This review is an analysis of the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. Before I tried using the device, I assumed that the target audience would be heavy multimedia users who use wireless connections to view or show movies, videos or television, or to play a lot of music from a computer, without needing to sit right in front of the computer. I can do all those things, but I am more likely to watch a sporting event on a traditional television, so I wasn’t sure how relevant it would seem to me.
The controller was packed with its radio transceiver, a user guide in 12 languages and a USB extension cable to allow the transceiver to be moved to allow optimum reception. The controller uses two AAA batteries. According to the User Guide, they may or may not be included, depending on the country in which it is sold. I am in the U.S., but my device was sent to me from Asia, so it may or may not be exactly like what is available from retailers. My controller did not come with batteries, but I don’t know how retail units would come. There were also warranty papers and legal verbiage that I did not photograph.
Figure 1: Contents
The controller is about the size of a cell phone, but somewhat thicker (about ¾“). I included a tape measure in the picture, but, unfortunately, I did not have one showing both inches and centimeters. For reference, the unit is 5 ¾” X 3 3/8” or 14.5 cm. X 8.5 cm. The weight is 5.15 oz. or 146 g with batteries included. I could carry it in the pocket I use for my cell phone, but both devices didn’t fit at the same time.
Figure 2: Size
My first impressions were positive. After unpacking, before I turned it on, I inspected the machine for any shipping damage or visible defects and found none.
The User Guide shows how to install batteries, but after the batteries were installed, everything was obvious. I turned the controller on using the switch on the back and plugged the radio transceiver into a USB port on a windows 10 computer. A message saying “Installing Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller” popped up and a few seconds later it was done. The controller became a second keyboard and mouse. I would have saved a couple of minutes if I had invested 30 seconds looking at the guide. I would have learned that the entire key surface is a touchpad and that one, two and three-finger gestures are supported.
Figure 3: Layout
The keyboard is a small, but full-featured multimedia keyboard, with fast-forward, pause, start and other functions supported. The integration with a media player, however, depends on the media player chosen. I played with a full-sized media keyboard also, and the Lenovo 500 works exactly the same way as a full-sized one. I was impressed by the feel of the keys. Due to the size, the key travel is small, but there is a positive click at the make-break point so I had no problem with key echo or missed keystrokes. The key surface serves as a touchpad and the curser movement was precise. The mouse buttons had the same positive feel as the keyboard.
I tried watching a movie projected to a television in my living room using a computer in another room, connected via a Miracast adapter. Everything worked perfectly, just as it would were I using a full-sized keyboard and mouse. Multimedia keys, such as pause or fast forward, either worked or didn’t work depending on what media player I used.
I don’t often use my computer for multimedia functions, but I can imagine other uses for this keyboard-mouse replacement. My primary use of computers has always been for business functions. For many years, I ran a small consulting company and often needed to make sales or technical presentations to a room full of prospective clients. I always tried to make the situation seem like “we are working together to find a solution to our problem”. Unfortunately, my only choice was to sit in the back of the room, with a computer connected to some sort of projection device so I could display videos or PowerPoint slides on a screen. The seating arrangement made it obvious that I was just a salesman talking to prospective customers. The Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller would allow me to sit at a conference table with the same group of prospective customers. I could control the slides or videos, but I would not be obviously different from someone simply checking their phone. The computer driving the presentation could be out of sight and connected wirelessly to a projection device. Someone walking into the meeting would see me as one of the participants in a problem-solving discussion. It would not be obvious that I was switching the slides or managing the video.
I have never used any devices that are similar enough to do any sort of comparison. There are full-sized wireless, multimedia keyboards and gyroscopic mouse-type devices that would perform similar functions, but I cannot imagine that they would be as convenient. They certainly would not be suitable for the type of conference room setting I described earlier. I searched the web and there are other mini keyboard-mouse devices, but, as I said, I never used any of them and none that I found really looked to be similar. I did notice that the Lenovo 500 seems only to be available with a U.S.-English layout. This limitation is not a problem for me. The build-quality seems excellent. The device felt comfortable in my hands and I had no problems with key-registration or echo. I also had no problems with random mouse movements or anything similar. I cannot comment on battery life. The batteries I installed when I first received it are still working fine, but if it were used every day for several hours, I have no way to know if the batteries would last weeks or months or years. In any case, the AAA cells needed are cheap and widely available. Looking online, I had no problem finding the controller for sale for $50 or under. To me, this seems like an excellent value. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to control video from their couch, but also to anyone who can imagine a use suitable for their particular lifestyle, such as the marketing situation I described earlier. There is one feature I would like to add in the “next version”; I wish there were a snap-in place somewhere on the case that could hold the little radio transceiver. Lacking that, I fear that the transceiver could get lost or left behind.