By: Jonathan Kwan
April 5, 2008
You are sitting in your living room, on that beautiful, comfortable, black leather sofa you picked up just a few years ago. The designer lights on the walls are dimmed as the clock ticks past ten. The 50" LCD TV you've come to enjoy everyday after work is eight meters away from you. Under the TV is the home theater PC, along with an array of high end audio and video equipment with their LED lights and displays blinking and flashing in all its glory. Your media computer is hooked up to your television screen using an HDMI cable. CAT5e cables runs around your home with a network operating at Gigabit speeds to stream terabytes of media files from your server to your big screen TV and powerful audio system. An air of tension and suspense fills your living room as the blasts and emotions of the movies are about to come alive on the screen in front of you. You put your feet on the coffee table, wiggle your toes a bit underneath your black socks, and grab a warm cup of coffee to enjoy I am Legend on Bluray. As the clock on the wall continues to tick ever so faithfully while you sit there and wait for something to happen, a sense of shock and horror overcomes you. "How can the computer be operated from the comfort of my sofa without a wireless keyboard and mouse?" you wonder. The year is 2008.
To find a solution for that, we've obtained something specifically for this purpose. Our review unit of the Logitech diNovo Mini came in a really small box from Logitech's offices in Fremont, California using DHL Express. I knew that a diNovo Mini was on the way soon, but I never imagined that it was physically that small that the retail packaging can be packed into the shipping box as shown in the photo above.
As usual from Logitech, our unit for review arrived in retail packaging. The shipping box's design is reminiscent of other products from the company; in Logitech teal and black color scheme with traces of white. Model name and a photo are placed in front, with product features and highlights shown at the back.
Before we move on, let's take a look at the specifications of the Logitech diNovo Mini, as obtained from Logitech's website:
- 25 mm (.98-inch) dual-purpose ClickPad. Works as a touch pad and a 4-way directional pad
- Thumb-operated keypad design
- 63 backlighted keys
- Backlighting for two modes—orange for touch-pad mode, green for media-center remote mode
- Ambient light sensor measures current available light and turns off backlight, if necessary, to conserve power
- Troy gloss silver with midnight black design
- Dedicated Windows Media® Center button
- Range: up to 10 m (33 feet)
- Bluetooth® 2.0 wireless technology
- Point-to-point technology pre-paired with DiNovo Mini keyboard. (Does not act as a hub.)
Power and Battery
- 30 days (battery life)
- Full-charge: Takes about 4 hours.
- Fast-charge: Takes about 10 minutes for 1 day of use
- 950 mAH lithium-ion battery
Dimensions and Weight
- 152 mm by 90 mm by 27.5 mm (cover closed) (5.98-inch by 3.5-inch by 1.08-inch)
- 152 mm by 152.8 mm by 65 mm (cover opened) (5.98-inch by 6-inch by 2.55-inch)
- 170-175 g (with battery and receiver) (5.99 – 6.17 oz)
- 59.5 mm by 18.5 mm by 9.1 mm (receiver size) (2.34-inch by 0.73-inch by 0.36-inch)
- 7 g (receiver weight) (0.25 oz)
The two section, square tray-and-cover box is easily slid open and the user is immediately greeted with the "Designed to move you' slogan cover containing the manual and the software discs. Behind that is a black PET shell containing the Logitech diNovo Mini thumb keyboard itself. Under that PET shell are the rest of the accessories; including a 950mAh Lithium-Ion battery, Bluetooth USB receiver, as well as an AC adapter for charging the keyboard.
Everything was well packaged in the retail box -- everything according to their designated location on the tray, with surfaces properly protected to prevent its contents from being scratched. The AC Adapter is located inside an interestingly shaped minibox too.
A closer look at the AC adapter, Li-Ion battery pack, and the included USB Bluetooth dongle. The Bluetooth 2.0 EDR USB adapter is pretty much the same as other Bluetooth USB adapters from Logitech; resembling the size of a larger USB flash drive -- but slim enough that it does not physically occupy the space of more than one USB port. It works interchangeably with other Logitech Bluetooth keyboards and mice. A Connect button is located on the other side of the adapter as usual.
The Logitech diNovo Mini uses a proprietary battery pack from Logitech, therefore a 950mAh Lithium battery is included. Unlike the Logitech diNovo Edge, the Mini does not use an integrated battery. Logitech claims a 30-day battery life, but it really depends on how often you use it. The included AC adapter connects directly to the keyboard for recharging the battery pack -- so you probably won't ever need to remove the battery from the diNovo Mini.
The diNovo Mini features a troy gloss silver and black shade design; where a darkly tinted plastic cover encloses the keyboard with troy gloss silver for the rest of the external case, as shown above. The black tinted cover flips open along a pair of hinges. Its purpose is not for pure aesthetics only; it also has a functional purpose -- to keep dust out. I found the cover to scratch very easily, in which Logitech can definitely fix in this area.
There are no sharp edges on the Logitech diNovo Mini -- all edges are rounded out to the side and from top to the bottom. A distinct curve is noticed throughout the design of the diNovo Mini, therefore it's safe to say that there are basically no flat faces. When the diNovo Mini's cover is closed, the inside basically cannot be seen unless the keys are lit by the backlight.
Flipping the diNovo Mini around reveals an opaque black cover. Removing this detachable cover reveals a compartment inside the diNovo Mini for access to the battery location, as well as a Connect button along with instructions to the side. There's even a custom fitted pocket inside for storing the Bluetooth USB adapter -- it's sure convenient because it is possible to carry everything you need (Sans AC adapter) in one simple package with the Logitech diNovo Mini.
A switch at the back also allows you to switch between PC mode and PlayStation 3 mode -- the diNovo Mini can be used to control PlayStation 3's as well, which is quite cool.
Opening the darkly tinted black cover reveals the QWERTY thumb keys inside the Logitech diNovo Mini. By opening the cover, it automatically turns on the unit; where closing the cover turns off the diNovo Mini thumb keyboard after several seconds. The signature TouchDisc that we've seen with the diNovo Edge is present in the top right corner -- even with an orange perimeter LED for the 'diNovo glow'. The TouchDisc can function as arrow keys too, a switch on the left of the TouchDisc switches between this function and a touchpad for mouse functions. Green LEDs will activate along with directional arrows when the arrow key function is activated by the user. An array of related keys will be lit of the same color because they are Windows Media Center related as well.
Generally speaking, all keys are well labeled and have a relatively clean layout at the expense of some buttons.
Like the diNovo Edge, the diNovo Mini carries over another trait of its distant cousin -- shiny, black Plexiglas as the main surface around the keys. Despite the size of the Logitech diNovo Mini, the designers at Logitech made their best attempt to retain as many characteristics of a standard QWERTY keyboard -- at least in the essential typing section. However, some keys are dropped or relocated to an Fn function, such as the obvious lack of the ` button, as well as the relocation of the Esc key, respectively. However, other buttons for convenience are implemented for easier thumb function -- such as the large Page up/Down keys on the left side. The Esc key is replaced by an "OK" button, basically a left click function for the mouse. Holding down the Fn key makes it a right click button.
The right side of the Logitech diNovo Mini keyboard. At the top is the TouchDisc as mentioned previously; which can act as a touchpad or arrow keys -- depending on the mode selector on the left side of the TouchDisc.
Some of the keys such as Shift and Fn are on both sides of the keyboard for convenience -- with the Enter's alternate function as "Ctrl+Alt+Del" -- quite an interesting implementation in my opinion. Maybe it's because it's hard to hold down the CTRL, ALT and DEL (Where DEL is an alternate function key) all at the same time with your thumbs -- you never know.
As you can see in the photo above, some of the commonly used symbols such as ' and " are placed as alternate function on certain keys. A dedicated Windows Media button is placed interestingly at the bottom right corner of the thumb keyboard -- however, we must take note that there's a whole array of buttons that are designed mainly to take advantage of Windows Media Center.
A vertical view of the Logitech diNovo Mini Bluetooth thumb keyboard. The key grid placement is quite interesting -- the thumb keyboard's keys are all aligned with minimal spacing. Being that, each keystroke has excellent tactile feel in relation to your thumb's travel distance. Across the top row are mainly media keys instead of F-keys -- there are no F-keys on the Logitech diNovo Mini. But then, this thumb keyboard is not a replacement for your main keyboard, it should be treated as more or less a remote control for a media center PC with a QWERTY layout. I have to admit it's a bit hard to use as an input device as first due to the size and unique layout and placement of buttons, but that's only when you are comparing it to an actual keyboard -- if you treat the diNovo Mini as a remote control rather than a keyboard, then it's much easier to use than a normal remote control -- if you don't want a huge keyboard on your lap all the time when watching a movie.
As you can see at the top, there's a battery indicator LED that lights green when battery is nice and charged -- it will light up every time the keyboard is turned on. A Bluetooth status LED is on the right of the Logitech logo in the center.
The Logitech diNovo Mini in comparison with the full-sized Logitech diNovo Edge desktop keyboard. The Logitech diNovo Mini is really that small -- absolutely thumb sized. However, the way that Logitech designed it allows it to be gripped with both hands to allow both handed simultaneous operation -- both of your thumbs can be used for pressing the buttons on the diNovo Mini even without a designated surface for the thumb keyboard to rest on.
One of the most interesting implementations is the light sensor -- this is especially convenient in terms of home theater applications. While you can see the keyboard perfectly during the day, the sensor will sense the lack of ambient light and automatically activate the orange backlight around all the keys on the diNovo Mini when necessary. The light will go through the gap between the keys to allow the user to see everything on the keyboard perfectly -- all without the hassle of, say, using a flashlight during a movie at night.
Generally speaking, the Logitech diNovo Mini is not a replacement for your main keyboard by any means; its purpose is to function as a Windows Media Center (Or generally a living room computer) remote control. It takes advantage of many functions of the Windows Media Center remote and rearranges it into a more user familiar format of a thumb sized QWERTY keyboard. So don't take it the wrong way.
In terms of quality, performance and range, the Bluetooth connection is generally very reliable and I haven't experienced any connection drops yet. The range provided is up to 30 feet between the receiver and the diNovo Mini, and with that, like all Bluetooth devices, can have their signals traveling through walls for a non line of sight connection. The quality is excellent with no loose or fragile parts; everything is well built with thought and detail. The Logitech diNovo Mini serves its purpose very well and is generally well implemented.
The Logitech diNovo Mini is an excellent mini thumb keyboard that's well deployed for the home theater PC platform. With the function of a remote control laid out in the form of a thumb keyboard, the size and design all fits well within its application. It's not just about looks though -- it has both form and function. Many innovative features are implemented such as a backlit keyboard, dedicated Windows Media Center controls, and the such. All the keys have excellent tactile feel and it's definitely possible for two handed operation. Range and performance are also well within the very good range. I have to admit, the Logitech diNovo Mini is kind of hard to use at first, but there's probably not any better choice in the market today that suits this purpose better. Being primarily a media center controller, you can choose between its form and function, or a full sized wireless keyboard for easier use such as the excellent Logitech diNovo Edge. It's all up to you, but just to remind you once more -- the diNovo Mini is really a QWERTY remote for home theater PCs, and not an actual keyboard-keyboard.
Special thanks to Kate over at Logitech for making this review possible.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.2/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
Excellent thumb keyboard/media center remote with great build quality and design.