Keyboards with extra macro keys. Mice with twelve thumb buttons. At GameCrate, we’re always on the hunt for gear that provides more options for keybindings, and the Infinitton programmable smart screen keyboard is one of the coolest looking and most flexible solutions we’ve seen.
The idea is fairly simple. The device itself is a fifteen (5 rows of three) button keypad that connects to a computer via USB. Once you install the ISE (Infinitton Smart Editor) software, you can program each key on the pad to perform specific functions when pressed. We’ll talk more about those functions as we cover the ISE in a little more depth.
Infinitton Feature Overview
Let’s start with the tech inside the Infinitton.
The core of the keypad is an ARM-structured microprocessor, which actually seems like an extreme level of processing power for an application like this. As a point of reference, some of the most popular System-on-Chip devices used by makers, like the RaspberryPi, are ARM based. Marketing material for the Infinitton claims that the ARM processor is critical to responsive button presses, which I’m inclined to believe after using the device.
The published tech specs also state that the device is built with DDR2 SDRAM (which works in tandem with the processor) and also some amount of NAND Flash Storage. I’m not entirely sure what the flash storage is for, as the Infinitton didn’t seem to save any settings on board.
The real draw of the Infinitton, and what sets it apart from similar products, is what lies under the buttons. Each key is actually a 72x72 pixel full color display that can be programmed to display different images. I found the displays themselves to be quite colorful and vibrant, and having all 15 keys lit up with different icons really adds some color to a battlestation.
Lots of metal is used in the Infinittion’s construction. The main body seems to be made from anodized aluminum or steel. The end cap is made from tough-feeling ABS plastic, while each key is clear polycarbonate. Overall, the Infinitton is roughly 5.25” long and 3.5” wide, so its footprint is similar to a large phone.
Finally, it’s important to note that the Infinitton is supposedly compatible with PC and Mac computers, and ISE software for both platforms is available online. It’s unlikely that the Infinittion would work with Linux, as the device leans pretty heavily on ISE (which is currently not available for Linux) in order to function.
Infinitton Smart Editor
In order to get the Infinitton up and running, one first has to install the Infinitton Smart Editor (ISE) software. ISE pulls double duty as the driver for the Infinitton device, and is also the tool used to program the keys with various functions and graphics.
Six functions are supported by ISE:
-Text String: This one is fairly self explanatory. This function stores a chunk of text, and pressing pressing a button with an assigned Text String will copy the stored text into the field.
-Macro Key: Gamers will be familiar with Macro Keys, however, ISE’s options for macros are somewhat limited. While the software’s macro editor will recognize key holds and sequences, it lacks more advanced macro creation features. More importantly, there doesn’t appear to be any way to define key hold times, nor delays between presses. There’s also no way to edit a macro once made, which means that correcting any mistakes requires starting over on the macro.
-Hotkey: Because of the limitations of ISE’s macro editor, I found the Hotkey function to be far more direct and useful. In the end, I easily used Hotkeys more than anything else in my time with the Infinitton. A Hotkey is fairly simple; It inputs a keypress or combination of keypresses that the user has defined. For example, if I need to access the Task Manager often, I would create a Hotkey that enters “Ctrl-Shift-Esc” so I could open the utility with one keystroke. Or if I simply wanted my numpad keys to my left, I could map them all to the Infinitton as Hotkeys.
-Website: This one is also pretty self explanatory. A key set to the website function will launch your default web browser and navigate directly to the user-defined URL.
-Launch: Launch allows you to open a program or a file path. There’s the option to open a browser window to select a path, but ISE will also scan your system for installed applications.
-Folders: Folders are unique in that they aren’t functions in the same sense the other options are. While the other functions all generate some kind of input, folders really only exist on the keypad itself. A folder can hold other functions in it, meaning you can have more functions on the Infinitton than just the 15 buttons on the home screen. Pressing the assigned button opens the folder, revealing up to 14 more functions inside. (One function becomes the “Back” button, which can be moved but not deleted.) If I did my math right, that means the Infinitton can support up to 210 programmed functions. Whether that’s enough buttons might be a little more subjective, but speaking personally, folders didn’t prove to be as robust an organizational tool as I would have liked. Folders can only be “one deep,” meaning you can’t have a folder within a folder. I do wish folders could be layered, even if there was still some kind of maximum overall cap in place.
Folders can also be associated with a program, meaning that when a program launches, the folder will automatically open to its functions. While this is a nice bit of automation, I would have liked a little more flexibility in how ISE handles folders. For one, I wish folders didn’t need to occupy a space on the pad. Since they can already open in tandem with an application, they should have the option to be “hidden,” which means they would not show up until the appropriate program is launched. The keypad should revert to the home screen when the desktop (or any part of explorer.exe) is brought into focus.
Actually programming the keypad is fairly straightforward. ISE provides a graphical representation of the button grid. Simply drag and drop functions from the icons at the top of the window onto the grid. Selecting any placed functions will bring up a menu on the right side that allows the user to define details of the function, such as name, what the text string or hotkey or whatever will be, and most importantly, the image to display on the button.
Clicking the icon for the function will open up a browser window. Just navigate to an appropriate image file, and voila, the screen behind that button will show your image in a little less than an inch of full colored glory. ISE supports .jpeg, .png, .bmp and .xpm files. It does not support .gif, and transparency elements in .png files will be rendered as black. Along with a custom image, tiles can also be given text labels that run along the bottom edge.
The Infinitton would be the ideal accessory for content creators using Adobe Photoshop or Premiere, or any high end creation software. Mapping your dozen or so most-used keyboard shortcuts to the keypad seems like it could be a huge boost in efficiency.
However, I don’t do much in the way of video or image editing around here. What I know is games, so I programmed the Infinitton with some enough Hotkeys to get through a couple rounds of Heroes of the Storm. (Q, W, E, R, F, D, 1, 2, 3, G, V, ALT-Q, ALT-W, ALT-E) Other than wanting to play games at work, my justification for this test was to see if the Infinitton could keep up under stress. I already knew the keypad was fairly responsive, but I was curious if the ARM chip at its core could keep up with very rapid keystrokes you’d find in an e-sports title.
When going to actually use the Infinitton in game, I noticed right away that the labels I had assigned to my hotkeys weren’t readable. Because of the angle I was sitting at, the bottom edge of each key was completely distorted. It’s a minor gripe, but I really feel like ISE should have alignment options for the labels, to enable better readability for different positions and body heights.
Using the keypad is fairly comfortable. The top end slants up a few degrees, and later on I remapped the the whole pad to a horizontal configuration. (So, 3 rows of 5 rather than 5 rows of 3.) The tilt of the Infinitton in this configuration lent itself to an extremely comfortable position for my hand.
They keys themselves were very responsive, and while I don’t have an actions per minute count or anything so scientific, I can say that no matter how hectic things got, I never once felt like the keypad slowed me down. Clearly, designing the Infinitton around an ARM chip paid off.
While the keys on the Infinitton are by no means on par with high quality mechanical switches, they never failed to get the job done. Even under heavy use, I felt like I was playing on a high quality membrane keyboard. The middle key even has a small bump molded in, so I was able to keep my hand in the “home” position without a second thought.
To Infinitton and Beyond
The key takeaway from my time with the Infinitton is its vast potential flexibility. I scratched the surface with my hotkeys for games, a couple of folders for those hotkeys, and some shortcuts to Battle.net, Steam, and Chrome.
Really, there are a huge number of possibilities. Want your numpad on the left side, or have a laptop that has no numpad? Use Hotkeys to map all those numbers plus the four basic operations! We’ve heard anecdotes about Twitch streamers using preprogrammed text strings to interact with chat. And it's easy to imagine basic everyday uses, like using website keys to open all your favorite sub-Reddits, and taking your browsing to the next level with Hotkeys for Firefox shortcuts.
I do have some minor gripes with the Infinitton, specifically in regards to the way some organizational facets are handled. Fortunately, these are all with the ISE software rather than the design of the keypad. Since my issues are all are on the software layer, there’s a good chance future updates to the utility could offer some of the features that were omitted.