5 ways to control your living room PC

By Peter Svensson Associated Press

Connecting a PC to a TV opens up the world of Web video in the living room. But to take advantage of the setup you need a way to control that PC from the couch. And you probably don’t want a keyboard and a mouse permanently resting on the coffee table.

Instead I’d suggest using a wireless keyboard with a built-in touch pad, for a laptop-like experience.

Sadly, PC makers overlook this market and don’t offer attractive bundle deals with good wireless setups for people who want to use PCs in the living room. I took a look at some useful peripherals from other manufacturers.

Logitech diNovo Edge, $180

If money is no object, this well-made wireless keyboard fits the bill. It provides the best typing experience of all the options tested. It has a built-in touch pad, but it’s quite small, especially considering that the keyboard itself is as big as the largest standard desktop keyboard.

Logitech diNovo Mini, $150

This is a pocket-size wireless keyboard for thumb-typing. It has a touch pad, a protective clamshell and backlighting for the keys, making it both elegant and practical, at least if you don’t plan to do extensive typing. Too bad the price is exorbitant for something so small.

Adesso Slimtouch WKB-4000, $80

This is a more reasonably priced wireless keyboard, with a touch pad. Unlike the rechargeable Logitech models, it’s powered by AAA batteries. It works quite well, but it’s too flimsy for the living room — after a couple of short drops from the couch to the carpet, it was broken.

Hillcrest Labs Loop, $99

This is a doughnut-shaped air mouse that works much like the Nintendo Wii’s Wiimote: You wave it in the air to control the cursor on the screen. The Loop doesn’t come with a keyboard, but it deserves a mention because it provides much better, more accurate control of the cursor than previous “air mice” and the Wiimote. For full control of the living room PC, pair it with a wireless keyboard. Because you wouldn’t need a touch pad, you’d have a wider range of keyboard choices. However, you’d be juggling two devices on the couch instead of one.

There’s an app for that

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you’re in luck: the Mobile Air Mouse Pro, $1.99, available in the App Store, is the cheapest way to control your living room PC.

It splits the iPhone’s screen into a touch pad and a thumb-typing keyboard. It can control either a Mac or a Windows PC through Wi-Fi, but note that you have to download and install an application on the computer as well.

As a touch pad, the Air Mouse works as well as any of the other options, but as a keyboard, it’s the least attractive solution.