Keyport Slide review

It's not often that we have an opportunity to review a fascinating new way to store and use keys -- plain old keys, that is, not encryption keys, electronic keys, CD keys, or Florida Keys -- so when we heard that the sanely-priced version of the Keyport was finally shipping after a three-year wait, we knew that we had to have a look. It's not too useful of a product for those of you that only have one or two locks that you need to worry about day in and day out, but anything more than that can quickly become a pain in the ass with a jangly keyring that you can't quietly take out of your pocket to save your life. Let's have a look at what this thing's all about, shall we?

Of course, ordering a Keyport isn't quite as simple as heading over to the company's website and doling out a credit card number. The gadget uses custom key blanks designed to fit inside the shell and connect to the studs that you use to retract and extend them from the body, so they first need to know what blanks to send you. To do this, you lay out the keys you want Keyported on a printed PDF that they provide, identify any codes that appear on the keys, write down descriptions, and take a picture of the spread using your digital camera -- twice, actually: once for each side of the keys. They advise you that you can tape up the tips of each key for added security (that way, Keyport doesn't know the specific grooves necessary to duplicate them), and since you probably don't want perfect images of your keys floating around the interwebs, it seemed like a good idea to us.

Once you've got the pictures, you email them to Keyport; within a few minutes of doing that, we had a FedEx tracking number saying our unit and blanks were on their way. We also got an email mapping each blank to a key in our picture (Key 1, Key 2, and so on) by a unique code that appears on each blank so that you know which is which when you go to have the blanks cut (turns out the locksmith can figure this out anyway, but it's still a nice touch on Keyport's part).

When you open your package, you find two components: a black Ziploc-style bag filled with blanks held together by a zip tie, and a metal box -- almost identical in size and shape to an Altoids tin -- that contains the Slide itself along with the colored studs that you'll connect to the blanks. Pretty deluxe, but then again, we'd expect no less for $80.

At that point, it's a matter of taking your blanks down to your friendly neighborhood locksmith and getting them cut to match the keys that you'd sent pictures of. Here's where we ran into some problems: turns out not all locksmiths are comfortable using your blanks because they're afraid of damaging them or cutting them incorrectly. We tried two Ace Hardwares before finally coming across a locally-owned shop that was willing not only to cut our blanks, but to do it for free (since we weren't using their blanks). It was an awfully nice gesture, but we wouldn't expect that kind of courtesy everywhere.

Once you've got the blanks cut, the company recommends that you test them before installing them -- if they don't work, after all, you'll need to get more blanks from Keyport and start the process anew. We found this just a little bit tricky since there's no "base" of the key to grab onto, but we managed; folks with arthritic hands or other conditions might have a tough go of it, though. Fortunately, everything worked in our case, so we were ready to install. At that point, you pop the black plastic cap off the end of the Slide by pressing a tab on the side, insert a colored stud into each blank (this is how you differentiate between keys once they're in there), then slide them one by one into each of the six slots. The studs and slots felt like they had tight tolerances and were built well -- there wasn't a hint of sloppiness in any of them.

At that point, your Slide is fully assembled and ready to go; all told, the process from start to finish took two days, thanks to overnight delivery and our willingness to truck around town in search of a locksmith willing to cut our blanks. For what it's worth, the company says that the device is built to withstand up to 20 pounds of twisting torque per key and that most locks require 1 to 3 pounds to actuate, so it should last -- we've got a couple tricky locks in our arsenal here, and nothing ever felt like it came close to stressing the Slide's assembly.

Overall, we love the concept of the Slide if you've got anywhere from four to six keys that you need with you most of the time and you're looking for a simpler way to carry them -- and needless to say, it's an off-the-beaten-path way to impress your friends with a weird gadget they've probably never seen. We would've liked a metal ring capable of connecting the Slide to another keyring, though -- in our case, we'd love to be able to carry this and a USB memory stick together -- and the original concept had just such a ring, so we're not sure why they spiked it (instead, the production unit just offers a slot for an included string lanyard). We also would've preferred the front and rear caps done up in matching metal rather than black plastic, especially when you're spending the better part of a Franklin on the package. Then again, if you're spending $150 on a wallet and $300 on sunglasses, why not $80 on this?