Few days ago I shared my thoughts on replacing Zaurus palmtop with other device. According to comments few people do not understand why hardware keyboard is so important for me.


Nearly 4 years ago I bought my first Linux powered PDA — Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 (codename: “collie”). One of nice features was hardware keyboard:

Collie keyboard

It is thumb operated keyboard but usable after a bit of learning. You have everything needed to operate in console, writing text — even Vi is usable (“Cancel” key works as Esc).


Time passed and I got another Zaurus — this time it was clamshell model — c760 (codename: “husky” or “c7x0”). This device has great keyboard. Keys are small but there is separate row with numerical keys so it is improvement from “collie” one.

C7×0 keyboard

Those Japanese keys right to “Fn” one are mapped as “Control” and “Alt” so user can even try to use Emacs 🙂 For Vi lovers there is “Cancel” key which works as Esc.


Another months passed and another Zaurus arrived at my place — this time is was SL-6000L (codename: “tosa”). It has keyboard similar to “collie”: but more comfortable due to size of keys:

Tosa keyboard

“Esc” is on “Cancel” like it is in collie.


Recently one Finnish company released new product from their line of tablets: N810. It was their first tablet with integrated keyboard. Thanks to photos provided by Koen I can comment a bit on it too. It it similar to “collie” and “tosa” keyboards when it comes to mapping (no numeric keys, lot of symbols available only with “Fn” key) but it also lack “Tab” key which can make shell using a bit harder.

N810 keyboard

There is “Esc” key — one of side keys works as one (not visible on photo).


For now the best keyboard is “c7x0” one — all needed keys are available, lot of others can be made available by editing keymap. And when I have to hack something on device good keyboard is one of most important things. I can not count how many times I ended with having 3-4 consoles running on my c760 with miscellaneous applications started due to amount of hacking required by projects.


UPDATE: Matthias ‘CoreDump’ Hentges reminded me about Zaurus SL-Cxx00 keyboards (used in c1000/c3000/c3100/c3200 models):

Spitz keyboard

Yes — they are similar to “c760” one but have changed cursors into 4-pad and each key is separate one — they are no longer parts of membrane. Many people found that one more comfortable then “c7x0” one but I am not one of them — used both and still prefer older one.

Keyboard in palmtops

4 thoughts on “Keyboard in palmtops

  • 11th January 2008 at 14:07

    My favorite keyboard on a mobile device is by far the one on the Akita. I don’t know how different it feels than the Husky but it’s great. The Akita D-Pad definitely seems like a plus when thumb-typing when compared to the Husky. also, USB host allows for a real keyboard when available while still leaving you with a physical console in a bare-bones environment.

  • 11th January 2008 at 14:24

    Koen: it is hard to ssh connect to device which has rootfs without any kernel modules ;(

  • 11th January 2008 at 13:47

    I noticed that I always end up using ssh, no matter how good the keyboard is 🙂

  • 14th January 2008 at 07:16

    7 years ago, when I looked into buying one of these funky things I had overlooked before – PDAs, I of course wanted to buy a Psion with keyboard – how else a computing device could be? I’m glad that I did much reading and lot of running thru shops and holding devices in hands – it quickly become clear that bulky, need-to-unfold keyboarded device won’t suit my needs – to be a data-center usable on the run, in harsh conditions (stuffed subway or bus; hands full, etc, etc).

    So far, I haven’t regreted the decision to try non-keyboard device at all ;-).

    As for portable device with builtin keyboard, I’m finally satisfied with 17″ laptop with full-size kbd with numeric block – that’s usable. 😉

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