It may not be quite the right place to be talking too much about what makes us happy in life, but it wouldn’t be too much to share with you that I find myself thanking my lucky stars a lot these days. And one reason is that I get to participate in the march of technology first-hand – what a rush! But whilst I class myself a technophile, and most form does follow function, user experience always tops the list when it comes to why I choose what to adopt.
Take books for instance. There’s less and less need to argue the advantages of electronic/digital books on mobile devices these days as they speak for themselves. Literally sometimes. But for all I swear by my reading devices, there are particular types of books I will always prefer in physical form, and in the same breath will agree with the reasons traditionalists give to lay the same case. And to swiftly bring this opener back into relevance, whilst the virtual keyboard on iOS devices is the best in the business, there’s still a lot to be said for the physical keyboard, especially for the touch-typists out there. Being a fussy one of them, I went looking and found this little gem – the Perixx Periboard-806 Folding Bluetooth ALU Keyboard. Mouthful.
Backing up a little, I actually didn’t want a standalone bluetooth keyboard; I wanted a physical keyboard companion for my iPad Mini and was desperate for keyboard case. However, I didn’t want to compromise on keys/keyboard real estate and quickly found that my option was zero. The closest I got to what I wanted was this very cool Japanese Elecom TK-FBP048ECBK solution (got to love the name, not); it didn’t come in an iPad Mini size however. Thoroughly defeated, I set out to find the next best thing – a not very cool not-made-for-iPad Mini portable keyboard instead, but one that had to at least fulfil a short wish list; it had to:
- pair easily with iPad Mini
- be foldable to fit in a small bag, but would open up to as full size as possible
- have well-spaced and decent-sized tactile keys
- be British layout
Many hours and days later, I found Perixx and this folding keyboard. Along with satisfying my wish list above, additional features from their website and Amazon are as follows:
- Elegant Aluminium design.
- High quality X Type Scissor Keys.
- Supports lap typing.
- Folded dimensions: 148 x 99 x 21mm; length 257mm when opened.
- Weight 301gm (with batteries in… yup, old school batteries).
- Bluetooth 3.0.
- Up to 10m receiving distance.
- Click foldable on-off switch.
- Compatible with iOS (and Android/Window OS if that’s how you roll).
The ‘elegant Aluminium design’ refers to the brush aluminium parts, which is solid and decent enough. The rest is held together by tough black shell – a little plasticky I think. The non-slip rubber feet is a nice touch.
The next photographs show the unit next to my favourite size-comparison pen (previously used to great effect) – could be thinner, but they managed to fit a lot in a compact space. And although at just over 300gm it might almost feel like carrying another iPad Mini, it’s only just heavier than a decent paperback.
Initial pairing is no different to most peripherals these days – pretty straight forward. Sliding the catch on the side releases the 2 sections of the keyboard, and once fully opened, the unit is switched on and re-pairs automatically. An easy 5 stars straight out of the jacket.
The folding/unfolding action and joints have been well designed, and does feel very solid. I’ve been using it for almost a year with no noticeable loosening of any of the rivets.
Of course, even the best cover art cannot disguise contents of a book, so we get down to the actual keys themselves. Surprisingly, Perixx has managed to fit in the full QWERTY without compromising the size of the keys too much – at worse, they’ve shaved off a few millimetres of the heights of the letter keys compared to, say, the chiclet keys on a unibody MacBook Pro (MBP).
The keys are black and slightly textured, and helpfully the F and J keys are embossed, though only just. The key action has only a touch less clickety clak than the MBP, but feedback is good.
The final point to make here is somewhat mixed – Perixx has been generous by packing a lot of extra keys (Fn, PrtSc, Scroll, etc), but in the process traded off key spacing. That said, it is possible to get up to a good typing speed once you get used to a slightly narrower angle of your arms. And the lack of a number pad didn’t bother me at all – you don’t pick up Grisham if you want Darwin.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Taking the last point above further, other specific compromises have irritated more. Due to space limitation, sizes of particular keys have been made smaller. I’m not sure if other touch-typist are as partial to some keys as I am, but I find sizes of keys such as Backspace/delete, right Shift and Spacebar need to remain relatively consistent. True, I am basing that point on a British keyboard, but nonetheless, it may be important enough to actually look at these individual keys, as they may be deal-breakers. I did say I was fussy.
It does support lap typing; however, there is no mechanism to lock the keyboard in the open position. So if not rested on another hard surface on your lap, say, the Origin of Species, there is nothing to hold the 2 halves flat and fixed. Needless to say, it gets mighty frustrating when the keyboard keeps clamming shut mid-typing, especially when the Backspace key is a tiny dot!
And what’s with AAA batteries? Okay, even Apple’s wireless keyboard still requires AA batteries, but it would’ve been nice to have a built in rechargeable Lithium one.
It’s not the cleanest solution compared to the many iterations of iPad keyboard cases out there, but it does perform the function it was intended to quite well. It packs down to a carry-able size, and it’s touch-typist-friendly enough to be my go-to keyboard when I’m writing on my iPad Mini on the go.
One more thing: This accessory was independently purchased by the post author. It lives with his iPad Mini permanently.