[Hardware Review] Hyperkin PS3 Text Link Remote

Sick of trying to chat with your friends using the on-screen options but don't want to move up to a full-blown USB keyboard? Sorry, the Text Link Remote's probably not the solution.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 4, 2010
One of the single best things Sony did when creating the PlayStation 3 was keep everything relatively open; the PlayStation A/V Connector used on the original PlayStation and the PS2 is the only proprietary port on the system -- everything else, from the USB ports on the front to the HDMI, optical cable, the card readers and even the power plug are standard stuff. Better still, a whole host of peripherals are recognized by the PS3 OS, allowing for the use of normal mice and keyboards if you end up doing much in the way of chatting with others or surfing the web with your big black behemoth.

You don't have to, of course; the DualShock 3 does a decent job, but it's nowhere near as easy or quick as using a full-sized option. Sony's attempted to remedy things a little with their own official keypad (which even offers a wonky touchpad option with the keys), but it's nowhere near as convenient as a full-sized keyboard. Enter Hyperkin, who've prepped something of a keyboard/controller/mouse mash-up in an attempt to be a one-stop solution for all three. Unfortunately, this jack of three trades is competent in none of 'em.

The actual keyboard/controller/mouse unit, its USB transmitter and a charging cable are all tucked into the now familiar plastic wrapping of a blister pack, though in tearing it open (admittedly haphazardly), we didn't see any actual instructions. Nevertheless, things were rather self-explanatory; we plugged in the USB infrared receiver, connected the oddly clunky mini-USB connector and started charging the remote's built-in battery.

There's little doubt that Hyperkin tried to make the most of the IR connection. The bulbous IR LED on the unit not only glowed brightly, but allowed us to use the remote from just about any angle -- including facing away from the receiver. The remote sports not only dual analog nubs with a painfully small amount of travel, but dedicated L and R 1/2/3 Buttons. Shoulder buttons at the top are placed horizontally rather than stacked like the normal PlayStation controller.

Boasting a full QWERTY layout, a d-pad and the usual face buttons when slid out, the "game" controls are all tucked away when the unit slides closed, granting a far more remote-like layout to things with dedicated FF, RW, Next, Prev, Play, Pause and Stop Buttons, plus the normal shape-based face butons, L/R 1/2/3, Select, Start and PlayStation (dubbed "Home" here) Buttons. When closed, the remote is probably about twice as tall as a normal TV remote, but a bit lighter. Recessed curves on the underside give your fingers a place to rest when using the remote like a controller.

[Build Quality]
Without question, this is a cheap feeling product -- surprising given the $40 price point. The slide mechanism feels loose and sloppy compared to, say, a slide-out cell phone, and the buttons on top are rather mushy and cheap feeling. Apparently Hyperkin decided to avoid any legal hassles by making their shape buttons incomplete approximations of the X, O, Triangle and Square Buttons, leaving the shape "open" with some little vertical lines to "block" the shape from being completed. And interesting aesthetic choice, certainly, but whatever works.

There's a weird sort of inconsistency to the button sizes on the remote face. Obviously the decision was made to go with the most commonly used VCR-style play/rewind/etc buttons the focus, but the d-pad and Enter buttons feel crammed into the middle. Having access to everything (including the L/R 1/2/3 Buttons as separate options, but it's still rather ugly when taken from a design standpoint.

When you slide things open, though, that's when the problems really start. Though there is indeed a proper QWERTY setup -- including Alt, Shift, Ctrl and Backspace keys, everything is incredibly mushy and tightly packed, so much so that those with bigger thumbs will likely hit the weird separating walls of plastic that divide the d-pad/face buttons and analog sticks from the rest of the keyboard, as well as a split down the middle. The buttons are easily the most damning part of the Text Link Remote, and make the whole unit feel like a kid's toy.

Though functionally the unit works fine, using it quickly is damn near impossible. The buttons have no tactile feedback, just squeakily melting into the hard plastic around them, the dividing walls get in the way and the whole thing is markedly slower than using, say, the official Sony clip-on keypad. It's not a huge hassle to have to pick up the PS3 Text Link Remote to chat, since we often do that with our USB keyboard anyway, but the whole thing is so painfully cramped that any sort of speed is going to take a serious effort -- something this unit was supposed to alleviate.

In short, it's a clunky, cheap-feeling, cumbersome bit of kit that tries far too hard to do too much and ends up being worthless at everything.

[Final Thoughts]
In its attempt to offer a sort of catch-all solution, Hyperkin succeeds only in biting off more than it can chew. Poor build quality, impossibly tight button placement and a cumbersome look and feel sap any real usability out of the PS3 Text Link Remote. The idea of an all-in-one solution for everything short of playing seriously involved games is a great idea, and for once choosing infrared over Bluetooth doesn't absolutely kill the unit's usability outside of direct line-of-sight. Even still, this is not a solution for gaming or chatting, and watching movies is something that's so passive anyway that it's simply too pricey to be considered a proper replacement for anything -- official or otherwise.

Verdict: Avoid It!