They might be selling like hot cakes, and actually even outselling the iconic laptop in some regions, but tablets have always been damned as being devices more suitable “for data consumption than production” or in simpler English — great to watch on, bad to work on. The main reason for this stream of thought is the absence of a proper keyboard. And when we say "proper" we mean a keyboard with comfortably spaced keys that sink and go clickety clack as we strike them, not the impassive QWERTY ones that pop up on displays whenever we want to type something in a text field.
Is there an app to solve this? Alas, no. What there is, is a new species of hardware that is getting increasingly popular in the tablet accessory market — the tablet keyboard. Most of these connect to your tablet over Bluetooth and deliver a better typing fix than the less responsive onscreen keyboards one has to contend with. And there are options aplenty, ranging from keyboards that masquerade also as covers to keyboards that come with stands to keyboards that are, well, just keyboards. So if you have a tablet and feel the urge to type extensively, pick your weapon from the following, and forget about your notebook for a while!
Logitech Solar Keyboard K760
What makes this keyboard special is the panel on top of it. It can also be recharged by not just sunlight, but just about any light out there. And can last for months on single charge. It definitely has been designed keeping Apple in mind — there are dedicated shortcut keys for eject, brightness and so on. Yes, it has a counterpart that can also function as a cover but we prefer this one because its keys are more spaciously laid.
Amkette Smart Bluetooth Keyboard
If you are looking for a value-for- money tablet typing proposition, this is perhaps one of the better options out there. No, it won’t get prizes for path-breaking design, but the Amkette Smart Keyboard is a solid and compact affair, and comes with dedicated keys that can work with both Android tablets as well as iPads. The keys are not the largest or most comfortable we have used but one can get the hang of them in a while. A massive bonus is the inclusion of a keyboard cover as well as a tablet stand — small but very important touches.
We like: The bundled keyboard cover and stand, the price
We hate: The relatively small keys, the low profile design
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover
Can a tablet keyboard become a style statement? Well, if it is crazily thin and well designed as this one is, it sure can. The Ultrathin Keyboard is a slim dual-edged sabre — it can work as an iPad cover when flipped around with magnetic clasps to attach to its sides, and work as keyboard with a slot in which the iPad can sit prettily, connected wirelessly. Build quality is super — it looks as if you are carrying an ultrabook — and battery life lasts for a long time.
We like: The anorexic form factor, superb build quality
We hate: The slightly cramped keys, designed mainly for the iPad
Microsoft Mobile Keyboard 5000
This is for those who love typing and give two hoots about bulk. There is no stand for the tablet, but in terms of sheer typing experience, this is perhaps the best keyboard for all those who love to type. The slightly curved shape might seem odd but is actually there for a better wrist posture. The keys are terrific and large and while it does not have any specific tablet shortcut keys, it works just as smoothly with Android, iOS and even Windows. Yes it’s a bit bulky, but it is perfect for the typing type. Pun intended.
We like: The big keys, the ease of use
We hate: The absence of a stand, the size
Apple Wireless Keyboard
All right, so it was not designed specifically for tablets. That said, we must confess that Apple’s keyboard is the best amalgamation of style and substance we have seen. The keys are big and comfy and thanks to Apple’s knack for design, they are in a keyboard that is not only very solid but also very light. And yes, if you have an iPad, you will find the iTunes short cut keys and the ones for brightness working very smoothly. It even plays well with Android tablets —anything with a Bluetooth connection. Make us a special, slightly more compact tablet version, Apple. With a stand please.
We like: The keys, build quality
We hate: The slightly large size, no stand
Tablet Keyboards Key Points
If you are the type that plans to change tablets regularly (every year for instance), go for a keyboard that will work across platforms and different screen sizes
Keyboards that can double up as covers are handy, but take care to see that there is enough space between the display of the tablet and the keys when being used in cover mode. You will be surprised how often scratches pop up. If a keyboard needs to be physically connected to a tablet, check out the number of viewing angles you get. Generally docks tend to keep a tablet stuck in one position. Whenever possible, opt for a keyboard with an inbuilt rechargeable battery. Saves you the hassle of carrying spares, for ‘just in case’ scenarios. If you intend sticking to a certain platform (say iOS or Android) for your tablets, then see if the keyboard you choose has short keys for it. They can be amazingly useful.