Pi-Top Review, Part 3 (The Keyboard)

And so we finally come to the bad… The keyboard.

I started this series of reviews with a goal in mind: can the pi-top be used for writing? Surfing the net, watching movies, listening to music- they are all fine, but writing? Well… maybe.

I’m having a few issues, and part of it is no doubt getting used to a new machine, and part of the problem is more fundamental.

Let’s start with the saddest let-down: the keyboard is too small. If you look at the header image, you will see three laptops. The biggest one is what the pi-top is replacing. The smallest is a 7-inch eeePC I bought years ago and never really used (much too small.) You can see that the pi-top fits neatly in the middle.

What you can also see that the keyboard on the pi-top almost matches the keyboard on the eeePC. What does that mean? Cramped hands! After 2 days of use, my hands are aching. I feel as though they have been contorted with a vice. It isn’t particularly pleasant.

My typing speed has dropped, too. Normally, I manage about a thousand words every 20 minutes. The pi-top drops that to about 40 minutes. Perhaps I will get faster as I get more used to the machine (4000 words written so far, which isn’t that much.) However, I’m finding that I don’t want to type on it. I’m getting in the habit of resting a full-sized keyboard in front of it, on my lap. 

This was what I feared, unfortunately. It is a real let-down because it didn’t have to be this way.

If you look at the photo, you can see the trackpad is on the right. This is great if you’re playing Minecraft but gets in the way of any real work. I’m finding my palm or errant fingers keep brushing against it, which triggers a click and I find I’m typing on a different line. This is maddening- if I was coding, I would go insane.

Other problems: using three fingers to tap in a row opens up the main menu. Great. Only thing… sometimes the menu opens on its own. Disabling this involves (I think- I haven’t done it yet) editing a config file. There’s also a pi-top button which does the same thing. It is right near the up-arrow, which takes up half the right-hand side shift button.

I find I’m typing in the wrong spot or something has opened that wasn’t supposed to open. It is painful, and it just makes everything a battle.

If the keyboard had covered the entire width of the chassis, the pi-top would be amazing. Luxurious, even. Oh, what might have been…

I realise that every design has its problems, and trade-offs have to be made. This is a great machine, and I’m hoping it lasts me for years. I feel ungrateful to even mention these problems and I wish I didn’t have to end on a negative note- the pi-top really is a great little machine.

I just hope you have tiny hands.


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