This Mobile Keyboard has the key features you need, with surprises. (July 30th, 2011)
Product Manufacturer: Verbatim Americas, LLC
Price: $104 US
- Well-designed and thoughtful layout.
- Rugged snap closure and protective case.
- Built in multimedia controls.
- Free standing easel support for iPod and iPhone.
- Good key action.
- Battery driven – and they supplied batteries.
- Supports iOS4 and up, Android 3 and up, Blackberry/QNX, HP/WebOS.
- Locking mechanism could be a little more robust.
- Multi-point Bluetooth capability would be welcome addition.
- Pod/iPhone easel should tether to the keyboard, because it falls over when you touch it.
My thumbs don’t know QWERTY and I have long fingernails. This combination means that most devices without a real keyboard are a pain to use. I’m not a fan of on-screen keyboards either. Since I use my devices for work, the two most common uses I have for a phone and an iPad are to send and reply to emails. Fortunately, there are several new mobile keyboard entrants on the market and I think I have now found the one to beat.
Verbatim, the disk and drive manufacturer, offers the Wireless Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard that includes most of the key features you need, with a few surprises. The keyboard ships with a carrying case, iPhone Stand, AAA Batteries, and a Quick Start Guide.
This folding keyboard stows into its own leather-like case, but when opened is 12.5 inches long–almost the same size as a regular keyboard.
Once out of the slipcase, a latch holds the two halves together for added stay-closed protection. It locks open using a lock mechanism that is as hard to engage as it is to undo. A single metal rod slides between the two halves to keep it open and evenly flat, so that you don’t risk an accidental closure, unless you apply pressure and bend the rod. Fingernails come in handy to lock and unlock this hinge mechanism, so be jealous.
General Keyboard LayoutThe keyboard has a few anomalies in key placement. The “G” and the “B” keys are about 20% smaller than the other keys and the “H” and “V” keys are about 20% larger. This is due to the split in the keyboard and those keys needing to end at the center. If you look at your own keyboard you will see that the rows of keys are offset from one another, so to create a folding point is a bit difficult. For that reason the top two rows of letter keys are not offset in the same way as they are on a standard keyboard.
Placement and size of other keys are a bit off as well. The Delete and Control keys are at the lower left of the keyboard. The space bar is bisected and on both halves. The typing action resembles that of a traditional keyboard without the depth of action. The keys have a solid feel and good spring back. They do make a bit of portable keyboard noise, but they are more substantial than the traditional “chicklet” keyboard. I think allowances can be made in return for the benefit of the form factor.
The top and bottom rows of keys include smaller keys that allow for a variety of functions. The top row includes all your numbers, the escape key, and an aptly named “BS” key. I just wish it was that, but alas it is only the backspace. A keyboard key opens the on-screen keyboard on your device. These keys are smaller, about 2/3 the size of the letter keys, so watch your touch-typing for accuracy. The bottom row contains the delete, control, and alt keys. It also includes the Menu key, twice on both sides of the keyboard that enables a whole host of shortcuts specifically designed for Apple products. The Function key and the AltGr (I had to look that one up) address issues for PC users such as Alt Tab and shortcuts. Some shortcuts are different, so it pays to review the Quick Start Guide before you start to type. For example, Copy, Paste and Cut use the Menu key instead of the Control key. There is one curious key that is repeated. As it turns out it is the “home” key. I think they could have chosen a better symbol than a square with rounded sides. These smaller keys are function-related, so their placement and diminutive size doesn’t impact your ability to use them, because they’re not used frequently.
The Wireless Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard surprise is the column of keys to the left of the regular keys. Verbatim has included media controls for play, skip, pause and control of iTunes music on your iPod and iPad in addition to volume controls and a smaller Home key. These quick keys eliminate the need to interface with the touch screen of your device. This is a welcome addition to a traveling keyboard that allows you to play your music while working. Although, you cannot eliminate your use of the touch screen for control of applications on your iPod or iPad.
Other functions on the face of the keyboard are: The power switch (another good use for fingernails), a power and low-battery warning light, a Bluetooth indicator light, and the Bluetooth pairing button. A ridge on the far left of the buttons and switches is a battery trough that holds two AAA batteries, which are included and supposedly last for 80 hours of usage. I give kudos to Verbatim for including batteries instead of yet another thing that needs to be charged, and for including a warning light when the batteries need replacement.
Other FeaturesCleverly enclosed in the keyboard is a pullout stand to support your iPod and iPhone. I suggest using the device horizontally.The stand reminds me of a trebuchet and I’m not certain where it might catapult the unsuspecting device, if not properly placed on the stand.
The intent is to have the iPod at a visible angle, so using it in landscape mode is probably preferable. I wouldn’t try an iPad in the stand, as it is way too heavy to be supported. The fact that the stand folds and is neatly stored within the keyboard is cool.
Pairing the Bluetooth DeviceYou can find detailed pairing instructions within the Quick Start Guide and they work true to form. Keep a paperclip or a fine point pen handy as you need to press a rather deep inset button to pair your devices, and, be prepared to do this multiple times. The device does not support a multi-point Bluetooth scenario, which means that you need to pair each device individually. If you move from one to the other you need to re-pair each time. Pairing for devices other than Apple can be found on the Internet.
Additional CommentsVerbatim really considered the user when designing this keyboard. The rubber feet on the bottom hold fast to a flat surface and the locking mechanism really does keep the keyboard from collapsing in on itself. I would not use this in your lap or other uneven surfaces, as it will bend if given the option.
The stand design, while ingenious in its current implementation, could go a step further in considering how to tether it to the keyboard itself and prevent slippage. The nature of the iOS means you will always have to touch the screen of the device and that is difficult while the device is in the stand.
This is a serious and welcome addition to a road warrior’s kit bag and a useful add-on to those that need a functional keyboard to use in conjunction with their devices. You can feel comfortable throwing it in a backpack and not fussing with cables and cords, just a couple of extra AA batteries if you are gone more than a week or two.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor