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Review: Redfly Mobile Companion - Use Your BlackBerry Smartphone as a Laptop

Redfly Unit
By Adam Zeis on 3 Nov 2009 12:01 am EST
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Contest: Win a Redfly Mobile Companion for BlackBerry! Details Below..

If you're on the go and find yourself stuck in airports, on planes or in hotel rooms you know how valuable your BlackBerry can be to get work done. Be it emailing, finishing up a presentation or various other tasks, we like to use every spare minute to get things done. Sometimes the keyboard and small screen can bring your productivity down, and lets face it, not everyone has a laptop or netbook to cart around. Wifi isn't always available, and sometimes tethering isn't an option. All these added together can make for some crappy traveling and even less productivity. Enter Redfly from Celio Corp. Redfly carries the tagline "Use Your Smartphone Like A Laptop" and you can do just that. The unit itself is smaller than a netbook which makes for extreme portability, and you just plug in your device (or jump on via Bluetooth) and you're up and running. You're BlackBerry screen is instantly transported to the Redfly's 7 or 8 inch screen and you have a full QWERTY keyboard at your disposal. Now you can use the power of your BlackBerry as a laptop. Email, BlackBerry Messenger, MemoPad, Calendar and more are all at your disposal. Lets start from the beginning and take a look at the Redfly unit and all of its functions.

In the box you'll find the Redfly unit, AC adapter and an instruction sheet - thats it (and thats all you need).  You will have to download a small app to your device through which the Redfly will communicate. This allows you to tweak a few settings, and specify a USB or Bluetooth connection. From there just connect your device (the Redfly currently only supports the Tour, Bold and Curve 8900) and switch on the Redfly. The unit is instant on, so it fires up insanely quick meaning no wait time. This is useful on many levels. If you're mid-email and its running a bit longer than you thought, you can instantly switch to the Redfly to finish it out. You won't have to factor in wait time for booting since there is none, which is awesome. Once you're connected your BlackBerry screen shows up on the Redfly and all the functions are moved onto the unit. 

Redfly Unit

Sides
Side by side with HP Mini Netbook

The unit itself has a familiar layout. It looks just like any laptop (moreso a Netbook now) with a full keyboard layout (complete with F keys) and a two-button trackpad on the bottom.  The quality of the display is good overall, and I don't think anyone using the Redfly will be seeking a high definition display anyway. The build quality is good and the unit feels solid. It is extremely light and very portable. Small enough to carry in pretty much any bag or briefcase, and maybe even in some coat pockets. There is a port for the AC adapter, two USB ports and a VGA port. You have the ability to hook up an external accessory like a mouse or full size keyboard, and also a monitor or projector for presentations or larger viewing.  

Keyboard
Keyboard and Trackpad

When first using the unit, I found it hard to get out of the "laptop" mentality. Seeing a full keyboard, trackpad and display makes me feel like I'm at a laptop, but I had to remind myself that I was using a laptop-hybrid if you will. Gone was the OS and some functions I was used to, and it was replaced with my BlackBerry OS. The Redfly gives you the option of using either a 5-way scroll method that mimicks the trackball movement (and even shows a trackball icon on the screen, which is obtrusive at times) or the typical mouse movement. Using the mouse mode I found the adjustment of scrolling through my icons fairly easy, and once I got into the swing it went smoothly. I think that overall once you get used to it the 5-way navigation is the way to go. Both take some adjustment, but having both should leave the option for everyone to find whats best.  

Side by Side
Redfly Keyboard and HP Mini Keyboard Comparison

When it comes to actually typing I had some difficulty. Over the last few months I've slowly adjusted to typing on the smaller keyobard on my HP Mini. I still find it difficult and frustrating at times, but I can do it when I have to. One of the first things I noticed about the Redfly was the small keyboard. It is a good deal smaller than a standard netbook keyboard, which may be an instant turn off for some users. Certain keys like the Shift are just way to small and really slow you down at times which is a big downfall. Other things you have to adjust to when navigating with the keyboard are remembering which keys are for what. Like the dedicated menu key on the keyboard that activates the BlackBerry menu. Its tough at times to remember that you're not on a laptop, so you can't just click the Start button to get a menu, and you actually have to hit the Menu button the keyboard.

Keyboard
Redlfy Keyboard

Some things are inhibited by the APIs that are a drawback as well. Web browsing is hindered by the fact that a page will not scroll when you reach the bottom. You have to either use the spacebar as a shortcut to page down, or click the scrollbar on the side of a page. This takes some getting used to and can be a very big turnoff. I did find navigating hard at times, and there is obviously a slight delay in the interface which is to be expected.

Overall once you get used to the navigation with a different interface the hard part is over. I don't think the average user will need to own a Redfly. Consumers who rarely travel will not have a full time use for the device unless the larger screen and keyboard is more appealing. I honestly can say that a BlackBerry user for the most part will be able to type quicker on the actualy device than with the Redfly. The web browser is a downer since its more trouble than its worth without being able to scroll fully through the pages. I think that business users who are stuck behind a BES and travel often will find the most value in the Redfly. Being able to connect on a larger unit through the device will be a big bonus. Using the company Wifi and data as opposed to a personal laptop is a definite bonus. 

The Redfly is available in a 7" version for $199 and an 8" version for $249. For more information or to purchase a unit, check out celiocorp.com/where_to_buy.

Contest: We have one Redfly C7 unit to give away (the one seen in this review actually - used but not abused). Just leave a comment on this post to be entered. Contest ends this Sunday at Midnight PST. 

Reader comments

Review: Redfly Mobile Companion - Use Your BlackBerry Smartphone as a Laptop

687 Comments

I mean, if you are going to carry something the same size and weight of a HP Mini, then why not carrying an HP Mini that is so so so much more useful???? Maybe if the app installed on the BB allowed you to have a better resolution on the 8" screen, but using the same resolution just bigger does not solve anything! and you still have to put up with the crippled browser, etc... People complaining with Windows boot time, have you ever heard about hibernation? and what's the problem with tethering? don't want to pay extra to your carrier then use tetherberry... I foresee them selling maybe 6 or 7 of these worldwide, counting the one they are giving away here...

Celio is not giving the unit away; CrackBerry is giving away the review unit that Celio gave them. Which tells you something right there is Adam doesn't want to keep something he got for free as a job perk.

It could just be an attack of journalistic integrity. Celio gave them the unit. Perhaps the CrackBerry editors' code of ethics or policies is that they cannot accept gifts from companies that they are reviewing.

Look at it this way: I work for CNN. I'm a tech writer. HP gave me a great new item (to keep). I say it's great. Everyone attacks me for being lenient on HP because they gave me a free toy.

Or maybe Adam is spreading the wealth because he finds his HP Netbook so much more useful that he knows he'd never use it, so he's letting someone who would find it useful have it.

Why even come out with this? The reason for BlackBerrys is mainly portable e-mail on the go. Why carry around an extra piece of equipment (an ugly piece of equipment at that) that does the exact same thing as the much smaller BlackBerry? The only advantage I see is the full size keyboard but I have no problem typing on the BB keyboard.

If I had to carry around a netbook and the choice was between this and a standard netbook I would much rather a full function Windows based netbook with full browser capability than a BB netbook with a crippled browser.

It's going to be like the Palm Foleo that another poster mentioned.

There is a use for this device, the always on function of a BB is great, people like myself who have heavly locked down notebooks can eat up an entire lunchbreak waiting for my computer to boot up, then find a wireless network or connect with my EVDO card, sure my BB is useable and I currently do use it when I stop for lunch on the road, but having the option to have a full keyboard would near tripple my typing speed, as well as making copy and pasting from parts of the many paragaph e-mails I am replying to so much easier,

also as mentioned on planes, this gives me a full e-mail device without needing to teather of find Wifi, that is what this device is for, If you are on the go, and have notebook restrictions this is a good device, I do hope it has a battery, or a battery pack for 60-90 minutes of use per charge.

I find Netbooks a waste of time, in my carry on, I want a full 15" notebook, doing multi workbook excel files in the hotel on a netbook would suck, but in travel when doing e-mail only this makes more sense then a Netbook.

Maybe if you wipe first, you'll create a highly slippery surface through which stuff will slide out faster. That'd be all hyper-efficient and -- er -- *stuff*.

and i am not paying for it i am so winning this for the first time.....

good job crackberry

I could rule the world with one of these!

or atleast be master of my DOMAIN....

Pick Me ! It counts as a tax right off...I SWEAR!

i was seriously just talking about how if i could only go to using my bb instead of a laptop i would be so happy

Hi,

Count me in. Curious, besides being hardware, how about the idea of porting this to "software" for those of us that tote a netbook already? This tware could display virtual "desktop" of a connected BB's (or smartphone) display.

Yeah, I agree... I think it would be great if someone made a program that you could run you BB right off your desktop on pc/mac. no known programs?

I think whoever created this device should have done more research. Netbook sales are through the roof! If they would have focused mainly on the software to work with netbooks, they would make a killing!

All you're paying for with this device is a larger screen and a keyboard. For $200, I'd rather purchase a 24" screen for my desktop.

Pay Verizon another $30/month for Netbook internet service, or get one of these and use the internet I already pay for...hmm. Sign me up for one of those!

I like the idea of this. if I could adjust to this type of a unit, I would not have to haul around my netbook!

I've been looking at the different keyboard options to help make my life on my berry simpler. Haven't bought one because of all the negative reviews I have read. I would love to take this one out for a spin. Thank you.

Crackberry you amaze me more everyday. This looks to be an amazing contest. Good luck everyone!!! I hope I get the most luck!

I am been following Redfly since the first time they released the unit. That time, it was designed for Windows mobile phones. It is great that now that can be used for Blackberry too. It will be perfect companion for my Storm, the "keyboard-less" BB.
Plus points are BB can be charged simultaneously while using Redfly. It has bigger screen too, so viewing will be much better. And don't forget the usual keyboard. Typing would not be any easier now.
7" is good enough. Not too big, not to small.

Thanks to Celio Corp and Crackberry.

I would love to have this. I cant afford it but would come in handy while I am trying to work off of my laptop while staying with my baby at St.Jude.

Interesting idea! Would be cool to try out cause I hate taking my huge laptop while traveling...basically just use the internet anyways.

This looks like a great way to pound out some emails while traveling - I'd love to get my hands on one and see if it can replace my laptop for short trips.

This is really cool. I wouldn't have much of a use for it. But, my dad who can't see very well would love this.

very neat

John

I hope I win! This could be quite handy as I don't have wifi at school in the study room and can use this there and get al pdf's displayed! Thanks for offering!

Excellent review. Mr Zeis have I ever told you your a great guy! :) Has this increased my chances? :)

Hope so!!!

I think this is a swell product. All of my customers call me a blackberry ninja so this is very appropriate for me to have...Thanks for your consideration with this matter LOL

I could definitely use something like the Redfly. I already do my homework on my phone; typing up my paper on word to go, creating a powerpoint, and doing research on my PDF to go. With the Redfly it would definitely be so much easier to do all of this on the go. It would make it easier too because I wouldn't have to carry my huge laptop around school.

Well if I don't get it, its just bad luck... But like I always say: "If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all." lol

I always wish I could be using something like this at the office one day, the day had COME!!!!

Could see some advantages of something like this when writing longer E-mails in the field. Especially with instant on, laptops take forever to boot.

Might even be able to get rid of the field techs air-cards and save some major expenses. When they have phones only they tend to skimp out on details in E-mails.

especially when using via Bluetooth, I can do my work even where it is rough and have my BlackBerry safely in my backpack. Excellent.

Thanky you CrackBerry for tis opportunity!

I've been toying around with the idea of getting a netbook for a while now, but this might make even more sense for me. Especially after I bring home my new 9700 in a couple weeks!

This could be a real plus in class. In law school, I carry so many books, when my laptop crashed, I just bought a netbook; saves space, but this could be even better if Documents to Go works with it.

It might be a little to bit complicated for everyday use (with USB cable and everything), but would still love to WIN one ;)

I would so use this. Wanted one when I was a winmo user. Never got one. Now I want one for my bold. it would be perfect if I won!

Thank you Crackberry!

This is just the sort of thing I've been looking for when I go to conferences. Don't need a full laptop. Most of the time I'm just writing and looking up articles

Ok everyone repeat after me, "give it to PK!". Seriously thou I was one of the first to tell you this device was coming. Check it out in the news and rumors sub forum. ;)

Would be fun to try this. Still begs the question of whether or not an entirely new piece of hardware to carry around is the solution? Why not just give software to simulate this for us to run on a laptop rather than have to carry a phone, laptop, AND Redfly unit?

Nonetheless, hope I win to give this baby a shot!

I love the portability of this device. Sometimes it can be a pain to write long emails on the blackberry or research something online. Perfect in an airport for sure. I would love one.

Very in-depth and straight to the point. Thank you Crackberry! You are my one stop source for all things Blackberry!

This sounds like it would be perfect at my desk for updating calendar etc... but I am a sucker for anything with silicone in it!

Her eyesight is not what it used to be and watching her trying to type on her Tour is (painfully) slow!!

This actually reminds me of the Palm Folio. Too bad the Folio didn't take off. Hope the Redfly does well!! Hey if you send it to me, it'll make a great netbook substitute for a poor college student to use with his bold 9000 ;)

I would love to have this as a way to take notes in college classes..I do not like to carry my laptop around all the time just to type notes in class...would take a load off my backpack everyday @ school.. THX

This little gadget is pretty amazing! Seems like in the years to come, as our mobile PC/smartphones get even more advanced, items like this will become even more common. A mobile-friendly display and a keyboard, ran by a powerful enough smartphone.

I am a college student and also in the military, and this could really be applied to so many areas of use. One of our tech-savvy officers had been talking about getting one of these for each platoon as we already have quite a few Blackberries in use around our unit for various needs, in the field and back in the rear. I am curious how rugged/tough the unit is...? We are an airborne infantry unit so it might not be able to stand everything we would need it to, but for the guys who spend a little less time in the mud, like our supply/armorers/commo/etc folks who already track so much via their smartphones - wow, what a tool.

Regardless of the durability, at that student-friendly price and as the technology grows, I see a lot of these showing up in classrooms as well. Very cool. I hope to see more of these with a broader array of compatible smartphones, seems like the market is there for them.

Does make me wonder, especially with the Black Friday deals, about the competition it could have from $150-$250 netbooks. Still, a fantastic alternative, especially with a mobile printer.

Really excited about the future of mobile computing, every day we have some great new gadget showing up!

I'd love to use this to be typing up notes at lectures, but still keep the notes on me whereever i go!
count me entered!

When I first got my Berry, I couldn't understand why there wasn't a unit like this.

I would not spend that much $ on it as I'd rather apply the funds to a laptop or netbook but I'd sure love to win it. I'm sure that certain businesses would outfit their people with a redfly rather than a laptop. I've read that a lot of police officers are carrying berry's so it would be probably be great to leave in a squad car.

I have AWFUL eyesight, like 20/750...not kidding and have something called ocular hypertension and glaucoma so it's pretty entertaining to watch me on my berry when I'm browsing the web or emailing or texting...which is like always....especially in meetings..:) I have giant font's! When I go into meetings it's dark and then I really can't see Sh&*! The redfly would fit into the portfolio book thing that I carry around and I'd certainly use it (and be happy to write a review about my experiences if win)

Hope I win!

Now, that would absolutely be wonderful. In my travels, I sometimes stay at hotels where it is so difficult to connect to the net. This would be a perfect travel companion. Thanks for offering the contest.

nice unit. this would be very useful for me in my day to day tasks and i could really use it. please consider this my contest entry.

I think this looks like it would have a lot of potential. I have to make Power Point presentations and this would be much better than lugging around the laptop just to have a place to plug in the projector. Also with the right software, you should be able to update an Access Database and uploaded it again without lugging the laptop. I think you should give it to me! Think of it as Community Service! :)

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I'm a cop and use my BB to run checks on people through our web based criminal justice portal. When I need to run several people at once, or look up filed reports, the screen size and keyboard would be a real time saver.

Sign me up! I think I would equate this device to a wireless keyboard that includes a larger screen.

VGA output is a nice feature for making the screen viewable for a group of people. I could give tutorials with this without having folks breathing down my neck. :)

Shoo fly don't bother me ...this product will certainly have a niche market and in my role as a high school principal on a very limited budget, I can see tremendous use for this. However, it does beg the question, "Why not just buy a netbook?

I have seen a redfly C8 version one month ago but unfortunately the BB support was not on. I would like to use it with an 8900, let me win please. :)

thanks for the review.

I'm sure my Boss would appreciate me answering more of her emails;) Awesome unit. Maybe I could get her to get a few for travel whe non business. Ya Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!

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