Backed to Business: A printer to go, a slider phone, and a mechanical keyboard

This edition of Backed to Business looks at a mechanical keyboard that combines portability with ergonomics, a new smartphone with a best-in-class keyboard, and a tiny cube of a printer that can print on almost anything, even you.

Backed to Business looks at crowdfunded products that relate to business or personal productivity. Even the best-intentioned crowdfunding campaigns may fail to deliver; pledge only what you can afford to lose.

Usually, the delays involved in bringing crowdfunding products to market can be tough to take, but in times when so many are working from home, those who might otherwise find use in more mobile products may not mind the wait so much. Regardless of whether it's at an airport or home office, these devices aim to help steal a few minutes of productivity.



Billed as the world's smallest printer, PrintCube is a Bluetooth device that prints by spreading the device itself over a range of surfaces. It's not the first crowdfunded product to employ such a gliding mechanism but, unlike some, has actually shipped to backers. After being charged through its USB-C port, the three-color inkjet is capable of printing multiple lines of text or graphics. It's more suited to making signs or labels than printing out even a single-page memo, so its real competition is label printers such as those from Dymo.

Its advantages include a smaller size helped by not needing its own media and the range of materials on which it can print, including wood, plastic, metal and even skin. Curved and textured surfaces are also supported. As is the case with any product that uses consumables, the ready and long-term availability of consumables.  Both dye and gel options are available for $29 and $39. PrintCube is available on Indiegogo for $109, a discount from its eventual price of $199.

View Now at Indiegogo

Astro Slide


The Astro Slide is the second follow-up to Planet Computers' Gemini, the company's palmtop that included a best-in-class Psion-inspired keyboard. (It also had a failed crowdfunding campaign for an Android-based digital wallet that supported many payment methods but not Apple Pay.) It improves significantly on the Gemini's sequel, the Cosmo Communicator, via a sliding screen mechanism that does the best job to date of bridging the retro world of the clamshell PDA and modern world of the touchscreen smartphone -- so modern, in fact, that that the company has packed it with the fastest 5G modem it could source from Mediatek.

Other firsts for the Planet Computers family include NFC, fingerprint unlock, and wireless charging along with a 48-megapixel rear-facing camera. The Slide has a slightly large display than its predecessors, but the eventual battery capacity is still being worked out. The Astro Slide is available on Indiegogo for $549, a discount from its expected price of $884, and is expected to ship next spring.

View Now at Indiegogo



In Greek mythology, Atreus gets tied up in an unsavory family business that makes Succession look like a Thanksgiving dinner spat. In contrast, the main object of ire for the Keyboadio Atreus keyboard is the discomfort caused by traditional keyboard layouts.

While most mechanical keyboards are large desktop affairs, the Atreus can fit in a large coat pocket since it has only 44 completely interchangeable keys; even the Space and Enter keys are squares located on the USB device's bottom row. Numbers, symbols, and cursor keys are all included in virtual key layouts accessed by holding down certain modifier keys. The design aims to keep your fingers close to the home row. Atreus supports alternative key layouts such as Dvorak and is even making an open-source tool available for configuring the device. The Atreus keyboard campaign is hosted on Kickstarter -- where the product is available for $99 with a few accessory options available for more.

View Now at Kickstarter


With Astro Slide, Planet Computers goes all in on smartphones with sliding hinge and 5G
Leveraging a unique hinge that bridges smartphone and desk typing modes, the reviver of the retro Psion form factor takes on the limitations of its previous products' smartphone use cases

This 5G smartphone comes with Android, Linux - and a keyboard. Back to the future with the Astro Slide 
The company behind the Gemini PDA and Cosmo Communicator now has a 5G phone with a keyboard. Here's a deeper look at the specs and design choices.

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