Motorola XOOM Bluetooth Keyboard review

We all seem to know most of the benefits of a tablet. There is still plenty of untapped territory of course, but now we know how convenient they tend to be, and how they can be better or worse than a laptop in normal use. The glaring omission from a tablet is the hard keyboard that many people seem to think they need in the world of mobile computing. As someone who gets plenty of use from a keyboard (I do own the Dell Venue Pro too), I understand the benefits. Quite simply put, we are used to it. Why have it be mandatory to stray from our comfort zone? With that said, let’s see how the XOOM keyboard stacks up.

Just like most bluetooth keyboards, the XOOM version is universal. If you have bluetooth compatibility on your device, you should be able to pair this keyboard with it. That’s a great thing considering the $69 price that Motorola is asking. It’s always nice to be able to bring your accessories from one device to another, and get rid of the proprietary garbage out there. This can’t be said for everything (cases), but it’s definitely becoming more common.

Design & Build Quality

Similar to the look of the Apple BT keyboard, the Motorola takes a nice and streamlined approach. The design is simple, yet eye catching. The frame is thin, as well as the bezel. There is a blade like feel to the keyboard, which only departs from the design at the battery compartment (2 AA) underneath. This of course let’s the keyboard sit at an angle towards the user. The focus of the keyboard of course is the keys, which use a the chiclet style that seems to be preferred now-a-days.  Thankfully, they keys use a matte plastic which doesn’t pick up any of the oily stuff your fingers leave behind. The frame however, uses a smooth and glossy plastic which really brings out plenty of smudges and fingerprints. I would much rather prefer to see matte plastic for the frame, or even give us some black brushed metal. That might justify the price point($69), considering the BT Apple keyboard uses brushed aluminum and costs the same as this one.

The keys themselves are very nice to type on. There isn’t any flex to the keyboard, which is pretty amazing considering how thin it is. They keys are spaced out nicely, and are flat to the touch. You pretty much get a standard keyboard with everything in normal place until you get to the top row. From there, Motorola added plenty of Android specific keys, which is what will set this apart from standard BT keyboard that aren’t optimized for Android. You get the Home key, Mail, Conttacts, Messenger, Browser, Music (volume up/down, play, pause, skip, stop), and a back key. Those are some nice options when you’re working with this setup. It’s always nice to have some quick keys.

Everyday Use

Here’s where things get down to the nitty gritty. The keys themselves are pretty clicky. Not loud, but clicky enough that you’ll notice. The tactile feel is very nice though, so no complaints in use. When blasting out emails, or Word documents with Documents To Go, the keyboard flies along as quick as you can type. There isn’t any delay whatsoever. However, this changes when using the browser. There is a noticeable lag no matter what you are doing. If you are typing in the address bar, it’s a little slow. Throw in some backspaces, and then you really see the lag. It’s most noticeable when using WordPress to type out these articles to be honest. It’s really just impossible. This isn’t a Moto problem though, it’s an Android problem. Even using the soft keyboard you notice lag within the browser. I will usually get an entire word typed before it appears in the comments box on NBT. This doesn’t happen with the Apple set-up.

The lag would be a pain for some. Of course most browsing is done with minimal typing, so it won’t affect everyone. One thing could though. I noticed on many occasions when cranking out some writing(using DocsToGo), that the keyboard would just go haywire. I mean it would just start blasting out letters with no regard. I would be in the middle of typing Europppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp………and I would get that. The only way to stop it would be to quickly jump out of the application I was using. One time I did this though, I came back into my doc to fix it, and just used the backspace button, and lost half the paper I was writing! The backspace went crazy, and I had to re-type my last paragraph because of it. Not good.

Of course the last scenario could be just my model. Who knows. Maybe this is limited to a small portion, but it was that way with my unit. I don’t like things like that, especially when Asus is getting ready to give consumers an even better option(in some regards) in the Transformer. Besides the mentioned issues, the rest of the keyboard use comes out OK. I still have to have plenty of touch contact with the tablet itself in order to use the XOOM with a keyboard. This takes away the joy of having a keyboard to use, unless you’re strictly writing docs or sending emails.

Conclusion

The XOOM itself is a nice keyboard. There isn’t much to dismiss about it. The Android specific keys really bring out the experience, but there is still plenty of mandatory tablet touching to be had. Of course the nice part of having the keyboard is having full screen real estate. No more soft keyboard consuming half the 10.1″ screen. While Motorola has done a decent job with the keyboard, it still isn’t there. You can’t justify the same price as the Apple BT keyboard while not using competitive materials. Plastic and aluminum aren’t comparable. It also seems buggy from the hardware aspect (Ex:pppppppp) as well as being used within the browser (software). It’s a nice Android keyboard, but with the Transformer around the corner, I suggest waiting to see what that combination will do for ya if you want a keyboard with your tablet use.

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Allen Schmidt

Allen is a former contributing editor at Nothing But Tablets, which was merged with Pocketables in 2012.