Tablets are becoming a viable alternative to lugging a laptop around on trips -- but their on-screen keyboard is a distinctly limiting factor when it comes to text-heavy work like replying to emails or working on documents.
To alleviate this problem, Logitech has released two Bluetooth keyboards: one that works with iPads and one for tablets running Android 3.0 or later. We took them for an Australian Business Traveller road test.
Both keyboards come in a handy hard-case for safe transport in luggage.
The keyboard neatly slots in to the case, and is powered by two AAA batteries (supplied).
Once you've removed the keyboard from the case, lift open the case and a plastic tab inside it allows you to set it up as a tablet stand.
The clever design supports the tablet at the right angle to be used on the desk comfortably in front of you, and the plastic tab has a tongue that extends further if you want to change the angle of the tablet.
The left side of the Android keyboard is pictured below.
You'll notice there are some special function keys designed specifically for the Android apps -- mail, web browser, calendar and music, including direct track skip and play/pause controls.
Also note the dedicated 'search' key to the left of the space bar, which calls up the Google search function on the tablet, and the 'home' key which returns to Android's home screen.
The up/down/left/right keys are handy to have because Android supports them well -- you can use them to navigate around app icons as well as to scroll in apps like the web browser.
There are also dedicated volume up and down buttons.
The iPad keyboard has special keys specifically for use with iOS. To the right of the space bar, there's Mac-style CMD and option keys, which can be used in apps that support them (like the iWork apps), and a search button which calls Apple's iPad spotlight search up.
The left-side of the iPad keyboard...
... and the right-side.
There are a number of special function keys specifically designed for the iPad's functions. The "5" key will put the iPad into photo gallery mode.
The "6" key shows/hides the iPad's on-screen keyboard, and then the following keys control media playback. Not shown: the volume up key, to the right of the "0".
In the top left-hand corner, there's also an iPad home button. You can use this just like the real home button on the iPad.
For example, you can double-click it quickly to bring up the iPad's application switcher -- the closest thing to Alt+Tab you'll get on the iPad!
On the top right of the iPad keyboard, the delete key doubles as an iPad lock button -- the same as the one on the top-edge of the iPad.
The keyboards work well -- they're just like the 'chiclet' style keyboards on most current-model laptops. They're full-size, and easy to type on.
The wireless connection via Bluetooth is easy to configure on both the iPad and Android tablets -- though, of course, that counts out using the keyboard on most flights.
Our only concern is that the keyboards are surprisingly heavy -- with the case they weigh about 400g. That takes the weight of a 600g iPad 2 up to over the 1kg mark -- and at that weight, you might as well take an ultra-light laptop like the MacBook Air anyway.
The Logitech Tablet Keyboards cost $99.95 and the iPad version is sold at Big W, Dick Smith, JB Hi-Fi, Myer and Officeworks. The Android version is only available at Dick Smith and Officeworks.