Images Copyright © 2012 Verbatim Americas, LLC.
On-screen keyboards on most tablets and smartphones are generally effective. If you do a lot of typing on these devices, though, you could find yourself yearning for something larger and more tactile.
Verbatim’s folding Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard could be the answer. Specifically designed for the iPhone, iPad and other tablets, it is larger than the keyboards integrated into some iPad cases but smaller than standard computer keyboards. It is also lightweight. Hence, together with your tablet it won’t weigh down your carry-on luggage like a laptop.
When you pull the keyboard out of its box it will be folded in half, exposing only a hard plastic outer shell (which doubles as the base when in operation). Setting it up is as easy as unfolding it, slotting a couple of AA batteries into the battery compartment on one end, and pairing it with your tablet or iPhone.
Pairing is done at the keyboard end by flicking the On switch and pressing a pairing button next to the keys. This button is small and recessed so you’ll need to press it with something about the size of a fork tine. Even so, it is easily accessible.
If you are using this keyboard with a tablet and have your device in a sleeve that allows you to support the screen in an upright position, you are all set. If not, you will need to figure out another solution because although Verbatim includes a stand (which pops out of the back of the keyboard), it is designed for an iPhone.
When in use, the keyboard itself lies flat. This might feel strange if you've used a lot of PC keyboards that have the keys slightly inclined towards you. Some other keyboards designed for tablets also slope and therefore have an ergonomic advantage over this Verbatim model. Because of its flat profile, it can become uncomfortable after long periods of use.
One big benefit of this keyboard over its on-screen equivalent on iOS devices is that it has arrow keys. It also boasts several tablet-specific keys and multimedia controls for operating iTunes or other media apps. A couple of irritating omissions are a Delete key and a light that indicates when Caps Lock is active. The absence of these might be frustrating if you are used to a PC keyboard. The attachment of the hard plastic keys to the base also feels flimsy, although none came off when I was testing the review sample.
When I first started typing I found the process slow and awkward because the keys are closer together than those on a standard keyboard. The placement of some function keys and special characters is also unconventional and took some getting used to. The layout generally makes sense, however, and I inevitably got quicker at typing as I did more of it.
Battery life appears to be good (those supplied in the box were not exhausted during my review). You should make sure you carry spares if you are going on a long journey, though. A USB charging option would be nice for travelers but at least AA batteries are readily available.
The best news for anyone who might be using this keyboard on the road a lot is that it is highly portable. When not in use it can be folded up again and slotted into a supplied pouch (above left) that is roughly the size of a paperback book.
Overall the Verbatim Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard is a welcome portable tablet or smartphone peripheral that provides significant usability improvements over on-screen keyboards. Some small design improvements would make it even more convenient and provide a great incentive to ditch your laptop, particularly when traveling.