BTC/Emprex 5139U Mini-Keyboard Review


An article from Pieter's Knowledge Base



Introduction

Because of RSI-related issues, I put great importance on using a good keyboard and mouse. One of the issues I had with regular keyboards, ones that include a numeric keypad, is that they require you to bend your lower arm outwards, or lift your upper arm, in order to reach for the mouse. In my case, it is bit of both, causing strain and ultimately pain in the shoulder and the upper arm, in addition to the pain in the lower arm and wrist caused by using a regular mouse. To me, regular keyboards are simply too wide to be able to work comfortably and painfree. I once tried a keyboard that had the numeric keypad on the left, but I had to press the keys really hard to make things appear on screen. So I tried something else instead.

I have been using a Logitech Dinovo Cordless Desktop for Notebooks, a keyboard without numeric keypad, and it served me well for a few years years until the USB receiver unit snapped from my PC and I couldn't get a replacement unit for it. So I went to look for a new keyboard without numeric keypad. Basically, what I want, is a good regular keyboard with the numeric keypad and other superflous keys removed, but not some keyboard that's primarily meant to be taken on the road along with a notebook :

This is quite difficult. First of all, from searching on the Net, these keyboards simply don't seem to exist. Secondly, compact-sized keyboards typically aren't found in stores, where they have only a handful of regular keyboards. Since I work a lot at the computer, I really would like to try a couple of keyboards before I choose one. Unfortunately, in various stores I found only three compact-size keyboards, and neither met with my approval. I decided to look for a keyboard in web shops, and ultimately ordered the Emprex 5139U keyboard (also sold under the BTC brand name), simply because pictures of it looked like it came closest to the thing I wanted, and it was low cost as well, so i thought, what the heck, there's no risk, lets order it!


5139U Keyboard, available from BTC or Emprex.


Verdict

This keyboard is actually quite nice. It's a keyboard with large, 'classic-style' keys, and not one of these designer keyboards that are primarily made to look esthetically pleasing. Because of the somewhat heavier keypresses, I make less typings errors than with my previous keyboard from Logitech. It does, however, take some time to get used to the position of the editing keys on the right. Another advantage is that this keyboard is even less wide (32 cm/12.6 inch) than the Logitech one (39.5 cm/15.6 inch), so I can position it just a bit more straight in front of me, and even move my mouse a bit more to the left, so that my right arm is even more relaxed while using the mouse. It also feels like I have a lot more space available on my desk. But despite its compact size, the size of the alphanumeric section of this keyboard is similar to that of regular keyboards, which I greatly appreciate:


From top to bottom: Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard,
Logitech Dinovo Cordless Desktop for Notebooks and BTC/Emprex 5139U.
Note that although the BTC is smaller than the Logitech,
the alphanumeric part is actually slightly larger!

Overall, I'm satisfied with this keyboard and see no need to look for something else. However, for people who need to do a lot of typing, I can imagine the keys are too heavy to allow typing for an extended period of time, causing fatugue or pain in the fingers. Also, it's not a keyboard for people who need to move a lot around documents using keys such as the arrow keys, page down/page up etc.: you'd want the editing and arrow keys to have a section of their own. In addition, intensive users might need a wrist rest to use this keyboard comfortably.

I myself am going to keep it. It serves my purposes well, since I don't do a lot of typing anyway. Also it combines very well with my Evoluent VerticalMouse 3. Considering the very low price of this keyboard, there's not much financial risk in ordering it from the Internet and giving it a try. I have seen this keyboard being sold under the brand names BTC and Emprex. There's also a model with an integrated two-port USB hub, model no. 5139H. Both models are available in black, grey/black and white. For more information, please check the BTC web site.

Bottom line: good keyboard, great value for money, but probably less suitable for intensive users.


Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Compact size keyboard without numeric keypad, can be properly positioned in front of you, ideal in helping prevent or reduce RSI-symptoms, especially because mouse moves closer.
  • Full-size keys, same as regular keyboards, well spaced, reduces mistyping.
  • Keys have click, thus you do not need to press the key all the way down.
  • Sturdy, solid keyboard, feels like it could handle 'rough' treatment.
  • Decent weight, doesn't slip on the table.
  • Wired by means of USB, no receiver required (of course, some people prefer a wireless keyboard).
  • Low price, I got mine for 18 euros, including P&P.
  • Although not really an issue to me, it does save a lot of desk space in length and width.

Cons:

  • Keys are somewhat heavy, keyboard doesn't type very light (although this has the advantage of reducing typing errors).
  • The larger keys, such as Enter and Backspace, do not have the click-feel to them. With these keys, you can actually feel that underneath is a membrane. You also need to press them harder than the other keys.
  • Keyboard layout similar to that of notebook keyboards. I prefer to have the arrow keys, page-up, page-down keys etc. in a separate editing section on the keyboard, but this layout is workable.
  • Function and escape keys are a bit small, and adjacent to regular keys, increasing the risk of accidentally pressing a function key.
  • Fn (Function) key is where I expect the Windows key, and the Windows key is where I expect the Alt key, and I used both of them frequently. Although this is common to notebook keyboards, I wish they had put the Fn key somewhere else, e.g. next to the multimedia keys. From this, it's clear that this keyboard is aimed at notebook users.
  • USB cord length of 1.42 meters/56 inch might be too short and require you to buy an additional extension cord when used with a desktop computer.
  • Although it has volume up/down keys, as well as a play/pause key, mute and next/previous tacks keys are missing, making this keyboard less convenient when using multimedia software.
  • It is not a very slim keyboard, being 2 cm thick (0.8 inch), and 3 cm (1.2 inch) when the tilt-raisers are used. To me, always typing with two fingers, this is not a disadvantage, but 10-finger typists will have to lift their hands while typing. They might want to use a wrist rest with it, or buy a keyboard that includes an integrated wrist rest or one of those ultra-slim keyboards instead.
  • Keyboard didn't come with software, however, software that allows you to reconfigure the multimedia keys, can be downloaded here.
  • Might not work in combination with a separate numeric keypad, as this might activate the numlock state for the 'numeric keypad' on this keyboard and will render some alpha keys on it useless.

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