TyPad Makes iPad Typing Easier; Ergonomic Mouse Gets Smaller

The scoop: tyPad, by Accessory Workshop, about $100.

What it is: The tyPad is a combination Bluetooth keyboard and protection case for the iPad. After inserting the iPad into the case, the keyboard folds out and lets you type on the iPad in the landscape format (because it's Bluetooth, you could use it in portrait mode, but wouldn't get the extra bonus of having it secured inside the case). The tyPad keyboard is qwerty-style, with soft-touch keys that offer decent tactile response. The keyboard's battery is charged via an included USB cord.

Why it's cool: For iPad apps that require a lot of text input, using a keyboard like this will make you more productive than using the on-screen keyboard. I was able to type notes and use apps like Quickoffice and TweetDeck more easily with the tyPad.

The design is very nice, offering a nice case and stand for the iPad when the keyboard isn't being used. Additional keys on the tyPad's top row include volume control (plus mute), music keys (play/pause, forward/back), a dedicated search button (brings up the iPad search bar) and a dedicated home button (brings you back to the iPad home page instead of hitting the physical button on the iPad). There's also a keyboard button that will bring up the iPad's on-screen keyboard, which I'm assuming is for when you might need a really obscure key/symbol.

Another nice touch: When connecting via Bluetooth, I had to type in an actual passcode instead of the normal "0000," adding a minimum level of Bluetooth security.

Some caveats: Because the tyPad can only be the width of the iPad, it's smaller than a normal keyboard, making touch typing more difficult. Adding to my dismay was the location of the apostrophe key, located on the same row as the spacebar instead of next to the semicolon. My pinky kept trying to use the apostrophe, and I ended up hitting the Enter key.

I'm also a bit disappointed in the price -- at $99.99, it's the same price as the Zaggmate keyboard, which includes a sturdier case and thinner profile, seemingly more premium than the tyPad.

Just plain odd: The keypad included PC-like function keys (F1, F2, as well as alt/option and command), which led me to think that perhaps this keyboard could be used with a PC, or maybe other tablets down the road.

Grade: 3.5 stars (out of 5).

The scoop: Whirl Mini Notebook Laser Mouse, by Smartfish, about $50.

What it is: The Whirl Mini is a travel-size USB mouse designed for ergonomic comfort -- the mouse is set on top of a swivel base instead of a solid base. This lets users move their wrist to the left or right when resting or mousing, creating a more comfortable feel than with a traditional mouse. The mouse is powered by two AAA batteries, and includes a tiny USB receiver that can be stored inside the battery case when traveling.

Why it's cool: I first encountered the larger Whirl Smartfish mouse last year during our holiday gift guide coverage, and wished that they would make a model that was smaller. The company did just that, providing a very comfortable and travel-worthy mouse. In fact, the small size is better for my hands than larger mice, making it useful when I'm not on the road as well. The laser mouse was very responsive and included a very nice feel to its scroll wheel. The laser technology makes it more accurate on nontraditional surfaces than optical mice, and there's a choice of six cool colors as well.

Grade: 5 stars

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/shawkeith.

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