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AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard is...well, basic.
Real talk time: the iPad’s onscreen keyboard isn’t the world’s greatest typing tool. It functions admirably for short tappings, but for anything longer than an email, using a virtual keyboard can be an exercise in frustration. But many solutions to this problem sacrifice one of the iPad’s greatest features: its portability. Keyboard-packing cases are nifty, but most add so much weight and bulk to the svelte device that you might as well get a netbook--or deal with constantly swapping your iPad in and out of different cases.
Enter Amazon (yes, that Amazon) and a recent entry in its still-pretty-new private label, AmazonBasics. The imaginatively named “AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple iPad, iPhone” squeezes a nearly full-size keyboard onto a slab barely half an inch longer than the iPad itself. With a very low profile, this little keyboard offers better key response and spacing than most netbooks, in a form factor that’s easy to slip into a briefcase or shoulder bag.
It's thin, it's light, and it's cheaper than the $69 Apple Wireless Keyboard.
The keys boast a satisfyingly bouncy feel and a nice matte texture. But the real achievement here is the excellent size and spacing. The keys are virtually identical in size to a full-size keyboard, with spacing maybe only 10 percent tighter than other chicklet-style keyboards. That makes for dead-simple touch typing with almost no adjustment period.
Of course, some sacrifices were made. Chief among these is the unusual arrow key arrangement, where the stacked Up and Down keys are half the height of other keys, leading to the occasional mixup. But beyond that, you’ll get satisfyingly large Tab, Caps, Shift, Backspace, and Enter keys, as well as a full suite of Command, Control, and Option/Alt keys.
The keyboard even boasts some iOS-specific hotkeys, including a Home button (which allows double-tap for easy app switching), a dedicated Search button, and a Show/Hide Keyboard button in case you need to switch quickly between virtual and physical keyboards. (Better still: the external keyboard allows for many shortcuts not otherwise available in iOS, such as Command-C and -V to copy and paste, and Shift-Arrow to select text.) Also present are volume and media controls that ought to work on many other Bluetooth devices. And that’s another great feature of this keyboard: it’s not just for iOS devices. Though it only remembers one device at a time, you can quickly and easily switch to a computer, PS3, or other Bluetooth-enabled device, generally by simply typing a string of four numbers on the keyboard itself.
The bottom line. Of course, nothing’s perfect. AmazonBasic’s offering is a fairly sturdy-feeling device, but it’s thin and light enough that a protective case seems prudent--yet none is included. Lock/unlock and app-switching buttons would be a welcome addition. But overall, AmazonBasics does an admirable job of packing in functionality and comfort into a surprisingly small and affordable package.
Excellent key size, spacing, and response. iOS-specific function keys. Tiny form factor. Inexpensive.
Odd arrow-key layout. No carrying case. iOS not perfectly optimized for keyboard control.