Review: Plugable Technologies Portable, Yet Full-Sized Bluetooth Keyboard
A keyboard like this comes in really handy when you’ve got a flat surface to work on (e.g. a table at a coffee shop or at work) and even comes with a protective case that doubles as a phone or tablet stand.
STYLING / DESIGN
The keyboard looks like one solid piece, but it’s actually three parts that fold closed like a double door. The hinge cleverly allows each piece to slide along grooves, solidly making a magnetic “click” to let you know when it’s closed and another click when it’s open. There are rubber feet that snap open for grip on the outside edges, preventing the keyboard from sliding around.
The base of the keyboard is made of metal that seems slightly sandblasted (meaning it won’t reflect light too harshly), resulting in metal all around when closed. The typing surface is made of plastic with a chiclet keyboard of a membrane design. There are three LED’s on the top-most part of the keyboard indicating Power, State (Bluetooth pairing) and Caps.
Plugable Technologies wasn’t kidding when it said this was a full sized keyboard. It’s actually got six full rows of keys with a typical laptop layout, and missing only the pg up/home and pg down/end keys as far as I can tell.
USABILITY / FUNCTION
A usable keyboard isn’t the only trick Plugable brought to this game. It comes paired with a faux leather case that not only protects your metal keyboard during transport, but doubles as a device stand for your smartphone or tablet.
The magnetized outer lip snaps on to the base, forming a triangle on which you can lean your device. An additional lip on the base prevents your device from sliding away and is fine-tune adjustable for a good field of view. There are also rubber feet on the bottom of the case that keep it from moving.
When you open up your keyboard fully, a green LED under “Power” and blue LED under “State” will light up to indicate that the unit is on. And now that you’ve set up your device and keyboard for ergonomics, you need to pair it via Bluetooth (unless you want to connect via the micro USB cable).
The three steps you need to follow are:
- Choose the Bluetooth connection [Fn + 1] (not USB)
- Transmit Bluetooth name for pairing [Fn + C] (“State” will blink until connected)
- Select your OS for proper keyboard layout [Fn + Q, W or E] (Android, Windows or iOS)
And that’s it. Just start typing!
We received a standard US keyboard layout with the chiclet keys being well spaced, and typing on it feels good with solid feedback. In fact, it’s even better than some big name laptops whose flimsy keys just bend the whole keyboard downwards with every key press.
The top row of function keys are useful – on all but Android OS. But being that this was designed with that in mind, Plugable has made them into shortcuts for some of the more useful functions like copy/paste, text selection, and media playback.
In addition, the touchscreen keyboard that pops up on your device is automagically disabled until the keyboard is disconnected. It’s really a cause for celebration to have that much more real estate – now you can actually read whole sentences without having to finger scroll up and down.
Now let’s say you’re finished and want to pack it up. Closing the keyboard will automatically turn off the power. If you then take a look on the back, it’s got a large square “bump” that fits perfectly into a recess in the case (much like a Tetris puzzle.) That recess and a grippy felt-like material hold the keyboard firmly in place, preventing it from sliding out and getting damaged.
I can tell you that this keyboard works wonderfully well on all my Android devices from the Motorola G5S Plus (7.1 Nougat) down to the older 4.4 Kit Kat and 4.1 Jelly Bean.
It also works flawlessly with both my Windows 10 laptops, though in practice, it makes no sense to use a Bluetooth keyboard with them. Having said that, a Windows based tablet would be a prime candidate for this Plugable Technologies Bluetooth keyboard as would Apple devices running iOS.
Charging the battery is accomplished via a micro USB port on top of the unit. Most Android smartphones also use micro USB chargers, so hopefully you won’t be needing to carry around more than this one cable. As far as battery life is concerned, Plugable Technologies states that the Lithium-Ion battery lasts for “weeks of normal use” (whatever ‘normal’ means.) It’s sort of tough to give a blanket answer on this because usage time will differ depending on the device manufacturer’s Bluetooth implementation. However, it’s been many days since its last charge and there are no signs of it running out of juice.
MISCELLANEOUS NOTES / WORTH NOTING
Unlike USB keyboards, there doesn’t seem to be roll over limitations. Holding down both shift keys and typing “the quick brown fox” text showed that none of the keys pressed were missing. It’s not that you’ll need NKRO, but it offers peace of mind for fast typers.
One thing I kept wishing for was for some kind of back-lighting on the keys. It’ll be difficult to use in darker places, though if you’re a touch typist you’ll probably be ok once you find the ‘F’ and ‘J’ key bumps. Plugable has noted that having lights would drain the battery quickly, which I understand. None-the-less, I’d still like the option of having it should I ever need it.
Truth be told, there are other Bluetooth keyboards out there. Some may be a little cheaper. Most of them work as advertised. But the thing I like hugely about Plugable Technologies is their commitment to supporting their customers.
You only have to read some of the comments on Amazon to see that they respond quickly to inquiries and do their best to make things right. You don’t get that with most companies, where you’re most likely ignored (from those with lower cost products) or given the run-around (the bigger, global companies) as they point their fingers at anyone but themselves.
So go ahead and buy the cheaper product if you want. The couple of dollars you “save” may end up costing you days or weeks of frustration and lost productivity… and the eventual realization that you now have yet another paper-weight making its way into the black hole that is your gadget junk drawer.
For me, I’ll keep the Plugable Technologies Bluetooth keyboard. The price of admission not only buys a portable device that works well on three major operating systems – but best of all, I have the support of a company that actually believes in their products and are based right here in the USA.
More Info: https://plugable.com
(Test unit provided by Plugable Technologies for this review.)
Check prices: https://amzn.to/2IKwhcV —Amazon affiliate link