a very large surface to work with
  • Keyboard keys – they press down seperately and actually click. Typing can be done similar to the old full keyboard Nokias.
  • Battery – ~ 8 months means you won’t go flat easily, or have to remember about charging the device. It can be treated like any other standard remote control

Cons:

  • Small keys – no small device will let me type as fast as I can on a full sized keyboard, but this is probably the best to expect for a device this size
  • Touchpad sensitivity – because the keys are so close to the edge, I found my hands would accidently rest againt a key and affect my ability to move the cursor.

Overall, this is the best keyboard I’ve seen for couch usage for it’s size. The more important consideration is how you expect to use it; if you do a lot of typing and are used to typing fast, you’re going to need a full sized keyboard – no mini keyboard is going to be as good to use. However, for light typing and a trackpad experience, in a form factor that’s around smart-phone size, this ticks all the boxes.

Because the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller is a different style of device than what you’d be used to, there is a little adaptation required to put your hands in the right spot, get used to tapping the trackpad instead of clicking and use a small keyboard – but these to me were just minor adjustments I had to learn, rather than being too difficult to change what I do.

A note for Australians – at the time of writing, I can’t see anywhere to buy this locally, but for US residents the device costs around $40US.



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