A tablet is such a handy tool, particularly for travel bloggers, with more than enough computing power to easily surf the web, run apps, do word processing and spreadsheets, manage and manipulate photos, and keep tabs on that ever important email. Trouble is, when you’re doing anything more than tapping out short emails or status updates, you quickly realize how handy a keyboard would be. So it was that I began shopping for a Bluetooth keyboard to accompany my Samsung Note 8 Tablet. It seems like such a simple ask…
The first low-cost keyboard I picked up would not even pair with my tablet. I am not sure what the issue was, but I will be generous and call it “user error.” There were very nice looking, more expensive keyboards, most notably the Samsung keyboard and stand, which I very much like but can’t imagine dishing out another $100 for. Many other generic keyboard cases work well, but are a poor fit for the tablet. Eventually, I settled on the ZAGGkeys FLEX bluetooth keyboard, retailing for $29.99. In retrospect, the hundred-dollar price tag would have paid dividends in saved frustration.
Issue number one, which is purely one of convenience and, perhaps, aesthetics, I should have noticed right away. The case that comes with the keyboard does a great job of protecting the keyboard and keeping it clean, but it also blocks the USB port. It would have been better placed on the side where, though not protected by the case, it would remain accessible for charging without “opening” the case. Minor annoyance, I suppose, but irritating none-the-less.
Issue number two is even more frustrating: After charging overnight, I started up the keyboard when getting on the train, and within five minutes the battery was dead. Literally five minutes, and literally dead. Now, this has not been a consistent issue; some times it will last for hours, other times minutes. Sometimes it doesn’t power on at all. No rhyme nor reason, just inconsistent performance.
Issue number three is consistent, and equally frustrating: Every time I want to use my keyboard, I have to re-pair it. With every other Bluetooth accessory I use with my tablet (or my phone), I pair the accessory once and then, when I turn on the headset or camera or whatever, my Bluetooth connection links them up. Why the ZAGG keyboard does not, I don’t know. It should, according to the manual, but it doesn’t.
There are plenty of pros with this keyboard, to be sure. It is just a little bit wider than the tablet in landscape mode (7.6×9.8 inches, and less than 1 inch thick), which allows for a good sized keyboard. It is compact, but not so small that it is difficult to type on. It is very lightweight, at just 8.8 ounces, so you can toss it in your bag without weighing yourself down. I’ve also been impressed with its durability. It’s taken more than one table-height drop without a scratch or ding. More impressively, it survived a trip through Europe in my backback. And the case doubles as a stand for your tablet or smartphone which, I’ve learned actually offers a couple of different angles, depending on how you set it up.
While I have Android devices, the ZAGGkeys FLEX keyboard has a switch to also accomodate iOS devices. I use it mostly for word processing and email, but it does have directional keys, which are great for navigating web pages and forms. There is an Options or Menu key, a dedicated Web browser button, media controls (volume, mute, forward, back, pause, play), Cut/Copy/Paste buttons, and lock, home, and back buttons.
Break Down: Using the very unscientific TravelLatte Letter Grades system for four important areas of product design, features and functions, plus one for value, the ZAGGkeys FLEX keyboard gets just above a passing grade:
- Design & Form: B – If the USB port were more easily accessible from within the case, I’d give it an A
- Battery Life: C+ – While literature says the device can go “weeks” between charges, our experience has been as short as minutes.
- Ease of Use: C – Having to re-pair the device with each use is frustrating. Other than that, it’s extremely easy to use.
- Function(s): A – The keyboard offers a lot more functionality than simple typing, with audio controls and Android/iOS-specific keys to control your device.
- Value: C – I really expected better performance for the price, even moreso given the brand’s prominence in the mobile device accessory industry.
Overall: C+ – On a four-point grading scale, the total grade is 2.7 out of 4, or a C+
In the end, it’s a good, lightweight keyboard, but frustrations with the battery and Bluetooth connectivity, and the design of the case have me shopping for a better one. While $29.99 is not a king’s ransom, I expect better performance for the price, and would not highly recommend this case.
Have you used the ZAGGkeys FLEX or other Bluetooth keyboard with your tablet? We would love to hear about your experiences and especially any recommendations! Just leave us a comment below.