Koribo Wireless Keyboard Roundup Review

nVidia_Freak - 2010-12-14 11:26:37 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: nVidia_Freak   
Reviewed on: March 21, 2011
Price: TBD

Introduction:

If you've never heard of Koribo before, you're not alone. Koribo is an Israeli-based company that designs electronic and computer input peripherals. They are not much known outside of the Middle East and currently have no American distributors. Koribo's current product lineup consists of one Media Center / Home Theater PC remote, and four wireless MC/HTPC keyboards, three of which I will be looking at: the Leira, Vivar, and Mini.

Koribo says that its products offer a uniqueness over the competition - they are both stylish and practical; they offer form without sacrificing function. Koribo says that this is essential to increasing the "wife acceptance factor".  The WAF, as the Wikipedia page that Koribo links directly to on their website says, is '...the chance that a wife will approve the purchase of expensive consumer electronics...'  Thus, this concerns purchases of computers, and by extension, Koribo's keyboards. The Wikipedia entry goes on to further explain that the WAF increases, for the most part, as the stylishness and compactness of the product increases.

Well, let's take a look at the keyboards.

Closer Look:

First up, the Leira. I like the look of this keyboard immediately. It's pleasantly rectangular and has a touch-pad. The touch-pad alone makes me giddy with anticipation to start using this! Hopefully its functionality backs that feeling up. As can be plainly seen, the Leira is a multimedia media center keyboard and features a variety of function and shortcut keys to make access to multimedia material and high-use folders as easy as possible. Marketing is briefly mentioned out front.

Very standard stuff here. The only thing that's worth clarifying and noting is the 10 meters, which refers to the usable wireless range between the keyboard and receiver. 10m is a bit over 30', and, although that's a rather large distance to be from a computer to still use it, it's definitely worth checking out. On the reverse side are explanations to the points mentioned out front, as well as some other highlights.

What's this 'automatic sleep mechanism'? Will the Leira force put me to sleep on the spot if I don't get off my ass after a Lord of the Rings marathon? Is there an air mattress hidden inside? That aside, everything's fairly standard with one exception - the touchpad functionality. Not only does the Leira have a touchpad with its own mouse buttons, there are an extra pair of buttons on the opposite side of the keyboard. To top it off, the touchpad has multi-touch capability. What this means is that the touchpad can register at least three separate inputs. Obviously, using one finger acts to move the cursor around, however, the other two functions are quite clever.

Those should prove to be very useful, and indeed, with its combined keyboard and mouse abilities, the Leira is looking to be an excellent keyboard.

 

 

Next, the Vivar. Just about the same thing, but in a different shape. A rather curious shape; a stretched oval, or perhaps more like an egg nearing the event horizon of a black hole. Yes, that's exactly what it looks like... There aren't quite so many buttons as with the Leira, but, it certainly looks functional enough. Aside from the shape, the most obvious difference is the use of a trackball instead of a touchpad. Having never used a trackball before, I am rather anxious to try this out. Marketing follows the same scheme as the preceding.

Exactly the same as the Leira with one addition: rechargeable batteries. Presumably, making that a selling point means that the Leira does not come with rechargeable batteries. Everything else aside, that could make the Vivar a more economical purchase. Same scheme again out back.

The list isn't particularly remarkable; however, it does provide some clarifications and insight as to what's inside. Not visible from a top-down photograph like the one out front are a scroll wheel and mouse button on the front side of the keyboard. The trackball is reasonably sensitive, which might mean something for gaming, but, this is a multimedia keyboard, so, I'm not quite sure why this is mentioned. Again, there's mention of this 'automatic sleep mechanism' with no explanation. Maybe after so many minutes of inactivity the keyboard will power down to prevent draining the batteries? I suppose I'll have to find out.

 

 

And finally, the Mini, which shall remain shrouded in mystery for the time being.

 

Closer Look:

Packaging for the Leira is rather average. The keyboard itself is protected only by a thin plastic bag and rests on a bit of thin cardboard. Along with the keyboard are two standard 1.5V AA alkaline batteries, which are not rechargeable, and a USB wireless receiver. The receiver is very compact and only slightly larger than a USB flash drive. On the front of the USB receiver are an LED and a button. Although the purpose of neither is particularly clear, perhaps the button is used to synchronize the receiver with the keyboard?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, here are some pictures of the Leira in the flesh.  The below photos are there more as beauty shots, but, they do highlight a few things. The Leira is constructed of black colored plastic and feels unusually sturdy, though lightweight. The lettering on the keys, surprisingly, does not use the pad printing technique. Pad printed keys are characterized by having a raised surface and resemble stickers if looked at in bright light or on an angle. The Leira feels like and appears to use laser etched keys that have had the etched spaces filled in with paint to make the letters visible. That's a more expensive way of lettering keys and is a very nice touch, because laser etched keys don't wear as quickly as they would if they were pad printed. An unexpected but very nice touch. If you've been paying attention, you will have noticed the Hebrew characters on the keys, there because they are an Israeli-based company, and these are keyboards meant for that market. The keys themselves, although curved, as they are with most keyboards, are low-profile keys like those found on laptops, and, because they are low profile keys, they are closer together. This will likely cause some frustration when typing if you're used to full-sized keyboards. Out back is the battery compartment, and, just as on the USB receiver, there is an unmarked button. Perhaps this one is a shutoff switch?

 

 

 

 

On the left side of the keyboard are the control keys that are mentioned on the box. The keys are clearly labeled and each key's function is quite obvious: next, previous, fast forward, rewind, play, pause, stop record, volume up, volume down, volume mute, and something I don't normally see: channel changing buttons. Also on this side of the keyboard are two mouse buttons and a scroll wheel. Although this may seem redundant with the multi-touch touchpad, it does balance the workload between hands.

 

Top and center on the keyboard are the media center/Internet browser hotkeys. The keys are clearly labeled and the function of each is obvious, although, I do wonder what each will do within Firefox.

 

A numpad is included on the Leira, though it's not in the usual spot due to the location of the touchpad. A handful of keys on the right side of the keyboard find themselves pulling double duty as both letters and numbers. A numlock key is located directly to the right of the F12 key to make switching between letters and numbers easy.

 

Finally, on the far right of the keyboard is the touchpad. It's standard sized; about what you would find on a laptop. Above the touchpad is an LED to indicate when the batteries need to be replaced. As for the little dome to the right of the LED, though you might think it to relate to the wireless transmission, is simply decoration.

Closer Look:

Packaging in the Vivar box is a little nicer than that of the Leira. The Vivar is supported by a plastic molding that also provides some side cushioning. Just as is stated on the box, two white, or rather in this case green, label 1.2V AA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries are included, along with a USB cable that can be used to connect the Vivar to a computer to recharge the included batteries. The Vivar's USB receiver is smaller than the Leira's and features an LED.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the Vivar looks a bit curious, it's also a curious feeling keyboard, because it's coated with a very thin layer of rubber. Although things with the coating do look and feel nice, the rubber coating attracts fingerprints second only to polished plastic. Perhaps this is for the more artsy folk who own MC/HTPCs. Like the Leira, the Vivar uses low-profile keys with scissor switches, that are closer together than full-size keys, though, these keys are much flatter. Again, this might cause some typing irritation if you're not used to the limited spacing. Unlike the Leira, however, the Vivar does not use laser etched lettering, but instead uses the more common and inexpensive method of pad printing. Essentially, the lettering is stickers. This form of key lettering can wear out from excessive use, though with MC/HTPCs this shouldn't be a particular problem. It's more of an aesthetic concern, because pad printed keys don't look quite so nice as other forms of lettering in bright lighting or when viewed at an angle. Out back is pretty much the same as with the Leira, except this time, the battery compartment also provides a space that houses the USB wireless receiver. A clever use of that space, which, if you remember to put the receiver in there, should prevent the receiver's loss.

 

 

 

On the left side of the Vivar are the left and right mouse buttons as well as half of the hotkeys. Again, it's rather obvious what each button does, though, I am curious about the third button from the left with the photo of a computer on it. And there's more in front! On the left front corner of the Vivar there is a scroll wheel that is easy to reach when using the mouse buttons.

 

 

Right in the middle of the keyboard is an LED that I would suppose glows or blinks when the battery to be charged and is charging. On the middle front are several things. These are, from left to right, a button to synchronize the keyboard and receiver, a USB plug that the included cable plugs into when charging the batteries, and a switch with the selections of 'Gaming' and 'Normal'. It's somewhat odd, to me, to see this particular switch, not only because those normally aren't present on keyboards, but in particular, because the Vivar is a multimedia keyboard. This I'll definitely have to check out.

 

 

Like the Leira, the Vivar also has a numpad built into some of the keys toward the right of the keyboard.

 

On the right side are the other half of the hotkeys and the trackball. The trackball is about twice the size of a standard mouse ball. On the right front corner there is a button.  What this button does, I do do not know.

 

Closer Look:

Ah!, finally we take a look at the Mini. Packaging is sparse, but there is some air and cardboard cushioning to protect the sides. Along with the Mini are two, standard 1.5V alkaline AA batteries, and a small USB wireless receiver. This receiver does not have any LEDs or buttons, unlike the other two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may have guessed from the first photo where the scale of the Mini is obvious, the Mini is a rather small keyboard. In fact, it's about the same size as a gamepad. As such, the keys are very, very, very...very small; smaller than the number keys on most cellphones. I imagine the Mini will be a pain to type with. Because of the space constraint of the Mini, some the hotkeys are not so much hotkeys as they are function keys. The top row of number keys when used in conjunction with the orange 'Fn' key can be used to access various folders and programs, such as opening your video folder or movie player.

If you've paid close attention to detail, you might have noticed that neither the Leira or Vivar have numlock, capslock, or scroll lock indicators, therefore, a curiosity of the Mini is the addition of a caps lock indicator that also doubles as the battery indicator. Why the smallest keyboard of the three is the only one to receive this distinction I cannot tell. On the right side of the Mini is a small joystick that presumably acts as the mouse. The joystick also spins in place, perhaps as a scroll wheel. Out front there are two bumper buttons that seem obvious, to me, to act as the mouse buttons. On back there are several things. Unlike the Leira and Vivar, likely due to space constraints again, each side of the Mini houses one battery. There is also another uniqueness to the Mini, a clearly labeled power switch. This is particularly useful since the Mini does not come with rechargeable batteries and so the obvious ability to turn it off will help to extend their lives. As with the Leira and Vivar, the Mini also has a synchronizing button, and like the Vivar, has a small spot to store the USB receiver.

 

 

 

Specifications

Leira

Working Range 10m/15m Through walls/open space
Power 2x AA Batteries
Mouse Multi-touch touchpad
Mouse Sensitivity 400 DPI
OS Support Windows 2000 and later, Linux
Technology 2.4GHz Radio frequency

 

Vivar

Working Range 10m/15m Through walls/open space
Power 2x AA Batteries
Mouse Optical trackball
Mouse Sensitivity 1000 DPI
OS Support Windows 2000 and later, Linux
Technology 2.4GHz Radio frequency

 

Mini

Working Range 10m/15m Through walls/open space
Power 2x AA Batteries
Mouse Joystick
OS Support Windows 2000 and later, Linux
Technology 2.4GHz Radio frequency

 

Features

Leira

 

Vivar

 

Mini

Information available online from Koribo at http://www.koribo.com/pd1_Koribo--Leira.aspx , http://www.koribo.com/pd3_Koribo--Vivar.aspx , and http://www.koribo.com/pd5_Koribo--Mini.aspx

Installation

Installation is identical and straightforward for all three keyboards. Insert the batteries into their holders and plug in the USB wireless receiver. That's it. No further input from the user is required, because Windows takes care of everything.

 

Testing:

Testing Setup:

 

Testing of the keyboards was done over a period of approximately one week with daily usage. Each keyboard was tested as I normally use my Déck: watching videos, playing music, typing, and the occasional game. Special attention was given to the hotkeys and mousing ability of each keyboard. Note that as I don't have a Media Center Edition operating system, some of the hotkeys will not function as intended or not at all.

 

Leira

Typing with the Leira is somewhat bothersome, as I expected. The mushy keys caused me to occasionally miss keystrokes, because I didn't press them down hard enough. The close proximity of the keys caused me to stumble a quite a few times, most of which was hitting the caps lock key instead of 'A', and tapping the 'up' arrow key instead of right shift. Most people won't notice this and will probably adapt to the layout fairly easily, and by that I mean those that haven't been swayed to use a mechanical keyboard. An important thing to note is that numlock is off by default, and since there are no indicators to show this, some confusion will ensue until the numlock button is pressed. Certainly, I was worried that there was something wrong with the keyboard when I initially used it and found a third of my key presses entering numbers instead of letters! Simply tap the key and numlock will be off.

The multi-touch touchpad is very fun to use. I have a natural fascination touchpads, but I assure you it really is quite nifty. It works just like Koribo says it will; tapping with two fingers and moving both in the same direction acts as a scroll wheel, and tapping with three fingers is a right click. As for moving or extending windows, the mouse buttons on the left side of the keyboard make that possible. The touchpad is exceedingly enjoyable to use. The Leira really is an all-in-one keyboard/mouse.

The hotkeys functioned as you'd expect within Foobar and Media Player Home Cinema, with the exception that I was not able to fast forward or rewind movies, though, I was able to navigate by chapter just fine. While playing movies in Media Player Classic - Home Cinema, pressing the 'My Video' key loads the main menu. Within windowed applications, the 'X' key closes the program, so there's no need to spend any time hovering over the 'X' itself. The 'Home' key will open up a new browser if no program is currently active, and will load the home page in a new tab if one is already open and active. Curiously, the Media Center OS specific keys did have functions within Firefox, though I found this out only by trying them out. Pressing the 'My TV' key will also load the homepage in a new tab. 'My Video' selects the Google search bar and automatically selects all text currently entered in it. 'My Picture' opens the bookmark sidebar. And 'Live TV' opens a blank tab and selects the address bar.

To clear away some mystery about lights and buttons, I noticed when typing that the green LED on the USB receiver blinks any time activity is registered. Every time a button is pressed, the touchpad or scroll wheel used, the light blinks. I suppose that might come in handy if you're unsure if the keyboard is on or off, otherwise it might be somewhat annoying depending on where and how the receiver is placed. I also discovered that the keyboard does in fact have a power off function, though how to use it isn't very clear. The small, unlabeled button on the underside of the keyboard will shut the keyboard off when pressed. Turning it back on, however, is not so straight forward. Nowhere is the way to do this mentioned on the box or on Koribo's website, however, I did manage to figure it out. The button on the receiver must be pressed first, after which the LED will blink on and off for some time. While the LED is blinking, the button on the back of the keyboard must be pressed, and that turns the keyboard back on. So that's what those buttons are for and how to use them. Turning the keyboard on might be a slight inconvenience if the receiver isnt't readily available, though.

As these keyboards are primarily aimed for MC/HTPC use, I didn't try to play any very fast paced games or FPSs. Instead, I fooled around with Minecraft for a little while to see how easy it was to play using just the keyboard. Minecraft is a very easy going game that doesn't require quick decisions and movements, and I imagine this might be along the upper end of the sort of games you might play on a rig primarily used as an MP/HTPC. My thinking is that if I can't play Minecraft, or, I become frustrated trying to play Minecraft with one of these keyboards, it probably won't do so well with a fast paced FPS. The Leira did surprisingly well, in large part because of the multi-touch capability touchpad. The right-click is absolutely necessary to play Minecraft, and so even without the additional left and right mouse buttons, the Leira would still be able to get by. That's not to say that you can play Minecraft very quickly with the Leira. It's not so easy to make quick movements with a touchpad, but, it certainly is playable, though, some patience is required. All things considered, the Leira is a very nice multimedia keyboard that can theoretically be used to game.

 

Vivar

Typing with the Vivar isn't as bothersome as with the Leira. Although the keys are still closer to together and some mistakes and mis-presses occurred, it's somewhat 'nicer' when it does happen. A good thing with the Vivar is that numlock is on by default like it should be! Like the Leira, the Vivar has no indicator to show if it's on or not, and so because it is on by default there's no confusion.

The Vivar uses a trackball instead of a touchpad, and it's actually not so bad. This was my introduction to using a trackball mouse and I am pleased with it. Obviously, there's no special functionality with it, but it works. Using the trackball is much quicker, though possibly because of that, not quite as precise as a touchpad. The mouse buttons and scroll wheel work like they should, and I found that the button on the front right side of the keyboard is a secondary left-click button. The idea is to use the trackball with your thumb, and use the left-click button with either your middle or forefinger. This works quite nicely and leaves the left hand to take care of right-clicks and scrolling.

Hotkeys function within Foobar and MPCHC as I expected with one curiosity; using the FFWD and RWD buttons pauses video instead of fast forwarding or rewinding. The button with the picture of a computer on it no longer remains mysterious to me, as I discovered that it opens up a 'My Computer' window. Within Firefox using the FFWD and RWD buttons act as page forward and back, and the 'Home' key has the same functionality as with the Leira. Unfortunately, there are no MC/HTPC specific buttons, and so the Vivar is a fairly standard multimedia keyboard.

The USB receiver from the Vivar also has an activity LED. This one, however, is a glaring blue instead of green and is very bright and annoying, particularly in the dark. The Vivar's power, however, can be toggled without the need to touch the receiver, and so it can be hidden away where it won't be so annoying. Just like the Leira, it's not so obvious how to toggle the power. To turn the Vivar off, press and hold the 'Connect' button for about ten seconds. After releasing the button the Vivar is off. To turn it back on simply tap the button once. When using the USB cable to charge the batteries, the LED glows a steady red. Unfortunately, it is not possible to use the cable to connect the Vivar to a PC, so, if you just don't have any batteries or lose the receiver, you're out of luck.

Using the Vivar to play games is slightly more difficult than with the Leira. Although the trackball does make quick movement possible, clicking and moving at the same time is somewhat difficult because the mouse buttons and planar movement are controlled by the same hand. Using the trackball and nearby left-click button, although traditional, is a little odd to me because I'm not used to left-clicking with my middle or forefinger. The left hand side buttons can also be used, though they nearly require that all planar movement ceases to use them. Switching between gaming and normal modes was not obvious at first. In fact, I discovered the difference outside of Minecraft. When in gaming mode outside of a game, all left-clicks become two single clicks, even if the button is held down. I can't imagine what good it would do in any game, because it certainly didn't help in Minecraft, as holding the left-click button down acts as a single click instead of a continuous click. Perhaps it would provide some novelty fun in other games by firing single shots from an automatic weapon, but, anything else is beyond me. Gaming is possible with the Vivar, though it's not quite as fun or satisfying as the Leira.

 

Mini

The Mini is an awkward little thing. If typing away with your thumbs on a cellphone excites you, you might like the Mini. I don't. Typing is a very slow process, because only the thumbs, or more properly thumbnails, make contact with the keys. The angle at which my thumbs were bent also made them uncomfortable very quickly.

The Mini uses a small thumbstick to act as a mouse. Unfortunately, it's very slow and somewhat odd using to move the cursor around. Spinning the top of the thumbstick produces no result contrary to what I thought, however, I discovered what the curious drawing immediately next to it that looks somewhat like a thermometer does. That little area is a sort of mini-touchpad that acts as a scroll wheel, though, it has only scroll up/down functionality. What I don't care for about the scroll-pad is that it requires more than usual force to engage, and once it is, it's very sensitive, requiring multiple corrections to scroll to where intended. It's a nifty feature, though it could've been implemented a little better.

The hotkeys worked and produced effects just the same as the Leira's. The Mini does have one additional, nifty function button that brings up the program selection menu to select which open program will be the active one. Certainly this is a useful addition considering how awkward the thumbstick mouse is.

The smallest wireless receiver of the bunch has no activity LED, though it certainly would have helped. While testing the Mini I was continually plagued with reception problems. Normal testing was conducted with the keyboards only several feet from the receiver, and the Mini presented problems even at such close range. Multiple times I would try entering text and commands and would see no or only partial results. After continual confusion, I managed to see that if anything, including my leg, was placed in front of the Mini the reception would be interrupted. With a media center keyboard this is a very large problem if the computer isn't immediately nearby. The fact that it has trouble only several feet away, when it should be able to be used through walls is disconcerting.

I attempted to play Minecraft with the Mini, however, reception interruptions, slowness of the joystick, and clumsily moving about made progress utterly slow. I have a hard time finding good things to say about the Mini, so I'll just say that the Mini has the most obvious and clearly labeled power switch of the three keyboards. That's a good thing, isn't it?

Conclusion:

So, Koribo is looking to expand their market reach and thinks it has some damn good products to make that happen, but, does it? Excepting the Mini, I say yes. On their own, the Leira and Vivar are very good keyboards that offer an excellent amount of functionality in a compact size, and I would recommend that anyone interested in a media center keyboard check out Koribo's offerings. Since Koribo has no distributor for the Americas, I also have to take a look at what similar products are available and for what price. As it is, there are a medium-sized handful of media center keyboards that offer the amount of functionality that Koribo's keyboards do. All-in-one keyboard/mouse media center keyboards generally range from $35 to $60 and range in sizes like that of the Leira and Vivar, all the way down to that of the Mini. Given my experience with their keyboards, I think that Koribo would have a fair chance at having a prosperous venture into the American markets if the Leira and Vivar were priced around $40.

Having said that, the Leira and the Vivar are the two keyboards I would recommend. They both offer a wide range of control keys and hotkeys that offer functions not only within media playback programs, but also within Windows and Internet browsers. I prefer the Leira over the Vivar because it has a touchpad, it's a little more aesthetically pleasing, and there are a a few more hotkeys. Otherwise they're nearly identical, both are capable of light gaming, and you really only need to decide if you want a trackball and like the shape of the Vivar. On the other hand, using the Mini just isn't a pleasurable experience. Typing with it for any length of time is cumbersome and uncomfortable, the joystick mouse is slow, reception is shoddy, and the scroll-pad, which might have been a nifty feature, doesn't work so well. There are other miniature media center keyboards available that I've looked at and can only think of as being better than the Mini. They offer touchpads or small trackballs which would certainly make a huge difference. As it is I don't recommend the Mini and don't think it would have much of a chance in the American markets. I rather think that introducing the Mini into the American markets would not be a good way for Koribo to introduce itself. Overall though, the Leira and Vivar are very good media center keyboards and I heartily recommend them and would like to see them distributed over here. All in all, I award Koribo a silver award for the Leira and Vivar, but the Mini will have to go away with nothing.

 

Leira

Pros:

 

Cons:

 

 

Vivar

Pros:

 

Cons:

 

 

Mini

Pros:

 

Cons: