Laptops and tablets both have their strengths and weaknesses. Ironically, one of the weaknesses of a laptop is a permanently attached keyboard while one of the weaknesses of (many) tablets is the lack of a keyboard altogether. That’s why convertible laptops, tablet sliders and various other hybrids have existed for as long as the pure version of laptops and tablets have, maybe even longer. There is however another option: having a keyboard as an accessory, preferably a wireless one. It’s the best of both worlds, having a keyboard when you need it without having to have it attached when you don’t. One of the sexiest (and most expensive) Bluetooth keyboards on the market is made by Apple itself. Read on for a review.
Bluetooth keyboards was a very small niche for years as PDAs and other handhelds were more or less the only ones using them. Wireless keyboards for computers used USB dongles and proprietary c0nnections, and smartphone and tablets didn’t really exist yet. The last few years have changed that, and you can now get Bluetooth keyboards in all shapes and sizes. The great thing is that they’re universal, so once you have one it doesn’t matter if you switch to another device or platform- it will still work. That is also true for the Apple keyboard, and while it’s optimized for MacOS it works on anything from the iPad and iPhone to Android smartphones and tablets, Windows tablets etc.
The keyboard is made from aluminum, with plastic keys and backside. It is extremely flat, only 4mm at its thinnest and 19 mm at the back where the batteries are. This design means it takes up very little space when carried with a tablet as you can “hang” it on the tablet using the battery compartment as a hook.The build quality is very good and the keyboard feels very solid overall. Every other Bluetooth keyboard I’ve seen is made from plastic, is more bulky and generally doesn’t have the same quality feel as this one. It looks like someone cut out a MacBook pro keyboard and made it a standalone keyboard, with all the attention to detail that Apple puts into casings. There’s no squeaking or flimsiness of any kind, and I have to say that the minimalistic design is just perfect.
The Apple BT keyboard is a chiclet style keyboard- originally a candy name, it basically means that all keys are flat, thin, and separated by a physical piece of keyboard casing rather than all keys being tall and separated only by air. It’s the same type of keyboard used on the MacBooks and many other laptops and netbooks. I prefer this style of keyboard as it’s very comfortable to type on, but your mileage might vary. The exact button layout depends on what language the keyboard is designed for, but as I said it’s designed for Macs first and foremost. There is an iPad keyboard dock that’s basically the same keyboard attached to a dock that has some special shortcut keys designed for the iPad, but some of the shortcut keys on the Bluetooth keyboards also work on the iPad- including brightness and playback controls.
The keyboard is powered by two AA batteries (included) that you access by unscrewing a metal cap. The other end of the battery “tube” has the on/off button. When you pair it with a device you are prompted with a 4 digit code that you enter on the keyboard and then press enter. I don’t know if this is standard for all Bluetooth keyboards, but it’s the same method used for my old foldable iGo Bluetooth keyboard as well. Once paired the keyboard will auto-connect when you turn it on. On the iPad that also disables the on-screen keyboard. One issue I found with the iPad was that it didn’t recognize the language of the keyboard; I have both Norwegian and English keyboards enabled, so if I connected my Norwegian Bluetooth keyboard when I’d been using the English on-screen keyboard the keys would be mapped wrong. I’m not sure if there’s a shortcut to switch languages with the keyboard, but so far I’ve had to turn off the keyboard, switch languages with the on-screen one and then turn on the keyboard again to make it work properly.
Typing on the keyboard is a breeze, and it’s easily one of my favorite physical PC keyboards, on par with my laptop’s keyboard which ha a similar chiclet style keyboard but one that squaks a bit more. It’s not the most quiet keyboard I’ve ever used, but it’s not a typewriter either. It lacks a numpad, but other than that it’s a full sized keyboard which is a lot better to type on than slightly shrunk down keyboards like the ones you’d find on netbooks. All in all it’s a great keyboard, probably one of the best Bluetooth keyboards out there and definitely the best one I’ve tried. At $69 it’s a bit expensive, but considering the quality of it and the fact that you can use it with smartphones, tablets and PCs alike regardless of platform makes this one of the more reasonably priced Apple accessories in my opinion. You also don’t have to worry that it will be outdated in a year or two, so if you want a keyboard you might as well spend a few extra bucks and get something with a good quality feel to it.