Tablet devices have many uses from browsing the ‘net to productivity to graphical design. For both browsing the Internet, and graphical design, a tablet on its own is ideal but when it comes to doing a lot of typing, the need to hold a tablet device and inaccurately hit keys on the screen can prove cumbersome and distracting.
Update: I have been trying the keyboard on a number of devices. I’ll update the list of working devices as I test more. The list is present in a separate blog article.
Having written a number of blog articles on my Android tablet via the screen keyboard, I am all-too-aware of the difficulties. In an attempt to boost my productivity on on-screen typing I downloaded and installed the SwiftKey keyboard for Android which allows split-keyboard typing. This works well for short documents but with the weight of the tablet, long documents become painful to type. As a result, I have looked into a number of Bluetooth keyboards which would be compatible with my device but would not break the bank. The first keyboard I tried was one of those fake-leather cases with a keyboard built in. I found a seller selling an iPad one, guaranteeing compatibility with Android devices. The cost was about £22 and when the case arrived I was very surprised at how much bulk the case added to my tablet. In the end, it also didn’t work with function keys locking on and failing to connect to the tablet frequently. In the end I sent it back for a refund.
Further searching turned up a keyboard and stand made by Belkin (a brand I have previously found reliable), which was listed on Amazon.co.uk for only £12. When I found it, it was out of stock and I have had to wait a number of weeks for it to come back into stock and be delivered. It’s worth pointing out that the keyboard is once again out of stock on Amazon.
My first impressions of the keyboard are that it is a little plasticky – the stand, for example, is made of very thin plastic and is very flexible. With a tablet sat in the stand behind the keyboard, if you pick it up by the corner, the whole thing bends.
Size-wise, it’s a little wider than the tablet. If it was narrower though, the keys would probably have to be reduced in size. As it is, they are smaller that they would be on a standard keyboard, but similar to that of a netbook.
The key presses feel really good with a satisfying resistance – not too hard to press down but not so soft that keys are pressed accidentally. There are additional function keys which are relevant to Android (which may work differently on iOS devices). Such keys include a home button, buttons for text selection and copy and paste as well as audio controls (play / stop etc).
Keyboard connection was very simple. It involved removing the circuit-breaking insert in the battery compartment (two Energiser batteries are included), and hitting the ‘Pair’ button. The keyboard appeared in the list of available Bluetooth devices on the tablet. When clicking on the device, the tablet asked for a sequence of numbers to be entered on the keyboard, after which pairing was complete. The keyboard has been working very well since. Indeed, this entire article has once again been written on the tablet, this time using the Bluetooth keyboard instead of the on-screen one (images and edits have been inserted on a computer afterwards).
As mentioned previously, I have a paid version of the SwiftKey keyboard installed on my tablet. As well as allowing for a split keyboard, the keyboard predicts spelling accurately and generally works well. With the Bluetooth keyboard attached, the SwiftKey keyboard does not show up, but continues to predict spelling. This has been a helpful feature and it is great that both keyboards ‘understand’ each other. There are some annoyances, such as symbols on the Bluetooth keyboard not matching with what is inserted into text when typed. Switching back to the built-in keyboard has not resolved this, so I don’t believe it to be a fault of SwiftKey.
When I tried the keyboard case (which I ended up sending back), I found that a button press would continue to register after I had released the button. This resulted in repeated characters in what I was typing and was very annoying. I have found this to be an occasional issue when using the Belkin keyboard connected to tablets such as the Nexus 10. It rarely happens though, and when it does happen it tends to be when the tablet in question is doing some heavy processing, particularly when also connected to other Bluetooth devices. As a result I would suggest that in these cases the repeated letters is not a fault with the Belkin keyboard. In general, the whole experience has been very pleasant so far.
Having only begun using the keyboard, I have no idea what the performance of the two AAA batteries will be. I am hoping that
they will last well. Once depleted I’ll probably replace them with rechargeable batteries.
The only question in my mind about the keyboard is really how portable it is. It is nice and thin, but where previously I would only have to find a single space for my tablet, I now have to find two places; one for the tablet and the other for the keyboard.
I don’t feel as though there is much more I can add to this review at this time. All-in-all, I am very impressed with this keyboard and consider it well worth the £12 it cost. I would have absolutely no trouble recommending this device to someone with an Android tablet.