Wireless and Bluetooth keyboards have been around for a while, and many of us have been using them for years on our old desktop computers. The recent booming popularity of tablets brought on a new kind of wireless keyboard: lightweight, compact and very portable. These keyboards, which usually connect using Bluetooth, are made especially for tablets (or even a specific kind of tablet, as we would soon see), and are designed to turn your tablet into a mini laptop on the go. While these keyboards are a popular companion for tablets, they can generally be paired with any device which has Bluetooth connectivity, including phones, laptops, and desktop computers.
Today, I will be reviewing the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad/iPhone, which is Amazon’s own take on the Bluetooth keyboard niche. This keyboard is designed especially for iOS devices, with matching shortcut keys and functionalities, and is designed to turn your iPad, or even your iPhone, into a more productive instrument on the go. This keyboard currently sells for $45 on Amazon, and we bought this unit ourselves in order to provide an impartial review. It gets even better, of course: we are giving this unit away to one lucky reader. Read on to find out exactly how this keyboard fared and how you can win it!
Introducing the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard
As mentioned earlier, the Bluetooth keyboard market is currently a huge one, with options ranging from a $7 mini keyboard to a whopping $185 folding keyboard. In the AmazonBasics’ price range of around $50, there are many options to explore, and citing them all here would surely take too long.
Nevertheless, when looking at Bluetooth keyboards that are either made for iOS devices or can easily pair with iOS devices, some of the prominent choices are this $70 Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad, which comes with its own stand that can double as a carrying case for the keyboard, or the $90 Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000, which offers a curved design and comes with a detached numpad for those who can’t do without.
In the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard’s exact price and accessory range, you can also find the $46 Targus Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad, (RRP $63.99) which, similar to the AmazonBasics, comes with no accessories, but is significantly heavier. In fact, at 9.6 ounces (275 g) the AmazonBasics’s official weight is the lowest I could find out there, and when I weighed it myself at home, it surprised me even further by coming in at only 235 g, which is approximately 8.2 ounces.
To sum it up, the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard is a very lightweight and portable option and comes with no additional gimmicks, accessories or extras. But is it really easier to use than the iPad’s on-screen keyboard? Will it really increase your productivity on the go? Let’s find out.
What’s In The Box?
The AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard comes in the famous Amazon “frustration free” packaging. The box truly is very easy to open, and seems like it would protect the travelling keyboard rather well. In the box, you’ll find the keyboard itself, a pack of two AAA batteries, which you’ll need to get the keyboard going, and a small instruction booklet. For the purposes of the review I used my own rechargeable batteries, so the lucky winner of this keyboard also gets a brand new set of batteries.
The keyboard comes in a plastic bag, and is also wrapped in plastic all around the keys to protects it from dust and dirt. This wrapping is also intact, so if the keyboard’s surface seems uneven and shinny in photos, this is the reason.
The AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard’s Design
The first thing you’ll notice about the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard as you take it out of the box, is how light and thin it is. It’s very easy to hold and will comfortably fit pretty much anywhere you want to put it, without adding any extra weight.
The keyboard is designed for maximum comfort no matter where you use it, and it actually works. The top part of the keyboard’s back is slightly thicker, which means it doesn’t lie flat on a surface, but has a slight angle to it. This little addition makes it much more convenient to use. In fact, the angle makes it even better than my own laptop’s keyboard, which simply lies flat under my fingers. The back of the keyboard also includes 5 rubber strips, which prevent the keyboard from sliding while you use it, the battery compartment, and two button which we’ll get to shortly.
The keyboard itself is slightly on the small side, which takes a bit of getting used to when actually typing, but it’s surprisingly quiet. While my laptop’s keyboard makes a very distinctive and quite loud typing noise when I use it, the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard is almost inaudible. I can type away quite quickly, and not be heard on the other side of the room.
The keyboard’s layout is pretty usual, but includes both Control and Command keys. It also includes arrow keys and a delete button, but no other function buttons such as home, page up, page down, etc. It does contain all F buttons, which double as media controllers, battery and connection indicators, and special shortcut keys for iOS devices.
F1 doubles as a Home button, which emulates the iPad’s own hardware button, and F2 is also a Search button which brings up the iOS search window. There is also a designated On-Screen Keyboard button, which brings up the iPad’s own keyboard, in case you need to use them simultaneously for some reason.
Connecting The Keyboard
Connecting the keyboard to your iOS device is very easy, and takes only a few seconds. The first thing you’ll have to do, of course, is turn the keyboard over and insert the batteries. Next to the battery compartment, you’ll find two buttons: On/Off and Connect. When the batteries are in, turn the keyboard on, but don’t press the Connect button just yet.
Now get your iPad or iPhone, and in Settings, tap on General –> Bluetooth, and turn Bluetooth on. Both iPad and keyboard are now ready to connect.
Now it’s time to press the Connect button at the bottom of the keyboard. This makes the keyboard discoverable for 3 minutes. The keyboard has a handy connection indicator on its F12 key, with a blue led that keeps flashing as long as it’s discoverable.
Once “Bluetooth Keyboard” appears on your iPad, tap it to connect. In order to complete the connection, enter the PIN code that pops up on the iPad using the keyboard, and press enter. The message will disappear, and your keyboard should now be connected.
As far as connection to non-iOS devices goes, I managed to easily connect the keyboard to a Samsung Galaxy S II device running Android 4.0, but not to an older device running Android 2.2. While the keyboard’s regular functions worked well with Android, the media buttons were not as reliable, and the custom Home, Search and On-Screen Keyboard buttons did not work at all. I also couldn’t manage to connect it to my Windows 7 laptop, but this might be due to laptop issues and not to the keyboard.
Using The AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard
Once paired, the iPad is very responsive to the keyboard, and the letters appear on the screen with no noticeable lag, just as if I were using the on-screen keyboard. Using the keyboard takes some getting used to, though. It’s light and portable design also makes it rather small, and when you first start using it it’s hard not to make numerous typos. This shouldn’t be a problem, supposedly, with Apple’s famous (or notorious) auto-correct feature, but surprisingly, auto-correct simply doesn’t work when using the keyboard, so you have to pay extra attention, especially at first. As with any keyboard, you will soon get used to the size. As mentioned above, the keyboard is very quiet, which is great for public places or for fussy roommates.
The media keys and special key work very well with the iPad. There’s no need to use the FN button or the Control button for these keys; they can be used as is to control music and videos on the iPad. I tried controlling music in the iPad’s native Music app, and videos on the YouTube app, both of which worked smoothly. The only problem I encountered was when I switched between apps: if you pause a track in Music and then switch to YouTube, pressing Play again will start the music track you just paused, not the video you’re currently on. You need to tap the screen to get that app into focus, before the media buttons start to control it.
The Home, Search and On-Screen Keyboard buttons also work well, the Search button being especially useful for touch-free search, although you can’t navigate through search results using the keyboard, which kind of puts a stint in it.
The keyboard doesn’t have to be next to the device in order to control it. I managed to type on my iPad from the other room, with a wall separating me from the iPad. While typing a whole document this way might not be very productive, it could be useful as a remote control for media. Note that the iPad “listens” to the keyboard even when it’s locked or sleeping.
Should You Buy It?
All in all, the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard is a great little keyboard. It’s a joy to use, it’s quiet, it’s affordable, and it’s very easy to carry around. Although it’s very thin and light, its feels solid, and not like a breakable toy. While typing on it might not be significantly faster than the on-screen keyboard at first, it’s definitely more comfortable, and can help increase your productivity if you’re constantly having to type long documents on your device.
On the other hand, the keyboard’s functions are somewhat limited, and I would therefore recommend getting it only if you’re actually planning on typing a lot on the go. For regular iPad or iPhone use, and for media control, you may as well use the touch interface, which you will have to use on and off anyway, even with the keyboard connected.
Now that you know what it’s like, here is how you can win it!
How do I win the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard?
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