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Monday, September 17, 2012

How to select the right keyboard for your tablet

n barely three years, tablets have evolved into must-have gadgets, which are being used extensively for work and fun. However, they are used mostly for consuming information rather than generating it. One reason this aspect has not been exploited fully is the absence of a physical keyboard. Despite the varieties of styluses and onscreen keyboard formats (Swype, split-screen keyboards, etc), the fact is that not many people can type comfortably at a high speed on a touchscreen.

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However, this shortcoming can be easily overcome if you buy a portable keyboard that can be connected to the tablet. Keyboards come in a variety of sizes and can differ vastly in terms of features, such as the spacing of keys and connectivity. Apart from the obvious factors, such as price and quality of build, here's a look at some of the features that you should keep in mind while picking the right keyboard for your tablet.

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Spacing and size of the keys

The problem with many keyboards that have been designed for tablets is that they tend to be small. Though this improves their portability, it results in smaller keys and cramped typing. This obviously defeats the purpose of getting a keyboard for the tablet.

Our advice: Type a few lines to see if the keyboard is comfortable to use. Your fingers should rest easily on the keys, so it will be preferable if they are slightly grooved. It's best if there is some space between the keys so that you don't press two keys accidentally.


How does the keyboard connect with your tablet? In most cases, you will have to choose between a wireless keyboard, which connects over Bluetooth, and one that comes with some sort of dock in which the tablet has to be placed. While some people consider the wireless keyboard a better option, having a dock gives it a notebook-like feel and keeps the tablet stable. The problem with docks is that they often restrict the keyboard to working with a specific tablet. However, recently, some Bluetooth keyboards have been launched, and they come bundled with their own stands to keep the tablets steady.

Our advice: Go for a Bluetooth keyboard, preferably one that has an accessory to keep your tablet steady while you pound away at the keys. Unlike docks, these can also work with your other Bluetooth devices.

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Special function keys

Many of the tablets, such as the iPad and the PlayBook, connect wirelessly with most Bluetooth keyboards. However, you may find that some of the special function keys, such as those for switching on Wi-Fi, playing music or adjusting the brightness of the screen, will not work with your tablet as they are designed for Windows and Mac computers rather than tablets. However, manufacturers are now coming out with keyboards that have special keys designed to work with tablets. For instance, the Zagg iPad keyboard has specific keys to lock and unlock the display and to control music directly.

Our advice: Check whether you need the special function keys as these will shoot up the price. If not, any normal Bluetooth keyboard should work well with your tablet.Battery

While most docks draw power from the tablet itself, Bluetooth keyboards use a battery to power up. Some come with routine AA batteries, which can be replaced easily, while others have lithium-ion batteries, which can be recharged from either a power outlet or a USB port. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks, but the lithium-ion ones are considered to perform faster. Another advantage is that you don't have to open and shut the keyboard every time you want to replace the batteries.

Our advice: Opt for Li-ion batteries if you have power outlets and a notebook handy. Otherwise, pick a keyboard that uses AA batteries.

Other functions

Yes, we know that the main function of the keyboard is to let you type, but isn't it better if it comes with added benefits? Logitech's Zagg keyboard doubles as a smart cover for the iPad, while the Asus Transformer Prime's keyboard adds to its battery life. Some keyboards have extra USB ports, which increases the connectivity options. These cost more but also add to your device.

Our advice: If you have the budget, opt for a keyboard that can also act as a tablet cover. This will make it easier to carry.

Keyboards for your tablet

Amkette SmartBoard (Rs 2,695)

This Bluetooth keyboard comes with a special stand and works well with Android, iOS and Windows devices. It may be a bit cramped for people who have big hands, but is an efficient operator.

Logitech Tablet Keyboard (Rs 3,995)

A spacious Bluetooth keyboard with a foldable stand on which you can prop up your Android tablet. It can be used efficiently by people who need to type a lot.

Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000 (Rs 3,200)

The size of the keyboard might seem a bit large and oddly curved (Microsoft calls it the 'comfort curve'), but when it comes to typing, this is one of the best options for your tablet, be it an iPad or an Android device.

Samsung Keyboard Dock (Rs 6,199)

This keyboard has been designed exclusively for the Galaxy Tab 2 and is one of the easiest to use. The tablet dock also doubles as a charging station and adds media functionality to the gadget.

Apple Wireless Keyboard (Rs 3,990)

Though this keyboard was not originally designed for tablets, its lightweight form and amazingly responsive keys make it one of the best options for tablet typists. Apart from the iPad, it works with Android tablets and the PlayBook too. 
Source : The Economic Times, Sept 17, 2012

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