An overview showing the layout of the remote

Logitech DiNovo Mini HTPC Keyboard

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Today I’m taking a look at what many consider to be the marquee keyboard/remote for HTPC use, the Logitech DiNovo Mini.  This device is probably the most premium device of it’s type.


Features:

This keyboard is a Bluetooth wireless device, it includes a “stick of gum” sized dongle for computers not already equipped with Bluetooth.  This dongle fits in a slot next to the battery when not in use.  The remote also has a switch to toggle between PC usage and PS3 usage.

The remote operates on an included rechargeable battery and includes a charger that plugs into the remote to charge the battery inside the remote. It comes in an extremely nice box, but I would have been disappointed with anything less in this price range.

The keyboard comes well packaged

The keyboard comes well packaged

Layout:

A brief overview starting at the top left corner:
An OK button which doubles as right mouse click, volume up, down and mute keys that double as a music hotkey, an internet hotkey and a power/sleep button.  Next to this is a full set of playback controls, record, rewind, stop, play/pause and fast forward.  Last is a back key which sits under the toggle switch to change the track pad to directional pad mode.

Below the multimedia keys is a compact QWERTY keyboard including Fn keys as well as shift, Ctrl, Alt, the Windows key, Enter, Tab.  There is a large PGUP and PGDN on the left side that are also zoom in and out when Fn is used. Another well thought out extra is a CTRL-ALT-DEL when Fn and Enter are pushed together.  Somewhat surprising is the lack of home and end keys and that ESC and DEL are only available as FN combos.

This keyboard’s build quality is exceptional, and key presses are solid and rarely fail to register correctly.  It does have a slightly odd sound like there is a layer of plastic under the keys but it doesn’t affect functionality.  Probably the biggest selling point for this keyboard is the backlit keys, which are by far it’s greatest feature for use in a HTPC environment.

A frequent complaint with this device is the trackpad, and I have to agree.  While it’s a workable solution, it is not the most elegant.  Particularly annoying is having to hold FN and the OK key to get a right mouse click.  I also found the sensitivity of the pad to be lacking, taking longer than most devices to scroll around the screen on my HTPC.

An overview showing the layout of the remote

An overview showing the layout of the remote

An overview showing the alternate lighting when the directional pad mode is on

An overview showing the alternate lighting when the directional pad mode is on

Final Thoughts:

Range is excellent, 30′ is about as far as I could get from the PC and it worked great all the way out to that range.  This is consistent with Logiotech’s claim of 10 meters for range, more devices these days seem to finally be living up to range claims.  My HTPC is sitting in the open so your performance may vary particularly if your PC is in an enclosed space.

Previously I reviewed the Lenovo Wireless Multimedia Remote, so that is my benchmark for comparing this device.  This device is excellent, but it’s MSRP of 149.99 VS the Lenovo’s MSRP of 59.99  makes things a little less cut and dry.  Additionally the mouse performance wasn’t stellar which took away from the device.  The back lighting is a feature I really valued though which swings back in favor of this device strongly.

Ultimately if your main use is a wireless mouse/trackball the Lenovo remote which can regularly be had at 30 dollars or so is probably the way to go.  If you use the keyboarding features frequently and can afford it, this is probably the better choice.  The quality of the keyboard itself and the excellent back lighting makes this device nice to use.  Additionally the aesthetic and build quality of this device is definitely in a different league from most of the less expensive devices suited to these types of tasks.

Size comparison to Lenovo's Wireless Multimedia Remote

Size comparison to Lenovo's Wireless Multimedia Remote

Size comparison to the AT&T Tilt2

Size comparison to the AT&T Tilt2

-Big Mike

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Discussion
  1. Thanks for the article Mike.
    I can definitely recognize the value of backlit keys on remotes such as these - I have and enjoy the lenovo wireless multimedia remote, however on small form factor keyboards like this it is difficult to type by muscle memory. In the dark watching movies in the evenings, typing can be cumbersome on it.
    Still however, I'm not sure thats enough to get into one of these dinovo minis at their price range - the main feature I want in a remote is convenient mousing, and that seems to be a bit lacking. I'll be doing a writeup on another take on multimedia remotes within the next week or so, with a product from nMediaPC... There are some benefits there I like even better than the lenovo remote, but it does come with some compromises also.
    I've had a Dinovo Mini for almost two years now, and here're my thoughts.
    The backlight is nice, but it doesn't illuminate any of the function/alternate symbols, so you need to remember those ones.
    The play/pause/FF/etc buttoms at the top are great to have, but they don't work in many situations where they would come in handy. Netflix comes to mind here. It would also be nice if Fn-something could be used for function keys. If your BIOS uses F2 or F10 instead of Del, you won't be getting in from this keyboard.
    On mine, the D key has always been funky. You need to push it extra hard or it won't register. They offered a RMA but I decided I could live with it.
    The mouse bit.. Yeah, there should be a dedicated right mouse button. The way it is set up, you cannot right click and drag, for whatever that's worth. The touchpad also "loses its mind" once in a while resulting in erratic-to-no cursor control. Wiping my thumb across it a few times usually brings it back into calibration.
    Action gaming is pretty much a no-go. The ASDW keys are just too small for standard FPS controls, and the touchpad is similar to a laptops, only 1/4 the size. Get a gamepad if you plan to play action games or anything where keyboard input controls movement.
    Slower games are playable, but for best results, you'll want another mouse attached to the system. I am able to play strategy and RPG games such as Neverwinter Nights 2 and King's Bounty with no problem using the Dinovo Mini for keyboard commands and the MX Revolution for mousing. It's still a bit awkward, but workable. The 360 pad is much more comfortable, at least in games that support it.
    Bioware really gets on my nerves in this regard. Mass Effect and Dragon Age are both console ports, and obviously there exists a workable 360 control scheme for both games. Bioware pulled some PC mouse+KB snobbery and decided not to include the option to play with the (already available) gamepad control scheme. Fine, for people playing at a desktop, but it gives the cold shoulder to the HTPC user who is unwilling to keep a full sized keyboard on the couch.
    The hinge is actually dangerous, especially to little fingers. There is a flimsy piece of rubber protecting the gap on the back side of the hinge. Once it falls out, there is a very sharp edge exposed that will happily pinch off a good chunk of skin when the hinge opens. It's natural to hold the Mini by this edge while opening the cover, so you need to make a conscious effort to put your fingers elsewhere.
    Battery life started out amazing, and with heavy use lasted over a week. Now, 21 months later, it will only hold a charge for about 3 hours at most. I called/webbed Logitech to buy a replacement battery, and it turns out they don't sell them. Stupid business decision, with a keyboard in this price range, they could charge $30 for a replacement battery and hear no complaints out of me.
    Thankfully, the unit is under warranty, and they again offered me an RMA. I accepted, and will be shipping out my trusty Mini. There was no cross shipping option available when I asked if I could use a credit card to secure shipment of an advance replacement. Maybe that's for the best. I hope they just swap the battery and send back the same keyboard, I've gotten used to pushing the D key just a bit harder.
    Newegg has a sale for 15% off any keyboard right now, and the Mini is listed at $112 on sale before 15% off, meaning the price is still higher than Amazon's $90 price tag. Definitely don't pay MSRP, these things go on sale all the time, and I don't think I've ever seen it over $130 on Amazon.
    All things considered, this is an excellent product, well worth the $125 I paid.
    Thanks Ratbuddy, that is really useful insight.
    It's funny that the dinovo mini is also promoted with sales heavily, I've noticed the lenovo remote is almost eternally on sale - if its not, wait a week and it will be. :)
    On the Lenovo remote, $20-$30 shipped is a "good deal" - you won't find it below that range ever really, but there are often sales putting it in that price range.
    What about the Dinovo? Have you watched the sales on it? If you pay $90 are you doing well, or are there regularly sales bringing the price down below that?
    It's pretty rare to see the Mini dip below 95-100 from what I've seen, I picked mine up for 70 shipped used IIRC. Unfortunately as long as no one answers with a backlit device for significantly less I doubt they'll cut much of a break on the price, it's a premium product at a premium price. As I said in this article, if backlight is important, this is it and it's worth the price, but if you're mostly mousing around the Lenovo is a WAY better deal and has better "mouse" functionality.
    Big Mike
    It's pretty rare to see the Mini dip below 95-100 from what I've seen, I picked mine up for 70 shipped used IIRC. Unfortunately as long as no one answers with a backlit device for significantly less I doubt they'll cut much of a break on the price, it's a premium product at a premium price. As I said in this article, if backlight is important, this is it and it's worth the price, but if you're mostly mousing around the Lenovo is a WAY better deal and has better "mouse" functionality.

    Is that my old unit Mike?
    Lol, shoulda kept it, just bought another one the other day. I really have nothing bad to say about the Dinovo Mini since there's really nothing else that does the same job with a HTPC IMO. It's nice to be able to do everything from loading OS to net surfing to running media center software all from the same device. Not to mention the Bluetooth worked flawlessly from any point within my condo.
    I've found the battery life to always be a week or more, but I never really put it through extreme amounts of use.
    Definitely took a while to get efficient with the special keys, but it becomes second nature after a while. Great little unit for HTPC overall IMO.
    It sure is, works great except it was a bear to get it to pair with a fresh build of Win7, apparently the unit got a little scrambled in the brain, removing the battery for a couple minutes got it going again. I haven't used it a ton since I'm waiting on my CETON cablecard tuner and using a HD cablebox at the moment (switched from SD to HD set recently) but as soon as I get the Ceton I'll be using it all the time. The backlighting and sleek look of the unit really sets it off from the competition, it looks good on the coffee table as it were.
    I.M.O.G.
    What about the Dinovo? Have you watched the sales on it? If you pay $90 are you doing well, or are there regularly sales bringing the price down below that?

    I do pay attention, and have never seen one cheaper than $90 new.
    A quick slickdeals search shows that once Fry's had it for $100-$20=$80 AMIR, and Dell once had it for $120, $84 after a 30% coupon, but those are the only times I can find it went that low.
    $90 is about as good as you can hope to do on it, and worth every penny IMHO.
    The Logitech Mini Controller, btw, appears to be the same thing, only with different markings on some of the buttoms. Goes for $130 or more everywhere. http://www.logitech.com/en-us/smartTV/accessories/devices/mini-controller for some infos.
    I thought at first that my Dinovo Mini couldn't make the , Fn-J and K for {}, Q and W for ` and ~, and Fn-X for |.
    Big Mike
    It sure is, works great except it was a bear to get it to pair with a fresh build of Win7, apparently the unit got a little scrambled in the brain, removing the battery for a couple minutes got it going again. I haven't used it a ton since I'm waiting on my CETON cablecard tuner and using a HD cablebox at the moment (switched from SD to HD set recently) but as soon as I get the Ceton I'll be using it all the time. The backlighting and sleek look of the unit really sets it off from the competition, it looks good on the coffee table as it were.

    Ahh, yes. I should have mentioned that too. Once in a while it will loose connection, pop the battery and wait for the green bluetooth light and back in business. Happened to me a few times as well.
    How often is once in a while? The current unit I'm testing looses connection with the keyboard every week approximately. It also has a remote control similar to a TV style, and it never looses connection - only the keyboard has the issue. Same deal, pop the batteries, the firmware straightens itself out, power back on and we're good to go.
    Just got a surprise UPS from Logitech. I was thinking they were being really cool and sent me a new battery without receiving my RMA since I haven't sent it in, but no.
    They sent me a spare USB receiver dongle.
    Points for trying, but it's a swing and a miss :p
    edit: Just called and explained what they did and the guy said "sorry, we're sending you a new Dinovo mini, should be there in a couple days, and you don't need to send back the extra receiver." No mention of sending back the one with the weak battery either. Say whaaaa?
    I.M.O.G.
    How often is once in a while? The current unit I'm testing looses connection with the keyboard every week approximately. It also has a remote control similar to a TV style, and it never looses connection - only the keyboard has the issue. Same deal, pop the batteries, the firmware straightens itself out, power back on and we're good to go.

    I would say it happened about once a week, maybe two. Other than that, rock solid strong signal and few missed keystrokes.
    ratbuddy
    Just got a surprise UPS from Logitech. I was thinking they were being really cool and sent me a new battery without receiving my RMA since I haven't sent it in, but no.
    They sent me a spare USB receiver dongle.
    Points for trying, but it's a swing and a miss :p
    edit: Just called and explained what they did and the guy said "sorry, we're sending you a new Dinovo mini, should be there in a couple days, and you don't need to send back the extra receiver." No mention of sending back the one with the weak battery either. Say whaaaa?

    Lol, what the hell?
    ratbuddy
    Just got a surprise UPS from Logitech. I was thinking they were being really cool and sent me a new battery without receiving my RMA since I haven't sent it in, but no.
    They sent me a spare USB receiver dongle.
    Points for trying, but it's a swing and a miss :p
    edit: Just called and explained what they did and the guy said "sorry, we're sending you a new Dinovo mini, should be there in a couple days, and you don't need to send back the extra receiver." No mention of sending back the one with the weak battery either. Say whaaaa?

    Logitech does that all the time. I have 2 spare G7's (both double click when you click once) and my friend gave me his broken harmony when he got his replaced (the channel up/down buttons don't work). Logitech is awesome when it comes to RMAs :)
    Any word on if these play nice with Linux?
    I have no complaints about mine. I've been using it for close to three years now. The battery lasts me a month at least. I think it is primarily meant for HTPC usage, and that is all I use it for. We do a small bit of web surfing with it, but so little that the small keypad is not too much of a problem. I would never suggest it for anything like playing games.
    jimmsch
    I have no complaints about mine. I've been using it for close to three years now. The battery lasts me a month at least. I think it is primarily meant for HTPC usage, and that is all I use it for. We do a small bit of web surfing with it, but so little that the small keypad is not too much of a problem. I would never suggest it for anything like playing games.

    I'm sure that's why my batteries lasted so long. I did very little actual typing with it, mostly just navigating XBMC.
    Yeesh, UPS just dropped off a brand new Mini. Logitech really rules.
    My stable now includes an MX310, G9, G15, MX Revolution, and a pair of Minis, one with short battery life ;)
    Update:
    That last RMA replacement had a crappy battery and I ended up sending it back, along with the original one, some time around May 2011. They sent another replacement, and it worked OK for a few months, but now I pretty much have to leave it plugged in all the time or it loses connection due to weak battery.
    I really can't recommend this keyboard anymore due to the seemingly pervasive battery issues. It'd be fine for very light HTPC use such as starting and stopping movies but for real forum browsing and other such uses, you'll want a keyboard with a battery that actually works.
    I really don't get it. My Logitech Cordless Internet Pro keyboard has been going strong on a pair of regular alkaline AA batteries for something like 6 months, and I use it pretty heavily.
    I have also had good experiences with AA batteries ratbuddy, for htpc keyboards. It seems any decent keyboard goes into sleep mode when not in use, and the batteries really last a long time.
    Thanks for the update as well. Really nice to see followup. :)
    They're doing an RMA yet again. This'll be my 4th Dinovo Mini, all because they can't make a decent battery. I wouldn't even mind the shoddy battery lifespan if they would sell me a replacement, but they still refuse to offer spare batteries seperately from the keyboard. Stupid, stupid, stupid.