Android tablets and wireless keyboards: Decisions, decisions

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Right now, I'm on a mission to lose weight.

Not body fat, mind you, but weight gained from the number of gadgets I take with me when traveling. Seriously -- it's starting to get ridiculous.

Android Tablets Wireless Keyboards

On my last work-related trip, for example, I packed my Windows 7 laptop (for general productivity), my Chromebook (for quick email-sending and Web-based typing), and my Motorola Xoom (for less typing-centric Web browsing and app usage as well as in-flight entertainment). That's all in addition to my Android smartphone, of course. See what I mean? I'm bordering on tech obesity.

That's why I decided to trim the fat and find a better way to manage my travel technology. I'd love to leave my laptop at home, but I've always run into a couple of roadblocks:

1. While I've long enjoyed Google's Chromebook concept, I've had a tough time relying on Chrome OS exclusively due to its limited offline capabilities. Since my last trip, Google has unveiled offline support for Docs and Gmail -- a significant step, for sure -- but at this point, Docs' offline access is still read-only, which means I can't actually edit or create documents without an Internet connection. When I'm on the road, that simply won't cut it.

2. My tablet, on the other hand, is great for content consumption and basic text input, but it really isn't suited for long-form text entry. Even with an awesome on-screen keyboard, pecking out a 1500-word story (or hell, even a 200-word email) on a touchscreen just isn't the most effective way for me to get the job done.

Suddenly, it struck me: If my Xoom had a portable keyboard that I could connect as needed, I could theoretically travel with nothing but my tablet in tow. It'd give me the best of both worlds: I could use apps or surf the Web on a big screen and even watch movies on the plane -- and then, when I needed to do work, I could just whip out the keyboard and go to town. Why not turn my tablet into an all-purpose travel machine?

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The first step was finding the right keyboard to use. Some Android tablets (including the Xoom) have keyboard accessories made specifically to fit their form, but many of the keyboards on those products have been shrunken down to match the tablet's width. For me, having a keyboard that isn't full-sized defeats the productivity advantage I'm seeking. On top of that, any tablet-specific accessory will become useless when I upgrade to a different device in the future. All considered, I decided to focus only on full-sized wireless keyboards that would work universally with any Android tablet. 

In the end, I found three top-notch contenders that earned my recommendation -- and, in one case, my own personal buying dollars. Get the full lowdown in my in-depth review:

The best Bluetooth keyboards for Android tablets

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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