The Bluetooth keyboard market has taken off recently, with an influx of affordable Android and Windows tablets, along with the annual iterative updated iPads. Most people I know have a tablet of some sorts. Heck I even now one guy who asked me to fix his “Nexus” tablet and he promptly deposited a Linx 7 tablet on my desk.
One thing bugs me when using a tablet and that’s typing out large amounts of words. Holding the tablet for long periods of time hurts, especially if you’ve got a large metal tablet or some smaller tablet that has angular edges that hurt the second you grab hold (yes I’m talking about the Nexus 7 2013). Typing on tablets is also difficult thanks to the size of the display, with each key taking up way more space than it should. So my solution is to use a keyboard, be it an attachable keyboard like the ones on my Asus Transformer or on my Microsoft Surface 2, or if an attachment isn’t available I’ll go for a Bluetooth keyboard.
With advancements in Bluetooth technology there isn’t a delay after each button push, like in the olden days using Windows Mobile. Using a Bluetooth keyboard can be just as productive as using any physical keyboard.
Microsoft have sent me a universal mobile keyboard that works with Android, iOS and Windows (not Windows Phone, that’s not allowed). I’ve been using it for the last few weeks with a variety of different sized devices. So let’s have a look at it, starting with my good and bad points.
- Nice and solid feel.
- Great battery life.
- The lid acts as a multi angle tablet stand and cover.
- Nice amount of movement on keys.
- Works with multiple OS’s.
- Media playback buttons.
- Rather pricey.
- Doesn’t have integrated mouse trackpad.
The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard looks quite cool, or it does with the lid closed anyway. The lid is multi purpose, it is made of a nice soft touch plastic, that helps it stay put when you open the keyboard up. The lid also acts as a tablet or phone stand thanks to two strips of upright plastic that allow you to position your device at two different angles. You can also totally remove the lid thanks to a solution vaguely reminiscent of the Microsoft Surface. The lid is attached with a magnetic strip along the hinge. Once removed you can put it to one side and pair up with larger devices like a Laptop or Windows Hybrid.
The keyboard itself is pretty plain looking, made of a gloss black plastic, with matte black buttons, Microsoft are calling these “Chiclet Style”. It is a standard qwerty layout with no weird placements of keys, such as the Shift or Del buttons, which really helps with touch typing. You get a number row, with alternative functions for the !”£$%^&*()_+¬ characters. You also get a few special buttons for Back, Home and Option, quite what these do depends on which OS you have paired the keyboard too. The keys them self are really nice, they feel solid and have a nice amount of movement when you press them, your getting about 2mm of travel with the keys, the solid feel comes from the bottom of the keyboard and the rubber grips. It really feels solid, with no Flex unlike my Surface keyboard.
Above the number row are also some media playback buttons and some more special function buttons. You get Lock, Mute, Volume controls, Play, Pause, Forward, Backwards and Search. Again with the exact functionality varying by OS. On my Galaxy Note 4 all of the special buttons worked as you’d expect. With the only weird one being search which only really worked if the app you had open had some sort of search functionality.
The keyboard doesn’t really have many other features, bar the Micro USB charging port on the right hand side, a power button that turns the keyboard off and triggers pairing mode and most importantly a switch to flick between Windows, Android and iOS. Oh and the keyboard itself has two strips of grippy rubber on the bottom to further grip onto the surface.
Yes in this day and age even a lowly keyboard has a spec list.
- Dimensions – L 242mm x T 12mm (Inc lid) x W 109mm.
- Battery Life – 6 Months on overnight charge, 10 mins provides 8 hours.
- Weight – 365g.
- Tablet Stand can hold a device up to 10mm thick.
- RRP – £79.99.
A mobile keyboard needs to be mobile and it needs to be easy to set up. You don’t want confusing drivers to set up or companion apps. Setting up the keyboard was the first thing I had to do, on the keyboard works with Windows, Android and iOS, unfortunately not Windows Phone as Microsoft don’t want that. As the keyboard uses standard Bluetooth HID drivers built in to the OS, pairing is really easy, you just press and hold the power button for three seconds and it then appears in the available device list, after inputting the pairing code you’re good to go. Using it with my Galaxy Note 4 I had to change the input language to English UK as SwiftKey didn’t want me to use a “£” sign. Once swapped I could use any characters, such as the £ sign.
There are some hidden quick keys too, if you press and hold the FN key and hit either left, right, up or down you get normal keyboard functions of Home, End, Page Up or Page Down.
To turn the keyboard on is really easy, when you open the case it turns on. The power button on the side is only really for when it turns off without the cover on.
Typing on the keyboard is really pleasant, this is helped out by two factors that I’ve already mentioned. Firstly the keyboard layout is great and thanks to that you can build up a reasonable speed of typing, without randomly hitting enter or delete. Secondly the solid feel to keyboard also helps with the speed of typing as you’re not worrying about the keyboard flexing under the pressure of your fingers.
Overall I liked the keyboard, it was a great little, solid, versatile and dare I say it “fun to use” keyboard. The speed at which I could type was greater than I’d ever managed on other mobile Bluetooth keyboards.
The only slight problem with the keyboard is the price, at £79.99 you are getting one of the most versatile and compact mobile keyboards out there, but for pretty much a third of the price you can get similar things from Microsoft themselves and Logitech, admittedly with poorer quality construction and less versatility with OS’s. To buy this keyboard you are really going to have to be going to use every day.
You can pick one up over at the Microsoft Store here or if you hunt you may find it a bit cheaper.