When I bought my Samsung tablet, the runner up was the Asus Transformer. That tablet’s main appeal was that, at the same price point, came with a cleverly designed keyboard. I convinced myself that I’d still fire up my laptop if I needed to answer a lot of emails, and got the lighter, thinner Galaxy Tab. But now, a couple of months later, I think a tablet keyboard can be a really good idea. I find myself using my tablet for a lot of things that involve text entry, ranging from note-keeping to server administration using SSH.
This is why I jumped at the opportunity when GearZap offered to send me their “Metal Keyboard for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1″. On paper, it looked like the perfect companion for my Samsung, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Transformer’s keyboard.
Docking and connecting
In essence, this is a simple bluetooth keyboard, with a ridge that’s designed to hold the tablet at the perfect angle for typing. There’s no connector inside that ridge, the connection between the two devices relies on bluetooth alone. Mechanically, this solution installs little confidence. It doesn’t really feel like you’re docking the tablet, the ridge just sort-of keeps it from toppling over.
The keyboard is also designed to clip onto your tablet as a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 case. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work reliably either. I was able to get all four corners to clip around the tablet, but found that they pop back off way to easily. If this would happen while the combination is inside your bag, the sharp plastic corners of the keyboard could end up damaging your tablet’s screen. Perhaps a strap or rubber band could fix this, but I’d be really careful.
The main reason to get a keyboard like this is the poor feel of on-screen keyboards. If you’re doing a lot of text entry, you need tactile feedback. This keyboard however manages to feel even worse than its on-screen counterpart. When you press a key, you can see all the surrounding ones sink as well. There’s so much flex that you can press keys all the way through the metal sheet that surrounds them. There’s also barely any “click” and I found that the space bar only worked half the times I pressed it. I needed to really pay attention to press it all the way to the bottom. It’s like typing in mud.
Using the keyboard
The keyboard has a built-in battery, but unlike with the Transformer, it just powers itself. There’s also no trackpad, which would have been a welcome addition. The top row has Android-specific and multimedia keys, which are convenient. But the “feature” that ruins the whole experience is the overly aggressive, non-disableable, power saving mode. It kicks in after only fifteen seconds of inactivity, and each time it does, the keyboard needs three seconds or so to reconnect to the tablet. I found that this happens very often, and it’s annoying as hell.
This is a product that looks nice on paper, but has so many serious design flaws that it completely fails in practice. It doesn’t connect well, type well, dock well or protect well. If you’re looking for a Galaxy Tab keyboard, I’d suggest getting a better quality product like Samsung’s own solution, or perhaps a good generic bluetooth keyboard and a stand.