Touch-type on your tablet with these Bluetooth keyboards
No matter how touch-friendly the latest mobile OS is, many people still gravitate towards pushing actual buttons to type out emails, letters, and messages—something that is particularly true for touch typists who are used to resting their fingers on keys. To keep up with this preference, accessory makers continue to churn out new portable Bluetooth keyboards.
Just as there’s a tablet or smartphone to fit every style, there’s a keyboard for everyone too. We took a look at three with distinct features: A keyboard that rolls up, one that lights up, and one with a case that folds out into a stand. Perhaps one of them is ideal for you?
The Scosche freeKEY Bluetooth keyboard is a spill-proof keyboard that rolls up into a nice little 1.75 by 2.25 by 4.5 inch package to fit neatly into accessory pouches. It works with tablets, laptops, smartphones, and any Bluetooth-enabled device. The membrane style keys are sealed and the power button and USB charging port are covered by a rubber door so the entire keyboard can withstand a spill. The keys have a nice soft touch rubber finish which feels great. If only they felt so great when typing.
Sadly, these membrane keyboards just don’t feel good to type on. The cramped layout and tiny keys didn't help matters. When trying to type normally, I ended up either not pressing hard enough, or missing completely, about a quarter of the time. That adds up to a lot of letters that I had to go back and hit again, which really slows things down.
While a roll up keyboard is convenient for cramming into a variety of bags or backpacks, disappointingly, I found that the Scosche didn't lay flat when unrolled. Perhaps it would flatten out with time, but in the few weeks I had it, it never quite laid flat on the table.
Unless you're already used to a membrane keyboard, or you really need the spill-proof design, I would recommend looking into a plastic fold-up keyboard if you really need the space savings in your bag. In my experience, I could type faster using onscreen keyboards than I could with the Scosche.
The Logitech K810 impressed me as soon as I took it out of the box. The deck is brushed metal in a dark grey finish, giving the keyboard a premium, solid feel. Then I turned it on and it lit up. A soft white backlight makes the keys easy to read in any lighting situation. A sensor turns the backlight on when you place your hands over the keys.
This keyboard is designed to be used with the new Windows 8 or RT (but can be paired with an iOS, Android, or Windows tablet, smartphone, or PC), so there's a Windows key in addition to function keys for things like quick app switching and Print Scr (should you need it). The K810 pairs with up to three different devices, and the first three function keys switch between those devices. Pairing with and switching between multiple devices was easy.
The Chiclet-style keys are large and well-spaced. I found the keyboard very comfortable to type on except for the smooth finish on the keys. I prefer a more matte texture myself, but the smooth keys didn't slow me down any.
The only drawback to the K810 keyboard is that it's both heavier and larger than other travel keyboards, but not too big to make me hesitate when choosing a keyboard to carry around with a tablet. It's about the same size and weight as Apple's Bluetooth keyboard but it lights up and pairs with three different devices. I want one.
Tablet accessories are so popular now that the accessories themselves now come with their own accessories. Case in point: The ZAGGkeys Flex keyboard also comes with a case that folds out into a stand for your tablet. It works well to protect the keyboard in a bag and creates a good angle for holding up a tablet. It also works with some iOS and Android smartphones.
The keyboard is going to need that protection in your bag, too. The plastic construction leaves the keyboard with a lot of flex. It's very lightweight, so it's not going to add much to your bag, but it feels cheap and very fragile. The deck flexed a lot during typing.
Thankfully, the typing experience on the Flex wasn't too bad. The keys are small and spacing is cramped, but it didn't affect my speed although there was a lot of rattling due to the light plastic construction. There's also a handy button to switch between Android and iOS devices so the function keys should work with whatever tablet you're paired with.