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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 always enter contest and never win. This one would be perfect for me. I'm always on the go and use my BB 24/7.Pick me.

I have a coworker who uses this constantly with his Windows Mobile phone and loves it. Winning one would be nice...

That this was even a contest. lol. However I was reading it while half asleep last night! I have returned to enter

Isn't there some sort of program that would allow us to do this with a current laptop rather than buying a whole new device to run this.

I don't travel nearly enought to use this device nor would I really want to. In the review I heard more bad than good. I have a netbook and would rather take the full functionality of that device rather than a whole new device.

The end said it all: "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." So why again would I want this.

Now none of my customers can complain anymore about the small BlackBerry form factor. I'd love to get my hands on this unit, and unlike most of the people commenting, I have professional needs for this Redfly unit. It's more than just a cool gadget to me.

...really, really come in handy as I travel. I fly overseas often and can't bring my laptop because it contains proprietary source code, etc. Having something like this would be a huge help.

Nice product!

Would come in handy on some remote projects. Not having to carry laptop and worry about connectivity with laptop would be great. Yet have a bigger KB for longer emails. Sweet.

I recently moved to a BB, and I cant believe what you can do with this thing. Needless to say, it has truly made a difference for the better in my life. One little issue - I have huge hands, man hands. Probably because I'm a big dude. This would help me not only when I travel but for everyday use as well.

Thanks
JR

It was already a nice review. I read every sentence word by word to find out whether I would buy one or not (considering I have the money, of course).

But when I reached the last paragraph, now that's the best part of the review LOL. Please count me in.
It would be really nice to have one, and for free too!

Please pick me.

Why not just install a trackball or Thinkpad type pointing stick to mimic the function of the trackball? otherwise, with a full keyboard may appeal to some people but I rather take a real mini-laptop for about the same amount of money.

I look forward to the day when I walk around with my Storm descendant, linked to my BB watch and all auto synced with my Blackberry Netbook in my Hotel Room. Then when I get home I back it all up on my Google desktop, or it syncs with home online automatically as well. Perfect world and this is a cool first step look at the future. Come on RIM where is your Netbook?

This is really a very good product to have. I could definitly use something like this when I travel. I just can't afford a netbook or laptop right now.

Alright, throw my name in the hat. If you're gonna give one away, I will take it. But don't go thinking that I am gonna bail you out each and every time! Seems like it might be cool to have for web browsing. Sometimes the BB is a bit hard to view, especially with old eyes.

Why not? Odds have to be better than most any lottery around! sounds like a useful item.

Thanks for the chance to win this awesome device. That could be totally useful for on the go writing up speeches and documents for work. A little easier than toting around a laptop as well. Thanks CB and Celio Corp!!!

This looks like a nice idea and good alternative to the netbook for the same price. With a larger "BB screen" and access to something like eOffice or Doc's to go, it can do most everything I would expect on a net book/ laptop. I will look forward to seeing the reviews, or will post one myself if I win!
b_chase

I've been thinking about tearing down a netbook to install in the dash of my car, but using this would be even better! The blackberry maps @ GPS would be better than using Microsoft Streets and Trips and a seperate receiver dongle, and I could skip the expensive Satellite radio PC interface and stream Pandora or Slacker on the go!

Can't you imagine it? A Blackberry-powered front-end for vehicle entertainment and GPS!

maps, pictures, web browser, solitare, pacman, I can think of lots of things that would benefit from a larger screen.

I'd love to actually see this bad boy in action. There are plenty of times when I just need to get my email and calendar thing on. That's part of why I continue to stick with BB and likely will continue to do so. I have my MBP for web browsing and art/photo work stuff and an iPod Touch for portable kicks and the occasional Skypefest.

My wife asks "Don't you have enough toys?" and I reply, "I'll stop buying gadgets shortly after I'm cremated."

If you compare the what one gets for a netbook and what one gets for the a RedFly product, it's a no brainer the value is in the netbook.

However there are some big advantages you get from the RedFly you don’t get from the netbook.
A good backup system
A central location where all of your work is saved. This is huge!
Built in internet connection CDMA/(WIFI if your phone supports it) everywhere.
Boot time is quick to load up and turn off
The battery life is huge 5hrs – 8hrs (no netbook does this)

Why not just develop the software to be installed on any laptop? People who already carry their laptops around simply install the software and BAM... same functionality.

Keep people from having to buy/use that half-ass looking device.

Probably sell a lot more and for cheaper.

Would love to use something like VMWare so I could plug in my Berry to any computer and have it be operable through the interface.

I've been talking about something like this for almost a year

mind you I never thought of making it a mini laptop I pictured a 5" screen that would connect to my BB for excessive reading/media viewing, something battery powered like an iPod Touch as a addon to a blackberry

but this is great, I often have my BB with me when I stop for lunch and don't want to wait for the 15 minute boot time my company laptop has so I punch out e-mails on a tiny screen,

I do hope I win one,
I also hope they are accepting distribution offers!

This is AWESOME! Always great to have someone out there smart enough to take an idea and come up with this. I would love a Redfly Mobile Companion.

I have seen the windows mobile version in person and it is amazing! I have been anticipating this device for two years now! Please and thank you.
Crackalac :)

i think it is a pretty handy device. if the computer you tether to is small enough then you don't have to pay for it? I wonder?

This is an interesting design but would it not be more practical for someone to write an application that would allow the same functionality on a netbook or laptop. It would seem to me that this would reduce some of the convenience of using a smartphone. Personally I would prefer to carry a full function computer instead of a "thin client" for my phone.

Wow this is great. I wonder if I can do that on my desktop. It's pretty cool. Please pick me I want this.....

Thanks

I'd love to have one of those. I'm a Radio/TV/Film student, and I have a big powerful MacBook Pro that I use for production work, but not all of my classes are production classes, and I don't need my MBP. To have one of these babies, just tuck it into my bag and use it to take notes instead of my Mac (which, due to the overly powerful CPU I had jammed in there gets less impressive battery life than other Mac laptops). I'm also sure the Redfly weighs less than my MacBook Pro (and the days I don't need a production-level machine also happen to be the days I need to carry around the most junk).

It would also mean having one unified platform onto which I can do all of my work. All my notes will be on my BlackBerry, all my work in StudentDocket on my BlackBerry, and so on and so forth. As such, it'd be good for the BlackBerry economy as a whole because I'd be more likely to spend money on BlackBerry apps.

I'd love to try one of these. I can't say I'd ever spend money on it, because at $200 I might as well spend a little more and buy a full fledged netbook.

Would be a nice item if it was under $100. For $200-$300 you can get a nice netbook now. Don't really see the reason to spend so much on a BB accessory. Would love one for free though :)

Yeah, for free I'd definitely grab one of these. Looks like it only supports 4.6 capable devices, but 5.0 is around the corner... hopefully they'll have 5.0 support immediately, and then it should work on my Curve 8330!

now this will come in handy while on convoys on afghanistan. you know with all the stuff that is crammed in a military vehicle this will be the perfect sizgood luck everyone.

For those of us who travel often, and use their blackberry for most things, this is extremely useful. Sometimes at airports I need to fire off a few longer emails...sometimes just sitting in a car while someone else is driving. Laptops are great, and I do carry one, but there are times when booting up the laptop for a 5-10 minute emailing spree is a waste of time (takes longer to boot up the laptop and shut it down) but when typing the email on the blackberry is also time consuming - this is the best of both worlds.

I agree probably not for the average user but for corporate users this seems like it will be a great tool.

This is an awesome addition to the BB experience, especially those of us who travel a lot and don't want to lug around a laptop/netbook and risk losing sensitive data if you lost it. Plus it's another way to escape windows and stay in the more stable BB platform. Can't wait to try it out.

I would love to win this. I never won anything on this sight after several attempts. Maybe here is my chance..Thanks!!

i could really use one of these... would be great to look at a screen like that most of the day. and the keyboard forget about it. seems like a great item.

i think this sounds like a pretty cool deal i dont travel for buness but i do fat finger the buttons on my curve id use the hell outta one of these.

well wanted to watch the review but the annoying as hell clicking noise was too much for me to handle more than 45 seconds of.

Just dropped into Crackberry to get some input and guidance on initializing a portable keyboard I bought in October for my Blackberry Tour, when I saw the article on the Redfly.

It became obvious to me a few months ago that I needed to fill in the gaps in my lap top WiFi access, and the blackberry seemed a perfect solution, but I never even got to the “Blackberry thumb” stage, before I realized that a simpler typing option was necessary. The almost “plug and go aspect” of the Redfly might well complete my system, as I am a low tech guy trying to get up to speed in a 3G world.

I would love to be thrown into the raffle for the unit you mentioned in your article.

Bob

LoL Yup This Is What I Was Looking For. Wish They Distributed Just The Software For This Too... (Just In Case I Find Another Evil GF And Result Of Another Broken Screen)
Would Be Nice To Have One.

Ill Love You Forever, IF You Pick Me ;o)

Mr KP

I can see the need for this device. I think I would get some use but my kids and wife would take over once they found out about it.

I agree with an earlier post if you add printing to this then omg.

thanks for the opportunity...

((ONE))

Do we know when it will be storm useful. Seems like a great Idea, but it would be greater if all the other versions of blackberrys can be used with the softwear.

I like the name. I like idea. My thumbs are too big for the blackberry keyboard. It may draw the attention of women (yes, I am that desperate). Who cares if it isn't very good; it's free.

Add on keyboards can be the right choice for some people. But I'd skip the screen on this thing and concentrate on the keyboard. I'm a TV reporter. I'd rather use a BB than haul a laptop around. I've used a Freedom Bluetooth Keyboard to type stories and e-mail them in. I've used it for about a year but when I upgrade my BB the keyboard will be useless because they won't update the drivers for the newest OS. My alternative it to buy a new one or keep the old berry.

Not sure if this giveaway is different than the redfly "happy birthday" giveaway, but good luck to all!

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