Let me start off by saying that I took some pictures with my 5 year old Olympus, but they were eaten by a memory card failure. So as unfortunate as that is, I’m more upset that I have to use stock images grabbed from a Google search to fill out the article. Hopefully you can forgive me.
Fresh out of the box, the keyboard looks to be worth every bit of the $70 price tag. It’s supermodel-slim, with a profile that makes me wonder if there’s any room at all inside the case. The travel of the keys feels like it’s as far as the keyboard is deep, so my guess is that every last millimeter of this thing is being used with very little or no dead space at all inside. It’s only slightly wider than my Acer Iconia A500, so it feels pretty close to perfect, aesthetically speaking.
The pairing process was simple enough, even without instructions. Anyone that has ever connected a Bluetooth headset to a phone or a new wireless controller to a console should be able to figure it out with relative ease. Once you have turned on the Bluetooth radio on your device, made it discoverable, and told it to search for nearby devices, just flip over the keyboard. There’s a small button on the bottom of the keyboard that is clearly marked “Connect”. It is recessed slightly into the casing to prevent an accidental push, but it’s not difficult to press, even for someone with massive fingers (like me). A small window will pop up on the tablet giving you a 4 digit code to punch into the keyboard followed by the Enter key. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go.
In an effort to exercise this thing in every way possible, I hooked my tablet up to my stereo and played around with Google Music Beta. I was able to easily navigate the music folders, choose some songs, play the music, back out to the library view, and start all over again. The media keys make it really easy to play, pause, and skip. The Android menu keys built into the keyboard for Home, Back, Search, and Menu functions really complete the experience. it’s obvious that when they say “For Android” they really mean that it was designed with Android tablets in mind, and they didn’t just make something that would work with the tablets and slap the Android name onto it.
I’m really digging the way this keyboard feels. When I’m at a desk it is pretty much perfect. I’m sure that by now Logitech is thinking “What the hell happened to that keyboard?” because it has been at my house for a while. I’ve been working this thing over. In fact, a large portion of the writing I did for NYCC was done on this little keyboard. I did that for 2 reasons: it would give me maximum real-world usage of the device, and maximum portability since the tablet and keyboard together weigh less than the battery and power brick on my laptop. Maneuvering a sea of unshowered nerds is difficult enough without 15 extra pounds of laptop slowing me down.
The typing is smooth and fluid with no sign of lag. The tactile feedback from a keyboard when typing out large documents or long emails is invaluable. While typing on a tablet is fairly easy to get used to, I’ll always prefer the ability to feel the key presses. It lets me know that I really did hit the key, and feeling the keys makes it a lot easier to touch-type. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve misplaced my hands on the tablet keyboard and spewed out gibberish for a couple of words before realizing what was going on. Another thing that I like about using this as opposed to the on-screen keyboard is that in certain applications or on script-heavy websites (hey there, Facebook) the software keyboard has a tendency to lag quite a bit. This magical little hunk of plastic and silicon eliminates the lag completely.
The battery life is ridiculous. And by that I mean I have intentionally left it on pretty much the entire time I have had it and the batteries that came in the unit are still going strong. I don’t know what they did to make this thing sip juice so slowly that it seems to not be using it at all, but I like it. I’ve had to charge my tablet 4 times since I started using the keyboard, and the little AAA Duracells are just laughing it off.
The way that the holder converts into a tablet stand is passable at best. It gives you some place to put the case while you’re using the keyboard without having it take up too much extra space, but it’s wobbly. The portion that the tablet itself rests on is a bit too narrow, and every time I have to touch the screen, it rocks and causes me to reach up with a second hand to steady it before I can do what I needed to do. It isn’t a total game-breaker, but I feel like they could have made the stand just a little bit wider to increase stability. Because I already own a case for my tablet that converts to a stand, I just left it in there most of the time once I found out how wobbly the keyboard case was. It still works great for protecting the keyboard in transit, but for propping up the tablet it’s only something you should use just long enough to buy something more stable.
The short travel of the keys really screws with me when I am typing. Even after getting a good bit of use out of it I still found myself missing keys. My everyday keyboard is a Logitech G15, and I don’t always strike the keys directly from the top. I have horrible form when I type. I realize this, and I accept it. Unfortunately the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard is less forgiving than I am. Because I don’t hit the keys straight on, sometimes they won’t register that the key press has happened. I’ll hit just the corner or the side of a key, it will wedge against the casing instead of going down correctly, and the keystroke will be missed. It happens a lot more than I would like to admit. I do realize that this is a failing on my part, so I’m not taking anything away from the keyboard for it, I just thought it was worth mentioning in case anyone else has terrible typing habits.
In terms of productivity, it is missing a couple of things that I wish I had, specifically the End and Home keys. They aren’t exactly essential for most people, and I understand the justification for leaving them off. But there’s a ‘Function’ key that gives almost all of the number keys and the backspace key a second function; would it really be that difficult to add Home and End to the keyboard? Maybe to the left and right arrow keys , respectively? Why not Page Up/Down for that matter? I didn’t mind that they weren’t present at first, but after using it to type a few articles, their presence was sorely missed. Here’s a suggestion for version 2 – Fn+Left = Home, Fn+Right = End, Fn+Up = Page Up, Fn+Right = Page Down. If you use the idea, you can thank me by letting me review more stuff.
Other Thoughts and Final Verdict
The box says that it is for Android 3.0+, but that’s simply because they didn’t want to have to outline the details for connecting to an earlier version.* If you have a tablet that is running 2.2 or 2.3, you can still connect the keyboard but it will take some extra steps. 3.0 recognizes the keyboard and automatically generates a 4 digit code for you to input into the device. Since earlier versions don’t do that, all you have to do is put the code in yourself.
- Start the pairing process on both the phone and the keyboard
- Once the phone discovers the keyboard, touch it to connect
- When the phone asks for a 4 digit pin, just choose any 4 digit pin and press OK
- Immediately after you press OK, input the same pin on the keyboard and press Enter
- BAM you’re connected
Keep in mind that since this wasn’t designed for anything below 3.0, some features won’t work on your 2.3/2.2 device.
I really like this little gizmo and it makes me sad that I have to send it back. I’ve grown quite fond of it over the short time we’ve been together. If you have an Android tablet and you’ve been thinking to yourself “What I really need is something else to carry around with my tablet” then you should definitely snatch one of these up. The shortcomings aren’t so drastic that they ruin the experience at all. In fact, I think I’m going to have to go pick one up for myself now.
*It’s entirely possible that I made that up and I really have no idea why they chose to only market it for 3.0+ tablets, but I’ll never admit it.