Aside from being a video gaming console, the PS3 also allows you to play Blu-ray discs and surf the internet. In fact, since there aren’t any really good games for the PS3 yet, I’ve been using mine primarily for watching Blu-ray movies and surfing the web.

Watching movies on a big screen TV is nothing new to many of us. But it was only when the PS3 came out last year, that a good number of us began enjoying internet access in our living rooms and home theatres. Although there are a number of other ways that internet access can be displayed on a TV, the PS3 is by far the simplest way to do it. I use the PS3 regularly to read my favourite blogs like, and of course on my 42-inch Pioneer plasma. Perhaps only one thing stood in the way of fully being able to enjoy the internet on the PS3 – the lack of a keyboard. Using Sony’s on-screen keyboard to type in letters with the regular PS3 controller was an extremely tedious task that likely deterred most users from surfing the web altogether.

But thanks to Mad Catz, the days of tedious text entry can be a thing of the past. The company’s Wireless Thumbpad – which retails for $29.99 US – is a mini-keyboard that seems like a natural complement to the PS3. The thumbpad contains 32 buttons in a rounded box enclosure about the size of an average guy’s wallet. An alphabet letter is the primary role of each button. Numbers and special characters (such as @, !, :, etc.) can be typed by holding a larger Symbol button at the same time as pressing the number or character. Function keys, F1 to F10, can also be pressed by holding the Function key, although I couldn’t figure out the purpose of these with the PS3. The thumbpad comes with a choice of two plastic clamps that allow it to attach to the top of a Sony Sixaxis controller or Mad Catz’s own GamePad controller, although the thumbpad can be used by itself as well. The clamp did a great job of attaching the thumbpad very securely to my Sony controller. Power for the thumbpad comes from 2 AAA batteries, not supplied, which Mad Catz claims should last for about 100 hours. An on/off switch on the side of the thumbpad allows you to conserve the battery while not it use. With the switch in the ‘on’ position, the thumbpad goes into sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity, also to preserve the battery.

I plugged the supplied IR receiver into the USB port on the PS3, and the thumbpad was ready to use right away. You may be tempted to think that the thumbpad would make the controller top-heavy but it actually had little the affect on the feel of the controller in my hands, thanks to its light weight. I launched the PS3 Internet Browser and began typing in website addresses. The soft rubber buttons were perfectly responsive and just the right size for typing with my thumbs. There is just enough distance between the buttons, so I never experienced pressing two buttons at the same time by mistake. The layout of the letters is the same as on a regular computer keyboard which makes it easier to find the right letters for those with typing skills. I enjoyed the ‘enter’ button which simplified the operation of the thumbpad in certain instances. For example, pressing ‘enter’ after typing in a website address would take me directly to the website, without having to press the ‘start’ button on the PS3 controller (which has to be done when using the on-screen keyboard).

Within only a few minutes of using it, I came to a clear conclusion about the thumbpad – it sure beats using the PS3′s on-screen keyboard. Typing in website addresses or search phrases into goolge, took a small fraction of time compared to using the on-screen keyboard. Users who text message their friends on the PS3 will probably benefit even more from the thumbpad.

The thumbpad was actually quite comfortable to use when attached to my PS3 controller and didn’t change the feel on the controller itself by very much – it only made it made it slightly top heavy. I was glad to learn that the tilting ability of the Sixaxis controller was not affected with the thumbpad attached. I played the funky Super Rub’A’Dub game without a problem!

The Mad Catz Wireless Thumbpad is perhaps the greatest accessory released for the PS3 yet (beside the must-have Blu-ray remote). It allowed a much simpler and quicker way to type in characters than previously possible, without adding an unnecessarily large keyboard to my coffee table. I recommend the thumbpad to everyone that uses their PS3 to surf the web or text message their friends. Once you discover it, you’ll never go back to the on-screen keyboard days again.

Mad Catz

$29.99 MSRP (US)

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