Opening disclaimer: I was supplied with the test unit by MobileZap Australia, and allowed to keep it.
The Kit: Bluetooth Keyboard Case is a leather folio style tablet case designed to fit full sized tablets in the 9-10 inch range. It does so by having plastic clips which grip around the corners of the tablet, are connected to the case with elastic, and can therefore stretch outwards, accommodating larger form factors. In this case, I’m testing with an iPad Air, which unfortunately is too thin on its own for the clips to grip securely. You might want to look for a specific iPad Air case if you want to use that particular tablet. Alternatively, if you have one of Apple’s smart cases around your Air, I’m using the black leather one myself, it will bulk it out sufficiently for the clips to maintain a firm grip on the device, and the cover flap can close over your screen before you fold the keyboard against it.
The construction seems very sturdy, being stitched leather, with a soft suede-feel inside. The back of the case has a magnetically secured kickstand to prop the screen up while open, and the whole thing is kept closed by a leather flap and loop arrangement, which seems secure enough.
The keyboard itself is removable from the case, and held in with magnets, which makes it convenient to keep the single sheet instructions underneath. It can be removed and used without the folio, as the battery is within keyboard itself. It’s a reasonable keyboard, featuring about 5mm of travel and a full row of function keys. My only real criticism of it, coming from a Mac background, is that the right shift key is too small for the way I type (right pinkie finger used to activate shift). Given a perfect world, I would have preferred a smaller single line enter key, and a relocation & resizing of the End & right Control keys, respectively. That said, the keyboard is very usable, and I was able to comfortably code up a website while on the road. This is probably the biggest blessing of an external keyboard for someone like me, who actually really likes typing on the screen – the on-screen keyboard eats half the display, which is problematic when doing extended writing / coding sessions. I’m writing this review on the keyboard, and having the full screen to read back and ahead is so much better for keeping the context of the bit you’re writing at that moment in your head.
In terms of battery life, I haven’t been able to determine how long it lasts – though my habit with electronic devices is to charge them every night, I’ve been using this keyboard sporadically since December 18, and it’s still working on its initial charge. The manual lists 80 days standby, and 90 hours use. Charging is an area where I have a criticism of this product, however. Although the single sheet user manual states the product comes with a charger cable, my particular example didn’t include one. Thankfully I was able to find a charger for a bluetooth headset that happened to have the required micro-usb connector. Pairing and activating the keyboard is easy, with a built in key combo to wake the connection up after it’s been switched off.
All in all this is an effective and reasonably priced solution, which has a distinct advantage of not being tied to any particular model of tablet. If you’re in a situation where you want to provide standardised keyboard covers for multiple types of tablet, or have multiple tablets, but only want a single keyboard cover, this may be something to have a look at.
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