Logitech’s Dinovo Mini

Since I’ve had a PC setup as a home theater for quite some time now, I’ve been looking to find an elegant and practical input method for watching videos and otherwise working with the PC from the comfort of my bed.

The DiNovo Mini came out as a standout option over my wireless keyboard and mouse which was simply too big and too heavy to use for this purpose, and a wireless gamepad was simply not elegant or powerful enough. Other options I was thinking about was using my PocketPC via WiFi to do the controlling but it was a very clunky option at best — connectivity was not always good and the control features were not well-refined. The DiNovo Mini on the other hand looked like it would fit the bill.

Now that I have a DiNovo Mini things have changed. It does what it is supposed to do really well, and I am pretty happy with it. There are lots of reviews out there talking about the merits of the Mini and I will agree with pretty much everything that is said when it comes to its features and your ability to control your HTPC.

Thumb Typing is excellent, I am used to Blackberrys, Treos and PocketPCs with QWERTY so that was not a problem at all, although the device is wider than any QWERTY pad I’ve used so your thumbs will need to do some reaching. The Touchpad is not as good as a Synaptics touchpad on any laptop you’ll find out there but it is adequate. The rest of the button layouts are relatively well-thought of and it also has a light sensor like the HTC Universal to control the backlight of the keys. One thing about the keyboard is that it doesn’t have a “sticky shift” option — meaning that you have to hold the Shift key when you want to capitalize something, unlike in most handhelds where pressing the Shift key once will enable the next keystroke to be in shifted mode — this is a pretty useful option for thumb boards where you do not have multiple digits to hold a shift key and press another key down — but the DiNovo manages by providing two shift keys on each side, so one thumb can hold the Shift while the other presses the key to be shifted.

However there are a few things I would like to caution about the DiNovo Mini. For a keyboard that costs some $150US the build quality is very cheap. It has an extremely plasticky feel that does not exude quality, but rather feels like it will break at any time. The keys have a springy tactile feel that reminds you of a cheap plastic toy rather than a $150 quality thumb board. It’s worse that I have a point of comparison for it — they DiNovo Mini greatly resembles HTC’s awesome PocketPC the “Universal” which has the same QWERTY keyboard. Whereas the HTC Universal had a splendid QWERTY keyboard that oozed quality with its solid. but soft and rubbery keys and soft but solid tactile feedback, the Mini has springy, almost quivering keys with a cheap plastic feel.

This is extremely disappointing, but then considering all the overpriced, low-quality Logitech peripherals I have gone through is really just par for the course for Logitech.

For shame Logitech, you’d think with all that overpricing and virtual monopoly of the highend keyboard/mouse market you could put in some real quality in all of your products. Out of the 5 Logitech Purchases I had in the past two years only one had good quality — the Logitech PC Cordless Rumblepad 2 — the others had varying degrees of quality like the MX3200 Cordless Keyboard and Mouse which had stiff keys that couldn’t be pressed in unison (space bar + 2 WSAD keys doesn’t work, I know I use that in games all the time) and a mouse whose mouse wheel is practically impossible to press. Or the MX700 Mouse whose battery dies out after a few months?

Logitech has really been dropping the ball on quality and the DiNovo Mini is simply reinforcing my opinion that Logitech charges a premium for its products but cost-cuts to hell behind the scenes.

It’s not just the key quality that is cheap on the DiNovo — the engineering of the plastic cover for instance is not exact, there is a wobble when you close the lid and it doesn’t close precisely. More evidence of cheap, shoddy worksmanship, so much for the vaunted Swiss-engineering.

All in all though it fits a niche in my control scheme that I really needed. It feels like an HTC Universal being used to control my PC, and I loved my HTC Universal so that is not a bad thing.

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