Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review of the Ewin Bluetooth keyboard for 7-inch tablets

While I wait for my more "competent"* computer to compute the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon test on a 2x4000 dataset , I thought I'd do a first-impressions review of the keyboard I recently got for my Nexus 7 (2012 version).

I had previously been using one of these (yes, it's a Japanese link, but they were definitely available in the UK, which is where I bought it), and to be honest, that was great; it fit snugly around the Nexus, protected the screen from harm, and was ultra-portable. The only real complaints I had about it were the lack of a TAB key, and the fact the letters eventually wore off**.

There are new versions of the keyboard that have the TAB key, and I would have gotten one; however, I was seduced by the idea of having a nexus case that enveloped the whole device, not just the screen-side.

Consequently, I bought this little gadget (not the pink one, the black one!). The device itself was (like any other keyboard I've come across) simple to set up; just turn on and have the tablet search for bluetooth devices. I've not had any problems with connection, and the keys are very responsive. Indeed, the keys have much more depth to them than my old device***, making it easy to feel whether you've hit a button sufficiently. However, I did have the backspace pop off the keyboard a couple of times at first (perhaps due to a bumpy ride here?). I've not had the problem since, but I'm inclined to be gentle with the device for the time being.

The keyboard itself is only marginally larger than my previous one; however, the extra vertical spacing between the buttons makes the keyboard feel decidedly less cramped, and I think I'm making far fewer typos as a result. The layout is a bit different to what I'm used to, but I know from experience that I'll adapt in no time.

The biggest change in this keyboard is the introduction of function keys. This is great as it allows for a more spacious layout and it also allows me access a number of the tablets functionality without lifting my hands from the keyboard****. However, because this is a generic keyboard, it has buttons that cater only to iProducts (a cmd button that appears to have no use, and non-functional brightness keys). Oddly, some of the typographical keys are also relegated to fn keys: the apostrophe, inverted commas, square brackets, and parentheses. If you like your apostrophes, this will take some getting used to. Luckily, being acclimatized to Japanese keyboards and their odd apostrophe placement (shift-7), I suspect that I'll adapt to this keyboard soon enough too.

Of course, for just over 2000 yen, I'm not surpised that the faux leather is of uninspiring quality; however, the product doesn't look ugly, and it is functional. One advantage that the case has is its ability to fold back and form a stand that actually positions the screen at a natural distance from the user. Even better, you can detach the keyboard from the case entirely for completely free placement of the device. I found the inability to do this with my previous keyboard decidedly awkward.

So, all in all, I think the keyboard is well worth the money. Despite some initial mishaps, it feels like a sturdy product and, having used it to type this article, I feel it functions better than I need it to.

*the lab workhorses could manage this within a few seconds...

** This ended up being the downfall of the keyboard; in an effort to maintain its usability, I resorted to using correction fluid to write the letters back on it, which worked well enough, but I didn't fancy going into work and using it (it looked decidedly DIY, and not in a good way). So, I bought some letter stickers from the local 100-yen store, and used nail varnish remover to (after much effort) get rid of the now-ingrained correction fluid. Unfortunately, I got somewhat carried away in this cleaning, and at some point the keyboard stopped working. All I can say is that keyboards and acetone don't mix...

***I hear that some people enjoy the sound of keyboards clacking. I'm indifferent, but the keyboard might satisfy such people.

****My particular favourite being the unlock button, as the lock button on my Nexus 7 has been temperamental since I bought it.

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