When it comes to keyboards, we usually test their looks, ability to type, features and something quirky like the noise of the keys as they are typed on. With a mini keyboard like this one, the main focus of any testing is how much it improves the typing experience over the standard controller. Therefore testing involves me using the Mini Chat keyboard to write messages to different people, and compare the time spent to that spent using a controller. This will involve special characters, smileys and numbers.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a PS3, so to test the Mini Chat keyboard I’ll be using my Xbox 360. I could test it on a PC too, but let’s face it, no one will use it for that.
Starting up Xbox Live, I went to attach the mini chat keyboard to my controller, and it didn’t fit. So I swapped for the other plastic clip, and that didn’t fit either. It seems that while the Speedlink mini chat can be used on an Xbox, and a Wii, it will only clip on to a PS3 controller. However, you still need to – and can, thankfully – plug in the USB wireless receiver into the 360, in order to receive the commands from the Mini Chat keyboard.
Once it was powered up, turned on and plugged in at the wireless end, I popped open my woefully small friends list and began tapping out a message to one of those that happened to be online at the time. At first typing with your thumbs on a QWERTY layout keyboard is a bit strange, as the dual thumb posture is one I’m more used to using on a mobile phone keypad. However, after a few minutes I got used to it and I was tapping out sentences relatively quickly. After that I started throwing in a few smileys, some extra characters, numbers etc. all pretty simple. By this point I realised that the message I had written was a few hundred characters long, so I figured I’d restart and have a go with the standard 360 controller.
Woe is me. This felt like I was typing through quicksand, if that’s possible. The process of selecting each letter with the controller took forever compared to the Mini Chat, and I found myself sorely missing it for this type of communication. In the real world, I’m not sure how much use I would get out of it, since it’s I use voice communication to save my the need to type; quick recording on my headset is a pretty speedy way of sending someone a quick F-U, or a game invite. However, when it comes to typing, the only way you could create a faster way of doing things is plugging in a full keyboard, and that would slightly kill off the "handy" aspect of the Mini Chat.
The quick type smiley’s were quite cool too.
Unfortunately, the Mini Chat from Speedlink isn’t that cheap. Coming in at £27.49, it’s definitely going to be a bit too expensive for most people, since you can buy a wireless controller for less.