Tablets give us new possibilities when it comes to mobile computing. Unfortunately, they also give us new things to pack when it comes to carry-on luggage.
The problem is simple: While a tablet is a great addition to any gadget-lover's arsenal, it isn't typically a replacement for an existing device. Most of us still need physical keyboards for long-form typing -- and with business travel in particular, that means you're lugging around both a tablet and a laptop.
By adding a wireless keyboard to your tablet, though, you can transform it from a content-consuming slate into a far more versatile productivity machine. With the aid of a Bluetooth keyboard, I've been able to use my Motorola Xoom for all of my computing needs -- both work and personal -- while away from the office. The keyboard allows me to type desktop-style as needed; the rest of the time, I can use the tablet as a lightweight touch device.
When it comes to keyboards, Android tablets do have a disadvantage: Because the tablets come in a variety of sizes and formats, keyboard manufacturers tend not to create the convenient combination keyboards/cases that are available for the iPad. However, there are still some really excellent options out there.
Here are three full-sized, universally compatible keyboards worth considering.
Logitech's Tablet Keyboard for Android 3.0+ packs in plenty of bang for your buck. In addition to a superb keyboard, the product comes with a protective case that doubles as a stand for your tablet, allowing you to position the device vertically while you type. This all-in-one functionality adds a lot of value to the Logitech unit.
Of course, the most important thing is the keyboard itself -- and Logitech's creation is no slouch in that regard. The keys are nicely spaced out and very responsive; I found it comfortable to perform even the fastest of typing. The unit lies more or less flat when placed on a table, with an ever-so-slight upward slant.
The Logitech Tablet Keyboard has five rows; the number keys at the top double as Android function keys when used in conjunction with a function (Fn) button. Those Android keys allow you to open your tablet's browser, music player, calendar, or Gmail app, as well as remotely control music playback and volume on the tablet. These are handy, but I would have liked it better if they had been dedicated rather than combination keys. The keyboard does have dedicated Search, Back, Home and Menu keys.
Though all of the keyboards I tested offer Delete keys, the Logitech keyboard is the only one on which the key actually functions as you would expect: It deletes the letter that comes immediately after the cursor. For some reason, every other keyboard's Delete key either did nothing or served as a second Backspace key, deleting letters before the cursor instead of after it.
In terms of accuracy, the Logitech keyboard's performance was outstanding, and I encountered few errors in prolonged use. When typing extremely fast, I did experience some sporadic issues in which certain letters would appear multiple times, or certain letters would be omitted even though I'd pressed them. This occurred rarely, however, and seems to be a common occurrence among Bluetooth keyboards.
Logitech Tablet Keyboard for Android 3.0+ from Logitech
Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 12.3 in.
Weight: 1.6 lb.
Powered by: 4 AAA batteries
Pros: Spacious and responsive typing surface; integrated Android command keys; includes protective case and tablet stand
Cons: Most Android command keys aren't dedicated; occasional errors when typing quickly