Logitech diNovo MiniMikey 5 comments
As far as Media Centre input devices are concerned, Logitech's diNovo Mini is easily the best there is. I can conclude this after having used various input devices on our Vista Media Centre over the years.
But despite its awesomeness, there is one glaring oversight, but more on that later.
The diNovo mini as the name suggests is a mini keyboard but with a focus on controlling your media centre. It's a full QUERTY keyboard in fact with the addition of all the controls you would expect (need) to take control of the Media Centre, and a few more.
There is nothing to complain about in this department. The diNovo mini is very elegant and won't look out of place in the living room among your over tech gadgets. The clam shell lid keeps it well protected from accidental key presses, and when you open it all the keys are backlit orange and green for easy handling in the dark. Closing the lid makes the back lights switch off to conserve power. Opening the lid lights everything up again.
The keys themselves are a reasonable size and entering information is easily achieved with your fingertips and with great tactile feedback, very unlike a tiny mobile phone interface. These keys are actually very usable and the entire unit fits in the palm of your hand.
A switch in the upper right allows you to swap between Windows mode and Media Centre mode. The latter is obvious, but when in Windows mode you suddenly have control of a mouse pointer. The directional pad that usually shows the up, down, left, right arrows and OK when in Media Centre mode cleverly makes all those icons disappear, and suddenly the directional pad becomes a touch pad instead, just like on a laptop computer (see image below). Unfortunately the touch pad is about as much fun to use as a laptop touch pad. But that is subjective. When the touch pad is on the green backlit elements turn orange. This colour association makes it easy to see what mode you are in at a glance.
The keyboard is extremely light weight. Everyone I have handed it too has verbally acknowledged it was a lot lighter than it looked. The physical size is also perfect. Not too small and not too big. It's easily operated with one hand but you would need both hands to enter data, say when using the keyboard to name your recordings etc.
Setting it up could not have been easier. Just plug it in and go. I did experience the odd 'drop out' but that's because I was dumb enough to think I could get away with not installing the provided driver. After installing the driver everything worked perfectly.
The diNovo connects using a USB Bluetooth adapter (supplied). Bluetooth offers a far greater range than InfraRed and also doesn't require direct line of site. The Range was so good in fact that as I played with the keyboard in my den a few rooms away to write this review, I was ignorantly messing around with the Media Centre. Something to remember.
One of the most compelling features is the diNovo mini comes with it's own removable battery and charger. A full charge takes 4 hours and will give you about 1 month of full time use before having to recharge it again. Subsequent charges do not have to be 4 hours, as an hour will still give you another week. But it's better to let it charge overnight once it's drained anyway. A battery indicator on the keyboard lets you know how much juice you have.
As this is designed for Media Centre use, the omission of dedicated media centric keys is a little odd. On the official Microsoft Media Centre remote control we have dedicated keys for Live TV, DVD Menu, Recorded TV and the TV Guide. The only way to get these options using the diNovo is to navigate your way through the Media Centre menu. It's only a few extra clicks, but it's still an inconvenience.
But the main short coming that I eluded to earlier, and you probably won't believe this, is the mere fact that the dedicated button it does actually have - the Record button - doesn't work. At first I thought I must have gotten a faulty unit, but further investigation revealed that this is in fact a known problem. Luckily though some enterprising lad took it upon himself to make a hacked version of the Logitech drivers (UberOptions) that adds the Record button functionality, and also lets you customise any key or combination of keys in fact, so you can make shortcuts to all your favourite Media Centre apps and functions. I am happy to report those drivers work fine.
But it's still an unforgivable omission by Logitech and they should be embarrassed that a 3rd party has taken it upon himself to fix something that shouldn't have been missing in the first place.
Ultimately I could not be happier with the diNovo mini. It replaces the Microsoft Media Centre Remote and the inconvenient Media Centre Keyboard combo we have been using for years. If you have a Vista Media Centre (or XP Media Centre I suspect would be fine) and are looking for a better input device, this is it.