Ditching thin for portable
As computers get thinner, designers are forced to make keyboards more dreadful.
- No more sculpted keys to guide our finger tips to the centers of keys; they're all flat tops now.
- No more decent key travel; they all feel like we're typing on plywood.
- When the communications link is wireless via BlueTooth, the slow BT protocol simply cannot keep up with my 120 words-per-minute speed; I experience long lags in seeing the text appearing in the word processor.
- And for Canadians, hardware makers cut back on their costs by providing "universal" keyboards that handle English and French, sometimes four icons per key, and splitting the wide Left Shift key into two narrow ones to accomodate extra symbols needed by the French written language. Naturally, the left little finger cannot reach that extra distance to access Shift.
Microsoft's Surface is the worst of the lot with its thin, "touch-sensitive" cover that features a keyboard with no moving parts. Type much? By contrast, the best keyboard I ever experienced on a portable device was, oddly enough, on LG's only netbook; man, my fingers could fly!)
For professional writers who rely on quality keyboards to efficiently get through our days, these changes represent a quadruple whammy that holds us up, and so thin keyboards are unacceptable. The better the keyboard, the faster I get my work done, the sooner I get paid.
(For my desktop computers, I now use Logitech's corded Illuminated Keyboard, about $100.)
Space-saving keyboards don't have to be awful. During the era of the Palm Pilot, Think Outside made the Stowaway keyboard that folded into quarters, yet had decent key travel. When folded up, it was the same size as the Palm. Companies like Thanko tried to revitalize this form factor, but folded financially, unhappily.
The problem hit home when I got Sony's Surface-class Tab 11 tablet. It came with a very thin keyboard that acts as a screen cover; it communicates through BlueTooth, has flat tops, and almost zero travel. (I got the unit in the USA, so no dual-language keys, fortunately.)
At the top: Sony Tab 11 tablet (with 11" screen);
Below it: the skinny, unusable keyboard provided by Sony
At the bottom: the barely larger Logitech K400 keyboard
The solution is Logitech K400 portable keyboard:
- Small enough to carry along in the computer case; 3/4" thick and holds two AA batteries
- Has mildly sculpted, mildly travel keys
- Uses Logitech's 2.4GHz communications, so no delay in transmitting keystrokes
- Includes a multi-touch track pad (eliminates the need to carry along a mouse), because fingers don't work with Windows 8 on touch screens
- Costs $35 on sale; that's much nicer than the $120 Microsoft overcharges for its thin thing
It is in black or white. The almost-identical-looking K400r model has a small set of different keys, so examine them both to see which model you prefer.
Different designs of portable keyboards are available from other manufacturers, but l like the Logitech because the trackpad is on the right, where I would naturally use a mouse. Other keyboards place the trackpad below the keyboard or lack one entirely -- or cost a lot more.