A keyboard is a pretty handy thing for cord-cutters to have, even in this era of apps and voice assistants. Small size and backlit keys have made the Riitek Rii i8+ Mini BT Wireless Keyboard an incredibly popular choice in living rooms around the world. We decided to take a look for ourselves and find out why people think it’s so great.
Since Riitek Rii i8+ Mini BT is such a mouthful, I will shorten it to either “Rii i8+” or just “Rii”. Keep in mind that Riitek makes another version of the Rii i8+ that uses a proprietary wireless connection rather than Bluetooth. This entire review focuses on the Bluetooth version.
Disclosure: Flixed purchased the Rii i8+ directly from Amazon. Neither Riitek or its US distributor were involved with this review.
[amazon-product url=”http://geni.us/qBYD2f” refresh=”true”]
Keyboard and Touchpad in One
The Rii i8+ is a compact, combination keyboard and touchpad made by the Shenzhen Riitek Technology Company. The eight-year-old business has been making mice, full-sized keyboards and mini keyboards for nearly eight years. Riitek sells the Rii i8+ exclusively through Amazon. You will see listings through other sites, but those tend to be fulfilled from China by third-party sellers.
Price and specifications
The Rii i8+ has a list price of $32.99 (according to Riitek’s site) or $27.99 (according to Amazon). Since the only place to buy it is Amazon, that’s probably the number to go with. Just be sure you’re looking at the right version. That non-Bluetooth version I mentioned earlier lists for $29.99.
We purchased the Bluetooth version for this review. The specifications are pretty straightforward:
- 92-key QWERTY keyboard.
- LED backlight.
- Integrated touchpad.
- Bluetooth v3.0 connectivity.
- Built-in lithium-ion battery.
Our version of the Rii came in a nice, conservative Matte Black. You can, however, express your personal flair by picking from a rainbow of colors: White, Green, Blue, and Glossy Red and Gold.
Riitek’s documentation says the Rii is compatible with five different distributions of Linux, five versions of Windows plus Windows CE and Android. It qualifies that last bit by saying it requires an implementation of Android that uses the standard USB interface.
Amazon’s marketing copy adds tablets, game consoles, streaming devices and Macs to the list. Presumably, the Rii can connect to anything with a standard Bluetooth human interface device driver.
The people’s choice
The popularity of the Rii i8+ was what caught our attention. Nearly 4,200 people have left overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon. The average reviewer gives this product four out of five stars. A full 72% of the reviews rate the Rii either a four or five while fewer than 20% gave it one or two stars.
The positive reviews are overwhelmingly from people using the Rii with a home theater PC or set-top box. They cite the product’s long-lasting battery, compactness and backlit keys. The people leaving negative reviews experienced dropped connections and compatibility issues with their devices.
Design and Usability
What’s in the box
There’s nothing fancy about the plain brown cardboard box the Rii ships in. The small box does what it needs to do. Inside, you’ll find the Rii itself as well as a triple-headed USB cable, the user’s manual and a coupon from Rii’s distributor.
That USB cable has a full-sized Type A connector, a mini-USB connector and a USB extender. The user’s manual rather unhelpfully describes it as a USB charging cable without explaining why you need a USB extension cable.
Rii i8+ design
The Rii has a molded plastic body the shape of a flattened game controller. That flatness keeps it stable on end tables and makes it unobtrusive. Anyone traveling with the Rii will appreciate how little space it occupies in their bag.
One minor downside to the flat shape is the lack of a contoured grip on either side. This is not a device that you want to hold for extended periods. It’s not meant to be used for extended periods, of course, so this should not be an issue.
Most of the body is coated with a soft-touch plastic that makes holding it more pleasant and keeps the Rii from sliding around on tables.
[amazon-product url=”http://geni.us/qBYD2f” refresh=”true”]
Keyboard design and usability
The first things you see when you take the Rii out of the box are buttons. Lots of buttons. The modified QWERTY layout has most of the keys you would expect to see on a full-sized keyboard, but arranged differently. Functions, numbers, letters and other keys sit in a grid rather than in offset rows.
The Rii is a PC keyboard with Ctrl, Alt, AltGr and Backspace keys. It also has a “Win” key without the Windows logo. Rii must not have paid its Microsoft tax.
The punctuation keys you are used to seeing to the right of a full-sized keyboard have been arranged on the bottom.
The arrow keys normally in the bottom right of the keyboard have been replaced by a directional pad at the top, right.
The keyboard is easy to use and I was able to build up my typing speed with a little practice. There are several aspects of the design, however, that will keep you from typing anywhere near as fast as you can on a full-sized keyboard.
First is the reality that two-thumb typing will never be as fast as ten-finger typing.
Second, the grid-based layout forces you to look at the keys as you type. You may be a formal touch-typist or you may have developed the skill on your own. Either way, your muscle memory is built around a keyboard with offset rows. The grid layout will have you hitting the wrong keys until you can remap things in your mind.
Finally, the single Shift key will force you to stretch your right thumb across the keyboard when typing capital letters.
I don’t consider any of these to be negative aspects of the Rii’s design. Water is wet and mini-keyboards are awkward. Overall, Riitek has done a great job creating a compact layout for occasional use.
There is one exception: the spacebar is horrible. First of all, it is very small. A normal space bar spans the width of five or six normal keys. The Rii’s spacebar is only two keys wide.
That small target is made worse by the fact that you have to hit it dead center to engage the switch beneath. Hit the spacebar too far to either side, and it won’t register.
Touchpad design and usability
The touchpad dominates the top half of the Rii. It’s about the size of two commemorative stamps and recognizes simple gestures.
- Single-finger swipe: move the cursor.
- Double-finger swipe up/down: scroll in a document or browser.
- Single-finger tap: left click.
- Double-finger tap: right click.
Riitek also included several mouse buttons. You will see two prominently positioned to the left of the keyboard. There is also a set of buttons split on either side of the touchpad itself.
I found the touchpad to be inconsistent – either too sensitive or too unresponsive – across devices and within apps on each device. This, however, is where the spacebar redeems itself. The combination Fn+Spacebar cycles the touchpad through its sensitivity levels.
In a nutshell, you wouldn’t want this touchpad to be your daily driver but it’s good enough for the occasional use it’s designed for.
Rii’s engineers had some extra space and seemed to want symmetry in their design, so you’ll see several other buttons around the touchpad. What you won’t see in the user’s manual, on the Riitek website or on the Amazon page is a decoder chart to tell you what the icons mean.
Many are straightforward, but some are obscure and the actions of others changes depending on the device the Rii is connected to. The column of buttons to the right of the touchpad include:
- Bluetooth pairing.
- Search (on some platforms).
- Home (or back a screen).
- Right mouse button.
You get another column of buttons to the left of the touchpad:
- Circle with a triangle.
- Backlight toggle.
- Audio mute.
- Left mouse button.
I never did figure out what that circle-with-a-triangle button does.
A media pad provides visual balance to the directional pad. It doesn’t work with all devices, but the media pad lets you play, pause, and skip tracks. The V+ and V- buttons can control volume.
Beneath the media pad is a row of LED’s — blue, red, and orange. The blue light tells you that the keyboard is connected to your device. The red light is the charging indicator and turns off when the battery has a full charge. The orange activity light fires whenever the keyboard sends a key-press to a device.
The Rii’s front edge has an on-off switch and a mini-USB port for the charging cable.
Check out the secret panel
A panel on the bottom of the Rii reveals a little surprise: a USB dongle. The user’s manual doesn’t even list it, much less mention how or why to use it.
If you have a device that lacks Bluetooth (but has a USB port), the dongle provides the wireless connection for your keyboard.
This also explains the USB extension connector. Devices buried too deep in your home theater system may expose the dongle to too much interference. Plug the USB cable into your device instead. Then plug the dongle into the extension. That gives you a better chance of maintaining the Bluetooth connection.
[amazon-product url=”http://geni.us/qBYD2f” refresh=”true”]
Test Driving the Rii i8+
Home theater PC’s and set-top boxes are the intended devices for the Rii. At the same time, it has a much broader range of possible applications. After all, it’s just a keyboard. I connected the Rii to as many devices around my house as I could to see what happens.
The only streaming device I couldn’t connect to was the Roku Streaming Stick (no Bluetooth and no available USB).
I tested the Rii on my MacBook Air. At first glance, connecting a Bluetooth mini keyboard to a laptop doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Just keep in mind that many people use the long-neglected Mac Mini as a home theater PC and DVD player. With a little hacking, they even turn it into a Blu-ray player.
I didn’t have high hopes since macOS isn’t listed in the Rii’s specifications – and it has a Windows-based layout. But the keyboard worked fine. Most importantly, macOS automatically maps the “Win” key to CMD.
Straight out of the box, the touchpad was a chore to use. Getting from one side of the screen to the other required ten swipes. Toggling the Fn+Spacebar combination, however, dropped that down to three.
The double-finger scrolling wasn’t as easily fixed. I scrolled smoothly through a PDF in Preview. On the other hand, scrolling accelerated so much in Chrome that it practically jumped to the bottom of a long web page.
I went to YouTube to see how well the media pad controlled video playback. Had I given it a little more thought, I would have realized what a dumb idea that was. The media keys control the Mac’s hardware. The directional pad, on the other hand, worked great. The up and down arrows controlled volume within YouTube while the left and right arrows let you skip back and forth.
My iPhone was up next. The Rii would never hold up for a mobile productivity guru, but it could make a convenient companion for the casual traveler.
The Rii paired with iOS effortlessly. I fired up Notes and started typing right away. In some ways, the Rii is even better than iOS’ virtual keyboard. You can use the directional pad to move the cursor within the text — a much better experience than the magnifying glass.
Other buttons on the Rii map to features in iOS. The search button, which did nothing on the Mac, flips you to the iOS search screen. The media pad controls background playback of Music.
Every once in a while the App Store will demand your Apple ID and password. Or maybe you want to use the limited search function in YouTube’s app. The Apple TV’s virtual keyboard leaves a lot to be desired and you may not want to talk to Siri.
The Rii works with the Apple TV rather well once you figure out how the keyboard mimics the Apple TV Remote.
- Menu: Esc and Home.
- Play/Pause: the media pad’s play/pause button.
- Touch Surface (select): Enter, directional pad OK, left and right mouse buttons, touchpad tap.
- Touch Surface (navigation): directional pad or touchpad double-finger swipe up/down.
I would recommend avoiding the touchpad when using the Rii with the Apple TV. It jumps so quickly in some apps that it makes the Apple TV Remote look good.
Although the user’s guide doesn’t list game consoles in the systems requirements section, it does mention PlayStation 3 in the overview. I still have one that I use as a Blu-ray player and (until the Apple TV app arrived) to watch Amazon Prime Video.
I easily paired the Rii with my PS3 and used the directional pad to navigate through into music and select tracks.
Like with the Apple TV, it takes some experimentation to figure out how the Rii keyboard maps to the PlayStation’s controller. I won’t waste your time with the mapping because of what happened next.
The only real reason you need a keyboard and touchpad on the PS3 is to use the early-2000’s era web browser. I used the Rii to open it up, then moved the mouse around a bit.
Then my PlayStation locked up. It wouldn’t respond to the Rii or to the Sixaxis controller. I had to force a shutdown and reboot. That brings up a scary message from Sony that my file system may be corrupted (it wasn’t).
That’s enough of that, I decided, so I went into the settings to break the Rii’s Bluetooth connection.
My PlayStation locked up.
Now, is that the Rii’s fault? Or is it an out-of-date Bluetooth driver on Sony’s discontinued platform? Regardless, there is at least one report in the Amazon reviews of the same thing happening.
Last month I reviewed the Matricom G-box Q3 and gave it a less-than-stellar review. The Q3’s horrible infrared remote control was a big contributor to my low opinion. It made using the Q3’s mobile-operating-system-on-a-TV even more difficult.
A Bluetooth keyboard and touchpad would have made that experience much more pleasant. There was a chance that simply connecting the Rii to the Q3 would change my opinion of the Android box.
Spoiler: it didn’t.
The Q3’s implementation of Android paired with the Rii easily enough. Unfortunately, it never recognized any of the commands. Neither the touchpad nor the directional pad would let me navigate through the Q3’s interface. So I tried connecting the Rii’s wireless dongle to the Q3’s USB port.
The Q3 locked up.
Judging by the Amazon reviews, the Rii’s compatibility with Android-based set-top boxes is very sensitive to the way the manufacturers implement Android. Some people describe a great experience. Others, not so much.
[amazon-product url=”http://geni.us/qBYD2f” refresh=”true”]
Who is the Rii i8+ for?
After testing the Rii i8+ mini keyboard and touchpad, it’s pretty clear that it is best suited to a limited number of scenarios. These share a common need for a keyboard, but in small doses. The Rii can’t hold its own against a full-sized keyboard in heavy use. At the same time, a traditional keyboard is big and unwieldy.
Home theater PC owners
Home theater PC’s are based on desktop operating systems, whether it’s Windows, MacOS or some distribution of Linux. A remote control works fine as long as you’re in the Plex or Kodi interface. The minute you need to use a desktop app, you will need a mouse and keyboard.
The Rii is a great option in this scenario. The modern desktop operating systems have full support for Bluetooth’s human interface device system. Pairing and using the Rii will work smoothly. In the case of a Mac Mini HTPC, the operating system even maps the keys you need.
Fewer people carry a laptop with them on vacation. In most cases, a smartphone and maybe a tablet is all anyone really needs. The mobile operating systems’ virtual keyboards, though great for texting and the quick tweet, aren’t as great for longer emails or blog posts.
The Rii will do just fine for casual use while traveling. You’ll never use it to write the Great American Novel, but its thin-and-light shape makes it a nice choice for those not-too-big-not-too-small writing tasks.
Game console and set-top box owners
The Rii is no substitute for a game controller or a remote control. It does OK, though, for those rare times when you need to enter long passwords or search the web.
This only applies to devices built and supported by the right kind of company. By that, I mean manufacturers that have the resources to keep their systems up-to-date and implement Bluetooth drivers correctly.
Few sellers of those generic Android boxes make their own product. Instead they contract with other companies who may or may not have the expertise or interest in doing things right. That’s why getting third-party accessories like the Rii to work can be so hit-and-miss.
Overall Review: 8
Packaging and design: 7
The biggest issue driving this score is Riitek’s non-existent documentation. There’s nothing in the user’s manual explaining how to use the wireless dongle or why there are three connectors on the USB cable. Also, a simple decoder chart explaining what the special buttons are for would be a big help.
Keyboard design and usability: 8
You have to make a lot of compromises when making a keyboard this compact. Overall, Riitek did a good job creating an easy-to-use keyboard that’s so small. I deducted one point, however, for the difficult spacebar.
Touchpad design and usability: 8
Credit, again, to Riitek for making a touchpad that works reasonably well across so many different platforms. My main critique of the touchpad, that responsiveness was so varied, may be operating system issues that Riitek can’t do anything about.
If you only need a keyboard for a single device in your home theater, then this won’t even be an issue for you. Be prepared to make adjustments, though, if you want to use the Rii i8+ on a variety of devices.
There’s no quibbling about the $27.99 price. The Rii is a bargain for what it does. You can find other mini keyboards on Amazon or eBay. Many of them, however, are rebadged “white label” versions of Riitek products that the company produced for another brand. Might as well buy from the source.
The Final Word
I was pleasantly surprised by the Rii i8+ Mini BT. It’s a well-designed keyboard and touchpad combo that works.
I did raise some minor issues, like the spacebar. But that’s my job as a reviewer. None of them rise to the level of a deal breaker or take away from my recommendation.
If you need a small keyboard for occasional use in your home theater or on the road, the Rii i8+ Mini BT Wireless Keyboard is a great choice.