Tech Review: A portable wireless keyboard from iClever is ingenious in its design. It folds into a package small and slim enough to fit in a back pocket but unfolds into a decent-size keyboard with a tiny trackpad.
I’ll admit I used to think I wanted to make my iPad the only device I used for computing. I spent more than a few hours trying to figure out how the iPad could replicate all the critical functions I needed to get my work done.
I started by looking at keyboards. Since I write every week, a keyboard is critical to my work. I wanted a portable one. There are plenty of iPad-compatible keyboards, but if I’m going to carry one in my bag, it might as well be able to connect to my phone and laptop as well, so the ability to pair with more than one device is critical.
The gadget-maker iClever produces a wide range of consumer products and sent over its Portable Tri-folding Wireless Keyboard with TouchPad ($59.99, www.amazon.com).
Pros and cons
Pros: Well-built; keys are comfortable to type on. Pairs to three devices at a time.
Cons: Some missing keys will cause you to type a bit slower. A bit expensive.
Bottom line: A cool design and a functional folding keyboard.
The tri-folding keyboard is ingenious in its design. It folds into a package small and slim enough to fit in my back pocket but unfolds into a decent-size keyboard with a tiny trackpad.
The keyboard has a built-in battery that recharges with an included micro-USB cable. Battery life is up to 60 hours on a charge, and recharging takes two hours.
The keyboard is smaller than a normal laptop keyboard, and some keys are missing. The apostrophe key, which is to the left of the return key on my MacBook Pro, is not a separate key on the iClever — the apostrophe is on the L key, but I had to access it by pressing the purple FN key.
Looking around the keys, you’ll notice a lot of purple symbols that need the FN key to work. It is the easiest way to eliminate several physical keys while still giving users the functionality they expect.
I have to admit the lack of a few keys, including the question mark, took some getting used to.
I found the predictive typing on the iPad filled in most of the apostrophes for me. Typing “dont” would autocorrect to “don’t” all by itself, which eliminated the need for me to hunt for the keyboard combination that will type the apostrophe.
The keys are only 9 percent smaller than the keys on a regular keyboard, and while it took a few minutes of typing to get used to the spacing, I was able to type with decent speed pretty quickly.
I make my share of mistakes, and I make liberal use of the backspace key, which is smaller on the iClever keyboard, so backspacing and retyping is a bit slower for me with the folding keyboard but that makes me a more accurate typist.
The keyboard is metal and plastic, and the hinges are well-built.
It folds and unfolds with a satisfying click and stays stable while you type, but it doesn’t lock in the open position, so you really need to place the keyboard on a flat surface like a desk. It doesn’t work well just placed on your lap, for instance.
The keyboard has a magnetic on-off switch that works when you fold or unfold it.
There are also two foldout feet that elevate the keyboard just a bit, and the feet are rubber to help things stay anchored.
There are three keys above the trackpad to instantly switch among three Bluetooth devices. I have the keyboard paired with my MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone. Pressing 1, 2 or 3 instantly makes the keyboard active on the associated device, and the switch takes about one second.
Speaking of the trackpad, it only works on the devices where there is an actual pointer, like the MacBook Pro. I wish the iPad and iPhone could use a trackpad, but no.
There are three tiny blue LEDs to indicate which device is currently connected. There are no other lights, which means there’s no visual indicator of the caps lock status, which I missed.
The trackpad can handle multitouch input, but at about 2 inches square, the trackpad is almost too small to use meaningful gestures with more than one finger.
It does a good job as a basic trackpad, and there are two separate buttons below for left and right clicking.
This isn’t a keyboard that I would use on my desk every day, but it’s much better than trying to type on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. It folds up and slips into an included bag, so it’s easy to toss into your bag for when you need it.
I used it to type this review, and it was an entirely pleasant process.
I think this keyboard is going to have a permanent place in my bag. I don’t really expect to use it for typing on an iPhone, but it’ll be perfect for entering in text on the Apple TV or the Mac Mini in my living room.