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Touchscreen keyboards are great for quick text entry, but don’t offer a tactile experience for long-form writing on the go. Portable Bluetooth keyboards are better, but most are too small for practical use or too large for carrying around. Enter Celluon’s Magic Cube, a pocketable projection keyboard that keeps your fingers off the touchscreen.
Weighing under three ounces and roughly the size of a chunky Zippo lighter, the Magic Cube uses a red laser diode to project a virtual keyboard onto the surface in front of you while remaining compact enough for travel. An infrared signal detects your fingers making contact with the virtual keys and relays text entry to any device you have connected, even computers with an included USB 2.0 cable, which also charges the Cube’s 700mAH lithium-polymer battery in about four hours for two-and-a-half hours of continuous use.
About the size of a thick Zippo lighter and weighing less than three ounces, the Magic Cube is perfect for road warriors looking for a full-size external keyboard.
The Magic Cube paired easily with our iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, but took longer to discover than other accessories (our 27-inch iMac immediately recognized the Cube via USB). The virtual keyboard is quite usable even in a brightly lit room, but occasionally got tripped up by our fast typing. Celluon claims a recognition rate of up to 350 characters per minute, but we’d love to shake the hand of the person who could actually accomplish this.
While the virtual keyboard was more responsive than expected, it ultimately wasn’t as magical as we hoped. Most virtual keys make a satisfying click when pressed to acknowledge input, but modifier keys like Shift are awkwardly silent. Worse yet, common punctuation keys are placed on nonstandard keys, forcing users into a slower hunt-and-peck typing mode. As cool as the concept of the Magic Cube may be, at $169 it’s more expensive than a simple Bluetooth keyboard, and the amount of desk space required for projection negates the advantage of its compact size. We attempted to write this entire review with the Magic Cube, but ultimately gave up and returned to the comfort of our hardware keyboard—the novelty wears off quickly when it gets in the way of moving words from your brain to your device.
The bottom line. It’s a neat idea, but the Magic Cube still lacks the tactile experience of a real keyboard, and text entry isn’t significantly faster than the native software keyboard of mobile devices.
Celluon Magic Cube Keyboard
Any device with Bluetooth HID support or Mac/PC with USB 2.0 port; iOS 4.0 or later
Small, light, and versatile. Extremely portable. Allows for easy typing with an iPad propped up behind it.
Nonstandard keyboard layout for most punctuation. Requires extra desk space. Expensive and slower than standard keyboard input. Multi-Touch mouse mode only works on Windows.