Keysonic ACK-612 RF Wireless Multimedia Keyboard Page: 1
Introduction

KeysonicSo you're sitting there watching movie with your better half on your brand new HTPC and whats-his-name appears on the screen. You know, that guy from the other film whats-it-called. The guy that was dead from the beginning, but nobody knew until the end? 

Frustrating isn't it? Even more frustrating is that the remote to your HTPC is about as useful as a chocolate teapot when it comes to browsing the net for those valuable answers, and your cordless mouse and keyboard combo are at opposite ends of the room with their batteries having been "borrowed" for other purposes.

Well you're not alone. Today we're going to be looking at the ACK-612 RF wireless multimedia keyboard made by Keysonic. Combining the convenience of a compact keyboard along with a laptop-style touch-pad, the ACK-612 RF appears to be a perfect companion for the HTPC. However, before we get down to business let's see what Keysonic have to say:

• Wireless multimedia mini keyboard with built-in touch-pad and 2 mouse function keys made out of aluminium
• Far-ranging and reliable radio-frequency transmission at 2.4 GHz up to approx. 10 m away from the PC
• Comfortable use due to 11 multifunction keys (partly free programmable)
• Modern design in noble, matt black SoftSkin coating with harmonic aluminium accents
• Full functionality of a full-size layout keyboard
• Extremely silent stroke and tactile feedback due to high-quality X-Type membrane technology
• Separate Power on/off switches for keyboard and touchpad
• Plug & Play installation – use of the predefined hotkeys: H1 = Internet, H2 = E-Mail, H3 = Calculator, H4 = Media Select, Start/Pause, Stop, Back, Forward, Mute, Volume ?, Volume ?
• Additional optional installation of the driver software from CD for free programming of the hotkeys H1 ~ H4
• Available in various country layouts
• Appealing retail packaging
• Optimal for Home Entertainement, HTPC as well as for training, conference & presentation rooms etc.

While there's rarely much to say about keyboards, Keysonic have managed to stretch the specification of the ACK-612 RF over a fair few lines. Probably the most interesting of the listed features are the keyboards 2.4GHz radio frequency which Keysonic claim to have a range of up to 10 metres - great if you're lucky enough to have a fairly large living room. Additionally, a number of predefined yet programmable hotkeys are provided at the top of the keyboard for mapping to your most used applications.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves and instead take a closer look at the keyboard over on the next page...


Keysonic ACK-612 RF Wireless Multimedia Keyboard Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance

With the ACK-612 RF being aimed largely at HTPC owners and Office environments it's certainly no surprise that Keysonic have kept the design of the packaging plain and inoffensive. The combination of red and white along with a clear plastic window feels quite PC World-ish and strangely gives little focus to some of the keyboards biggest features such as its touch-pad and wireless connectivity.

Keysonic ACK612 RF Box Keysonic ACK-612 RF
 
Around the back of the packaging, Keysonic have thankfully gone into greater detail, displaying a full image of the keyboard along with a specifications list in three European languages. Also present are several feature icons that show the keyboard as being Vista ready, Easy to install and Wireless among other things.

Keysonic ACK-612 RF Keysonic ACK-612 RF Wireless Dongle

Opening up the box you are presented with the keyboard contained within a polythene bag, a driver CD, instruction manual, USB dongle and a pack of four Energizer AAA batteries. It's quite good to see that Keysonic have included everything to get you up and running and haven't even tried to cut costs by bundling in a set of cheap-o generic batteries.

Keysonic ACK-612 RF Keysonic ACK-612 RF

Keysonic ACK-612 RF Keysonic ACK-612 RF

Measuring in at around 36cm wide, the ACK-612 RF is indeed quite compact. Maybe not quite compact enough to lose down the back of the sofa (which is a good thing!), but on-par with a laptop keyboard in terms of key size and spacing.

The main body of the keyboard has a rubber-like texture that makes the keyboard slightly more comfortable to use than if it were hard plastic, but the keys themselves are fairly standard. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as rubberised keys have a tendency to wear out quite quickly and often leave keyboards looking shabby.

Keysonic ACK-612 RF Hotkeys Keysonic QCK-612 RF Touchpad

At the top of the keyboard are a total of 11 hot-keys. Most of the hot-keys have fixed functions such as Play/Pause/Back/Forward and Volume control, however four of the keys labelled H1-4 can be programmed to perform other tasks by the Keysonic software.

The touch-pad is very much like those found on laptops but is inset slightly and features a brushed aluminium surround that extends to the left/right mouse keys. Just above the touch-pad are two switches that have the ability to enable/disable touch-pad and keyboard functionality. This is great if you have kids, as it prevents them from running riot on your HTPC if they manage to get their hands on the keyboard.




Keysonic ACK-612 RF Wireless Multimedia Keyboard Page: 3
Testing

Unlike most keyboard reviews conducted here at Overclock3D the Keysonic ACK-612 RF is not aimed at the enthusiast or gaming community and therefore it would be unfair to test it in this manor. In fact, during our use of the ACK-612 RF over the past few weeks it has become quite clear that they keyboard could not be used in this environment due to a small amount of lag often exhibited between pressing a key and the keypress being registered by the system. However, being a keyboard aimed at HTPC users and office environments this is certainly a non-issue and todays testing will focus around the following areas instead: Usability, Wireless Range and Battery Life.


Usability

Starting with the installation of the ACK-612 RF, it really is as simple as plug'n'play. Under Windows Vista the system did not ask for any additional drivers and the full functionality of the keyboard and touch-pad were immediately available. The additional software provided on the CD is extremely basic in appearance (shown below), but does the job of allowing the function keys to be remapped nicely.

Software
 
Anyone who has had previous experience with typing on a laptop keyboard will feel at home with the ACK-612 RF. The keys are quite close together and certain keys such as Return and the Space Bar have been reduced in size in order to squeeze everything in. Key presses are soft and silent but unfortunately the bottom row of keys (such as Space, CTRL and ALT) were slightly awkward to hit with a thumb due to the keypads slightly recessed design.

Moving on to the touch-pad, the actual usable area of the pad is 45x35mm making it quite a bit smaller than the average laptop touch-pad. Much like the keyboard, the touch-pad was also slightly recessed which further reduced the accessible area of the pad slightly. Obviously this isn't such a big problem if you increase the mouse sensitivity in Windows - allowing the mouse cursor to travel further with less finger movement - but a slightly larger or flush mounted touch-pad would certainly be more beneficial.


Range

With a fresh set of fully charged batteries, the maximum range of the ACK-612 RF is quoted to be 10 metres. During our testing this certainly seemed to be about right with a perfect line of sight free from obstacles. However, taking into consideration that most users will be plugging in the USB receiver around the back of their HTPC's (rather than in a front USB port), this range is reduced to around 7 metres. When at maximum range, text input and mouse movement does become very laggy with some key presses being lost.


Battery Life

Obviously an important factor in the purchase of any wireless device is battery life. Unlike some wireless keyboards, the ACK-612 RF is stripped right down to the bare basics with no underlit keys, no power lights and not even any Caps/Num Lock LED's. This, combined with the fact that both the keyboard and touch-pad can be disabled by the aforementioned switches should ensure minimal power wastage. While time unfortunately limits us from testing the full battery life of the keyboard, in the two weeks we had it in testing the battery voltage from the provided Energizer batteries dropped from 1.57v to 1.46v with occasional daily usage. This possibly indicates that the ACK-612 RF should have no problems operating for a couple of months on a single set of batteries providing it is not used heavily.


Keysonic ACK-612 RF Wireless Multimedia Keyboard Page: 4
Conclusion

If Keysonic were aiming for convenience at a reasonable price when they designed the ACK-612 RF then they've certainly hit the nail right on the head. For around £30 you get a wireless keyboard and touch-pad combo that is compact, works straight out of the box and has a fairly decent range. Sure it may not have all the bells and whistles of wireless multimedia keyboards such as Logitech's DiNovo Edge, but at 1/3 of the price the ACK-612 RF gets the job done.

Features such as the rubberised casing and programmable hot-keys add further value to the keyboard, but in all honesty we'd personally like to see the Aluminium surround of the touch-pad removed. Sure it's nice to have some contrast and luxury to what could have otherwise been a very plasticy looking device, but mounting the touch-pad flush with the casing would have been a much better decision and the use of Aluminium on the left/right mouse keys only makes pressing them slightly more difficult.

In summary, the ACK-612 RF may not be perfect, but at £31.19 over at Play.com it still represents amazing value for money and deserves serious consideration for any HTPC setup.


The Good
- Price
- Compact layout makes it easy to store.
- Good battery life from what we've seen so far.
- Plug in and off you go. No drivers needed at all.
- Programmable hot-keys may be useful to some.

The Mediocre
- Reasonable range, good enough for most households.
- Space bar can be slightly uncomfortable to press at times
- Recessed touch-pad is slightly too small and Aluminium mouse buttons can be hard to press.

The Bad
- Nowt


Value For Money Award

Thanks to Keysonic for providing the ACK-612 RF for review. Discuss this review in our forums.