Saturday, December 11, 2010

Four portable keyboards for the iOS, comparison

What do you do when you're on the go and your inner touch-typing devil grabs hold of you, but the iPad/iPhone screen keyboard is just not your scene. Well, you must have an external one, of course. Sadly, there has not sprung up a scene for this like it has for iPad cases, but there are a few.

On my photo is an iPad in leather case/stand, and a Matias folding keyboard, and a Think Ouside portable keyboard, and a Freedom i-Connex foldable, and an Apple Wireless (non-foldable) keyboard. They all connect via bluetooth (Except the Matias, which is USB), for better and for worse. (Remember you must un-pair one divice before you can connect another.)

The Matias (who makes the best desktop keyboard I know, the Tactile Pro) foldable is reasonably priced at fifty bucks, but... it's just too big to be really portable in these times. (Notice there's a Mac and a Win version.) And the keys are a bit mushy, and it doesn't have a lock for lying flat.

The Think Outside (or I-go) is very small indeed, and very good for all of that. I find I can actually touch-type on it, despite my large hands. But it's out of production, and generally sells over $100. And it is kind of fiddly, multiple uses for each key and such. And it doesn't really lie flat on a table.

The Freedom i-Connex is a pretty new product (there's a couple very similar one, but I *think* this is the one I got), and I like it. It is full-size for touch-typing, and yet pretty compact when folded. I like the feel of the keys. There are some things to get used to, for example the distance to the right shift key is more than I'm used to, so I keep pressing arrow-up instead. But I think I can get used to it. It also comes with the nicest pouch of any of these.

The Apple Wireless is a simplistic design, and it's just gorgeous. It's even compact and light. Many people love this keyboard to bits, particularly women for some reason. But the key travel is very short, which some people don't care so much for. And of course it does not fold.

  • Matias: 444 grams
  • Apple Wireless: 333 grams
  • Freedom i-Connex: 261 grams
  • Think Outside: 178 grams
I think that my favorite so far is the Freedom i-Connex. It has a good compromise between size/weight and usability (it goes in a jacket pocket), it's not expensive, and it feels pretty good to my hands. I think with a little training I could get up to a good 'n comfortable speed on this one.

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