Sony is renowned for the quality of its official peripherals and the newly released keypad easily lives up to that tradition. Now that I’ve been discharged from A&E with fingers stitched back on and my arms sewn up after attemtping to remove the keypad from the packagaing, I can finally bring you a review.
Intended as an alternative to a full keyboard the keypad fulfills that function and more. Once you’ve stemmed your blood flow you’ll notice just how lovely looking the keypad is. It’s so gorgeously small and precise that you’ll probably fall in love with it right away. First off, plug in a SixAxis charging cable and let the keypad charge for a little while. Once it’s stopped squealing “Charge me, charge me!” you can get down to business.
The design is so good it’s as though the SixAxis is complete once the keypad is clamped to it, with the keypad following the curves of the controller. The extra weight is barely noticeable and it’s all so well balanced that you can easily play a game with the keypad attached and suffer no ill effects. Where the pad hangs over the shoulder buttons it’s recessed to provide extra room for your fingers. I tested this with a game of Resistance 2 – a game relying heavily on shoulder buttons – and there was no difference to playing without the keypad.
The pad is really designed to help facilitate quicker text-based communications, so I fired up the web browser and hit the forums. It takes a little while to get used to typing with the pad, but everything is there: Caps lock, Shift, Tab, Space, Backspace. I found the easiest way was to hold the SixAxis as normal, and use my thumbs to type while the fingers underneath the pad provided the solidity of a normal keyboard. It works well, and after a few attempts I no longer see the need for my USB keyboard. Sure, it isn’t as good as a ‘proper’ keyboard, but the trade-offs make it clearly the better option: It’s lovely; it’s wireless; it’s permanently available.
It does have a neat trick up its sleeve, and that’s the ability to turn part of the keyboard into a touchpad akin to those on laptops. Just press the touchpad button and then when you move your fingers over the keys it acts as a mouse. A brilliant little trick, but I still found it easier to use the thumbsticks to move the cursor. There are also a couple of shortcut buttons: one that brings up the XMB Message Box, and one that brings up your Friends List.
Sony has delivered another quality peripheral. It’s such a great design, it really is hard to imagine the SixAxis without it once it’s in place. The materials look and feel great, and the keys have a satisfying and reassuring feel everytime they are pressed. It’s perfect for the communcations it was designed for; quick and easy chat in games that don’t rely on voice-comms.