FxTec Pro¹ / Pro1, 2019 Keyboard-slider phablet. Pre-prod. unit preview.

I got the lucky chance to have a look at the soon to be available FxTec Pro¹

(2019-05-28 Updated with a little N97 Mini compares)

The Pro¹ / Pro1 is what I have been waiting for for many years, since my ancient Xperia (Neo) Pro from 2011.

A real landscape keyboard slider.

Even if this is a pre-production unit, that might yet have some fine-tuning, the hardware feels just awesome. And well balanced in the hands.

 

The first tour.

The keyboard offers 66 keys that are really great, and with clear back light.

A nice feeling of each key, that are clearly separated, nice rounded keys, yet with distinct edges.

Closed the Pro¹ is basically like any other phablet out there. Except a few extra pluses. Stereo speakers, Camera button, And what unfortunately is noteworthy in 2019: a 3.5mm plug, that other manufacturers annoyingly omit. And FM radio too.

Software-wise they have tried to keep the experience as close to native Android (Pie) as possible, not infected with a lot of bloat. (….Looking at you Samsung…)

They have added their own launcher that is really close to stock Android Pie, but have made it more landscape and keyboard friendly. (If you want a different feel, there are a ton of launchers to pick from out there)

 

Pre-production

I can not emphasize enough that this is NOT the final product, there are several things that are still not final. There are some print misalignments (e.g. the apostrophe), an also the F&J anchor markers are missing on this.

 

Stability

I have played around with it for a few days, flashing new firmware, installing, reinstalling, resetting, and all kind of stuff. And I have not a SINGLE time had a system crash. That is pretty amazing. Good job FxTec!

There are things that are not finished yet, but what is there is good.

 

Slider mechanism

The open&close of the keyboard gives a pleasant feelling of quality! One really feel they have put a lot of effort in getting this right (too).

The 25° tilted keyboard is also a perfect angle. Not so high you feel you need to turn the device away, and not so low that you need to twist the device upwards to see the screen (as a straight slider). And if you want to view something on a table, well no kickstand is needed, just open the keyboard.

The construction is a tilted slider based on a plate and a support arm of different lengths. The same system also used by the real Nokia. A solid and well tested system used on many models over many years. Much better than other slider mechanisms IMHO.
My N97Mini was build by the same principle, so it triggered some decade old muscle memory *LOL*.

If you are a first time tilted-slider-user, the movement needed might feel slightly odd the first few times, as you first push in, and slightly downwards, and then follow the front edge arc movement up while still pushing, before the spring takes over and it opens. The total push movement is just about 14mm, but it takes a few times to get that it is not just a brute unidirectional push. I have tried to make a little exaggerated sketch of the front edge movement and the pushing force initially.

(A spring takes over handling the next roughly ¾ of the arc movement, not on the sketch)

 

Here I tried to show the principle

A nice detail of this system is that it does not matter if you press on the middle or in either end, though the natural if you pick it up for two thumb typing, is to push it with both thumbs.
If you don’t want the cool but slightly noisy ‘clang’ when it opens, you can easily learn to open it with a thumb (or two), while keeping an index finger on the back edge of the display damping the opening movement discretely. Or you can lift up the back edge.

Add: I got into the habit of lifting it from a table in thumb and index finger, while pushing the button half away with my middle finger.

A primitive straight slider like the SonyEricsson Xperia (Neo) Pro, does not in any way give the same ‘exclusive’ feeling opening. You push the Xperia Pro for 25mm and the spring takes only the last few mm to the total 32 mm. And you have to press exactly on the middle, or at both ends evenly.

The BB Priv is much like the Xperia (Neo) Pro on opening, except the keyboard in the wrong direction gives longer support rails, so a much more smooth movement than the Xperia.

 

Antennas

Not all antennas are finished on this preproduction unit, so not all make sense to test/comment on.

WiFi seem to works just flawless though.

The FM reception with the preproduction unit it is EXTREMELY much more sensitive than my last phone with FM, the Xperia (Neo) Pro.
In conditions where the (Neo) Pro struggles to get even audible mono and if you hold the cable exactly right only. The Pro¹, at the same position, delivers (almost) noise free stereo, no matter how I turn or twist the cable, you can even crumple the headphone cable. And this is indoors….. This was a nice surprise!

 

Shifted or non-shifted

The Pro¹ is to big for my thumb to use for one handed operation keeping a secure grip. But yet I can easily cross over with my thumbs reaching 5 from the right and 7 from the left, so I simply do not see the need of the shift of the A-Z keys.
(And it is not that I got big hands or extremely long&flexible thumbs. I can not operate a S8- fully while keeping a secure grip)

It is funny how these shifted letters work, I have no problem with the shift with the RIGHT thumb, but keeps typing as if there were no shift with the LEFT….
So when I try to type “test” I actually type “twat” – pretty ironic…
I GUESS that I unconsciously see the key-count from the left ignoring the print, on the other hand it is ‘beyond counting’ from the right so here I see the print?

Actually when I typed a longer text on it, and get back to the PC, I suddenly type wrong the other way on the PC…

I will 100% prefer the non-shifted QWERTZ over this shifted QWERTY – but would prefer an non-shifted QWERTY, sorry FxTec. (I could easily ignore that the print of the Z/Y is swapped though, hence I aim for the QWERTZ)

 

Cameras

The camera apps I’ve tested it with can only use one of the two rear cameras, and the metadata both apps see does not match the spec-list, so I do not think it would be reasonable to publish pictures at the current state. But that said I’m not scared by what I see, and it can do both HDR and Video up to FHD@120fps or QFHD@30fps.

Even my standard camera-pestering motive of a white dog in sunshine is handled reasonable, even without HDR. I have not even bothered playing with Raw files, and camera settings only on Auto. The image you see behind the screen protector in the images, is taken using the primary 12MP camera sensor only. BUT the images from the Sony RX100III has been reduced for web, so do not expect to see any details from the original…

 

USB-C plug

As first you might think that it is really odd that the USB-C plug is not centred, but that is actually well thought through – as a lot of other details with this device!
IF you should need to operate it with the landscape while plugged in, well then the cable slips perfectly between two fingers with your normal grip, and it would have been really awkward to hold if centred. And yes -sorry- lacks a third hand, so of course only half the grip.

 

Compare

Here a compare with some other phones&phablets I got around, and the keyboard-casing I combined for the aPple Ip6-

The Pro¹ in the centre (of course), To the left the BB Priv, Below the casing for the Ip6-, to the right of that the Samsung S8- with a click on keyboard, Above that the Sony Ericsson (Neo) Pro . And finally at the top the old SamsungE870, just to show the explosion in size over the years.

(And yes the Priv got a cracked protector with both dust and hairs seeping in. And the protector I applied on the Pro¹ is far from a perfect fit)

ADD the screen from Boe  (BF060Y8M-AJ0-7702), is identical to the one on the Elephone U Pro, so after these images I got a screenprotector with a MUCH better fit, See the image in the USB-C plug section above.

The Pro¹ is 1.3 mm less thick than the Xperia (Neo) Pro (15.3mm though many sites incorrectly claims 13.5mm). Mostly the base part.

Here opened and closed compared.

Here some neck-to-neck keyboard compares with others: (Pro, Priv, S8-, Ip6- case)

It is obvious how much larger the keyboard is, not only more keys but also each key is larger.

This will open up real keyboards for people with hands too large for the cramped ones also..

ADD: Bought a Nokia N97 Mini (my own got lost) to make some image compares.

Usually it is the kid sitting on the lap of the parent, but here…

The Pro¹ screen is over trice larger. The long edge of the N97Mini is close to the short edge of the Pro¹.

 

Balance-compare

The balance of all the three keyboard devices are along the centre axis in both directions when closed, e.g:

(Balanced on a measuring stick)

But there are substantial differences opened.

The Pro¹ is balanced about 2/3 of the bottom half in, the Xperia (Neo) Pro about 3/4 in, both a bit above the top key row. And the BB Priv… well let’s just say way above, making it top heavy while typing, like any device with the keyboard in the wrong direction.

So no question that the Pro¹ is the winner of how it feels holding it while typing.

The place you naturally will support the device with your two middle fingers, is EXACTLY on the axis of balance, and the index fingers naturally ‘lock in’ on the support plate, giving the feel of a really secure and comfortable grip.

See this gif from VentureBeat

 

Pixel peeping

[This has been moved to another thread here]

 

Forum

For any questions I suggest you to head over to their forum here: https://www.fxtec.com/forum/