One of my favorite things about the BlackBerry Key2 I carry everyday is the neat little capacitive magic trick that lets its keyboard double as a trackpad, and for the longest time, I thought BlackBerry had the lock down on this stuff. Well, turns out I was wrong. Lenovo has a keyboard that works just like it except instead of a smartphone, it's a remote control for your PC. And instead of costing over 600 bucks, it cost less than 50.
The Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller isn't actually all that new. It was announced at CES over a year ago but was delayed for a while due to something Lenovo didn't want to go into in our correspondence. That's fine, it arrived in my studio a few days ago and just to jump right to the conclusion here, if I still had a roommate who kept a big gaming PC hooked up to the living room TV, I'd have already bought one of these. That's the target consumer here, someone who uses a computer as a media center for the home. Instead of keeping a full sized wireless keyboard and mouse around for entering passwords or browsing music or movies, this thing is both. Here's how it works: You plug in the 2.4 gigahertz dongle into your PC's USB port. Windows recognizes the pad just like any peripheral, and you're off to the races. Single finger scrolling moves your mouse pointer, two fingers lets you scroll lists, three fingers gets you multitasking, and pinch to zoom works, too. And I mentioned BlackBerry at the top, and in fact those guys could take some notes from the execution here. Granted, Lenovo has a lot more acreage to work with but the scrolling responsiveness is definitely smoother than I get on my Key2.
You can single finger tap to left click and two finger tap to right click or if you want, you can pull a manual override and use the big buttons at the bottom. For typing, the keys themselves take a little getting used to 'cause they don't travel as much as you might expect. They're metal dome switches. And unfortunately, they're not backlit. But they are well spaced and the whole pad is pretty comfortable to hold thanks to the total absence of right angles. The soft touch paint job is nice, too, but it's starting to show skin oil stains after just like, a day, so don't expect this to stay looking new for long. Lenovo says the 500 Multimedia Controller can go up to eight months on two AA batteries. There's no way for me to test that until March of 2019 or so but I can verify that the company's range claims do hold up. This thing still worked 65 feet away from its target PC in my testing.
Oh, and I've been saying "PC" this whole time because Lenovo only guarantees support for Windows, but when I plugged it into my MacBook Pro just for kicks, turns out, Mac OS likes it just fine, too. Just keep in mind that some of the function keys on the top row won't work as advertised. I haven't used anything like this before so it's tough for me to give context. A quick search for alternatives uncovered the Dell CANDYBOARD, which is about the same price and has the bonus of a backlight, but it's definitely more of a full keyboard than a remote. In my experience, the Lenovo 500 is probably the best merger of keyboard and mouse that I've seen outside of a proper laptop computer. If it was more expensive, I'd say, "Hey, stick with your smartphone as your surrogate controller.". But, look, I don't get to review a lot of inexpensive stuff, so forgive my excitement. For 42 bucks I think it's a no brainer. If you're trying to simplify your living room PC experience, I'd say buy it. This video is brought to you by TunnelBear. True story: It's the first VPN I ever used and I'm genuinely glad to sponsor it. TunnelBear lets your browse the web safely on a public hotspot, which I'm on frequently. And it lets you do it with the flick of a switch. TunnelBear even opened itself up to an independent audit to prove it's keeping its security promises. Mainly, though? Gotta be real. I'm here for the mascot.