Ahh, Bluetooth keyboards. There are hundreds of different models out there, yet in essence, they all do the same thing: letting you enter text on your devices more easily. Whether it's writing an email on your Galaxy or a novel on your iPad, portable Bluetooth keyboards all promise to make the experience better.
The reality, though, is many of them don't, especially for travelers. I've used several that, in a lot of ways, make things worse.
From tiny, noisy keys to not making or keeping a connection, delayed and missing keystrokes, terrible battery life or being too heavy and bulky to travel with, the number of ways to mess up a simple accessory seems endless.
When the distributors of the iClever Foldable Bluetooth keyboard sent me one to try out, then, it's fair to say my expectations weren't particularly high. After a few weeks of testing in the real world, here's how it fared.
Features and Specifications
Probably the most interesting aspect of the keyboard lies right there in the name: it's foldable. When stowed for storage in the included drawstring bag, it measures a reasonably svelte 6.5x4.7x0.6”. While the “pocket size” description is perhaps a little optimistic unless you're wearing a jacket, it fits easily into a handbag or small daypack.
The iClever can be paired with a range of devices, including Windows and Mac laptops, plus phones and tablets running Android or iOS.
With a pair of fancy hinges, the keyboard folds out to roughly the same size as the one on a standard laptop and locks firmly in place. Opening it up turns Bluetooth on, and folding it back down again turns the connection off. That's a nice feature, prolonging battery life without any extra effort.
Power isn't a major concern anyway – the keyboard can be charged with a normal micro-USB cable (there's one in the box) and is rated to give you over 300 hours of typing anyway.
That plummets to five hours if you turn the backlight on, however – bear that in mind if you're planning a full work day with it, although you can also use it as a wired laptop keyboard via that same USB cable.
After charging the keyboard for a couple of hours, I started out by trying to pair it with a range of devices. As mentioned, I've had problems doing this with other keyboards in the past, but the iClever connected to a Windows 10 laptop, two Android devices, and an iPhone without a hitch. Unlike some Bluetooth keyboards, you can't switch between devices by tapping a button, but it only took a few seconds to disconnect from one and connect to the other.
The typing experience was also better than expected. I used the keyboard in a variety of ways, including composing 2-3 paragraph emails on my phone, entering URLs and filling out web forms on the tablet, and writing a thousand word newsletter on the laptop. There were no delays between hitting the keys and letters appearing on the screen, nor any missed keystrokes. That's rare from a Bluetooth keyboard.
In a welcome move for Windows users like me, there's a dedicated Windows key on the bottom row. Given how often I use it, that design decision was much appreciated.
The keyboard is quite thin, and I was concerned the key travel (the distance the key moves when you press it) wouldn't be enough for fast, comfortable typing. While I wouldn't have complained if the keys had moved a little further, it was less of a problem than expected, and I was able to type at a reasonable 40-50 words per minute without making more mistakes than usual.
When heading out of the house, the keyboard fit easily into my usual day pack – in fact, it even slid into my laptop sleeve without a problem. The backlight was more than bright enough in dim or darkened rooms, and despite not having rubber stoppers on the bottom, the keyboard is staying firmly in place as I type this review on the slippery table surface at my local coffee shop.
The iClever Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard is more expensive than its generic competitors – and it's worth the extra money.
It's a solid, reliable accessory for travelers who need to do a fair amount of typing and don't want to be restricted to tapping away on a glass screen.
Battery life is good, especially with the backlight off, and the folding mechanism works well to keep the size down when you're on the move. Pairing and staying connected works better than most other Bluetooth gadgets, and it's comfortable to type on for extended periods.
In short, if you're in the market for a portable keyboard for travel, you could do a lot worse than this.