Tag Archives: wii

Keyboards, consoles and living rooms: Trust Thinity reviewed

Computers are for the study, consoles for the living room, right? Kind-of, but we are seeing some convergence. The box under your TV might actually be a Mac Mini or a PC, or you might be browsing the web on your Sony PS3. From time to time you hit a problem: game controllers are lousy for text input.

I was an early adopter for Microsoft’s Media Center PC, and hit exactly this problem. Microsoft’s media center remote was good in its way, but sometimes I needed a keyboard and mouse. I ended up getting a wireless keyboard. However I also discovered that a keyboard, while great for a desk, is an awkward thing to have lying around in a living room.

This is the problem Trust is trying to address with its Thinity Wireless Entertainment Keyboard. This is a small keyboard – think netbook-sized – with an integrated trackpad. It comes with a USB wifi adaptor and a stand/charger.

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When sat in its charger it is reasonably stylish as these things go, but still looks like a keyboard.

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The Thinity is compatible with Windows PCs – why not Mac? – Sony PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Xbox 360. There is no need to install drivers, just plug in the USB device and it works. That said, there is no caps lock indicator on the keyboard, so you can download a software indicator for Windows if you want.

The trackpad is actually multitouch, and as well as having hardware left and right buttons,  tapping with three fingers makes a right button click, and it behaves as a scroller if you drag with two fingers.

How is it then? Well, it does the job and is easier than using a game controller to type URLs and passwords. I cannot rate it highly though, since it is not a particularly well-designed keyboard. The keys are close together and it is hard to type at speed. I would not enjoy using it as a main PC keyboard; I wrote most of this review with it but found it a struggle.

It is also a shame that there are no configuration options for Windows. I would like to turn off tapping, which I personally find a nuisance because of accidental clicking though I know others who love it.

Although the Trust brand is associated with budget gear, I get the impression that the company set out to make at least a mid-range product, with multi-touch keypad and a long-lasting li-ion battery. Unfortunately it needs a bit more design effort, making it seem over-priced for what it is. There are little annoyances, like the fiddly on-off switch, the support tabs on the back that are hard to prise open, and the fact that the keyboard flexes a little more than it should.

Logitech’s Google TV, the Revue, has a keyboard/trackpad that is only a little larger, but is more usable.

But do you want a keyboard in the living room at all? Personally I am doubtful. They are a transitional necessity. I am a fan of apps rather than remotes. The virtual keyboard on an Apple iPad does all that is necessary for occasional text input in a more elegant and living-room-friendly manner. Nintendo is taking this same direction with the Wii U, which has a touch controller with its own screen.

Of course these devices cost more and do more than a simple wireless keyboard, but they are inherently better suited to the task. One factor is that when you type, you do not want to be 12 feet away from where the letters are appearing on a screen. With a screen-equipped remote, they are right in front of you.

That does not solve the immediate problem with a PS3, Xbox or Media Center PC, so you will still need something like the Thinity, though I would suggest you check out the competition too. Long term though, I do not think we will see many keyboards in the living room.

Nintendo bringing dual screen to the Wii with smart controller

Nintendo has announced the Wii U, set for release sometime in 2012. If the unique feature of the original Wii was the motion controller, this new one is characterised by a smart controller that is in effect a mini-console in its own right, complete with 6.2″, 16:9 touch screen, accelerometer and gyroscope. In fact, it sounds a lot like a tablet with game controller buttons.

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As for the console, it is not so different from before except that it now includes an IBM Power-based multi-core processor and from what was seen at E3, a substantial advance in graphical power. The original Wii Remote controllers are still supported, as are accessories like the Wii Balance Board.

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The console has internal flash memory, but you can attach an external USB hard drive. The disc drive reads a new proprietary high-density format as well as existing Wii titles, with which it is backward-compatible.

Why two screens? Well, it opens up many new possibilities for game play as well as non-gaming uses. At E3 it was shown being used for video chat.

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Nintendo spoke of the Wii U having a “strong bond between games, the TV and the internet,” and the new controller could be used for social interaction while the main screen is showing TV or internet content.

Having a second screen also means you have use one for navigation and the other for content, which makes a lot of sense.

I admire Nintendo’s ability to innovate. Now that the other consoles have picked up the idea of motion controllers, Nintendo is branching in a different direction, and this looks like a good upgrade for the Wii.

At the same time, the similarity of the new controller to an Apple iPad or RIM PlayBook or Android tablet gives me pause for thought.

First, it is going to be expensive relative to the original Wii.

Second, what are the possibilities for gaming if Apple put together the iPad and the Mac, or if Microsoft broke with its past and actually integrated Windows 8 on a tablet with the Xbox 360?

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15 minutes with the Nintendo 3DS

Today I got to try a Nintendo 3DS for the first time. A few first impressions.

It is a neat unit though it feels a little flimsy compared to the original DS or the DS Lite. I like the charging dock that comes in the box. Here it is, complete with genuine user fingerprints. The joystick (or circle pad) on the left is beautifully responsive.

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My first question was: what is the 3D like? The answer is that it really works.

I spent some time playing with the Augmented Reality game, where you lay cards on a table, point the 3DS rear cameras at them, and see magic happen as three dimensional creatures emerge, intermingled with the real world around them.

Photographing this takes more skill than I possess, but to give you the idea, here are four Augmented Reality cards (all in the box as standard) that I have laid on the desk:

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and here is a snap of the 3DS top screen viewing those cards in the AR game:

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You cannot see it from this image, but the 3D effect is vivid, and the background is the desk on which the cards are placed. A gimmick, but an engaging one.

The built-in AR game is a lot of fun and makes use of the AR background in that you have to pan the camera around the targets to shoot successfully, something which cannot be reproduced in a purely screen-based game.

What about eye strain? I am not sure; but the 3D screen did seem to strain my eyes slightly. There is a slider which lets you reduce or disable the 3D effect easily, so the eye strain possibility should not deter you, except that since you are paying for a 3D device it is a shame not to use it.

There is a lot more packed into the 3Ds though. It has an accelerometer and gyroscope, one front and two rear (for 3D) cameras, and wireless LAN that supports WPA/WPA2 at last – this was an annoyance with the older WEP-only models.

The software has the usual Nintendo quality, complete with the ability to create Mii avatars similar to those on the Wii, but this time they can be based on a snapshot of someone’s face taken with the built-in camera.

The downside versus the original DS is the battery life – just 3-5 hours.

Still, DS fans will love the 3DS. But will it grow its market? I’m doubtful. A lot of the market for casual gaming has passed to smartphones now; and for someone with a modern smartphone, the 3DS duplicates a lot of functionality. Few smartphones have 3D of course, though I did see the LG Optimus 3D at Mobile World Congress last month.

But how important a feature is 3D? That is an open question, and I guess depends on how much difference it makes to gameplay. My quick impression is that while it is truly impressive when first encountered, it is something you soon feel you could manage without – but that is only a quick impression and I could be proved wrong.