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 The New 2011 Alphagrip AG-5 (iGrip)   

I received my new Alphagrip this week. I was a huge fan of the original model and back then I spent many days on the learning curve. It was worth the effort and I did progress very quickly. Like a lot of things, I got busy and let my training lapse and I ended back onto my regular keyboard. The other thing was, the built in trackball was a slight disapointment.

During the last few years I kept my eye on the Alphagrip website hoping for some sort of activity. Recently, I noticed on the order page that a new model with an optical trackball was about to be released and I quickly ordered one. I had wanted a second one anyway so that I could keep one at work for doing C# development. That's the eventual aim anyway.

So when it arrived, I couldn't wait to get the thing unboxed. The first thing to notice is the marbled trackball. This helps differentiate it from the old mechanical trackball models. The logo is now white instead of the gold on the old model. I took the Alphagrip out and had a good hold. Was it slightly smaller than the original? Sure seemed like it at first. But no. Maybe it looked that way because this new one is so much cleaner than my old one which is getting dirty and banged about a bit.


The next thing in the box was a very pleasant surprise... a solid docking base! The old one was much appreciated as well, but it was made from a thin blow mold plastic, like packaging. It takes great care not to have the old one split or damaged. This one is a very welcome addition, a great selling feature.

Docking stand

Lastly, a longer and thicker USB cable was included.

So enough of all that, let's plug it in! First OS had to be my primary one at home: Linux. Let's face it, plugging it into Windows would have been a cakewalk, so best to try it first on something a little less mainstream. My current OS is Fedora 14. As you'd well expect, Linux took it effortlessly, considering the components are mostly standard USB hub, mouse and keyboard.

First thing, I had to try the trackball. You know those moments when something isn't all that you'd hoped? This was not one of those times. The optical trackball is awesome! And fast. Now, from what I had read before receiving the unit, the speed is configurable by pressing Shift + Red Shift + 1 2 or 3. I tried 1 which set it back to a speed similar to the old mechanical trackball. Then 2... clearly the factory default speed which I liked. Then I switched to 3... wow that's really fast. The nice thing is that these speeds are not achieved by skipping. When you move the ball slowly, you still get a very fine grained cursor movement. That's very important.

Optical trackball

Other than that, this new model has the same good solid build just like the older AG-5. The keys feel great and I'm back into my training sessions with Klavaro.

Alphagrip is not for everyone. Those that see it in action admit that it simply drips with coolness, and would love to be able to work with one. The reality is though, not everyone has the hours to devote to training. Of course, dropping that nighty half hour TV show each evening for a few days to train on it would be more than enough. It just depends how bad you want it. Stereotypical gen-y instant-society types need not apply.

This is a product that I absoutely believe in. I won't deny that. The inventor has brought something very new and unique to the market of alternate input devices. While this might be a handy thing promoted for the use of instant messaging and emails, that understates its power. We're talking about a full keyboard here, folks. This is a programmer's device, a journalist's tool. It would be ideal for transcribers. My focus is on high-end professional daily use. This thing can cut it.

So what's the bottom line for me and the Alphagrip? That's obvious I'm sure. If you're prepared to set aside 30 minutes a day for four weeks, and break the learning curve barrier, then you will be able to join the exclusive and culturally elite who are able to code or write with their feet on the desk.

Let's face it... isn't that what it's always been really about?

(This article and markup was written using the Alphagrip)

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