Tablets and smartphones are now standard productivity tools in the workplace and while they can do a whole host of things that a laptop can, they fall short when it comes to one function – typing. While some have mastered the art of touchscreen typing, it’s never going to be as good as tapping your fingers on a tangible keyboard. Good thing there are portable, wireless keyboards available on the market. We give the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard a test drive.
If you’re in a job that requires you to do a lot of notetaking, lengthy email responses or report writing on a computing device, chances are you’ll prefer typing on a full-sized keyboard. But if you’re using a tablet or if you’re desperate enough to resort to a smartphone for text-heavy tasks, you may want to consider getting a portable keyboard.
There are plastic keyboards that are built onto tablet sleeves but they often have a gummy texture and are unnatural to type on. Hard shell keyboards provide a more robust alternative and the Microsoft Universal Keyboard is a decent contender.
Specs and key features
As the name suggests, you can fold the Universal Foldable Keyboard in half and there’s even a magnetic close mechanism to stop it from flying open while you’re travelling with it.
Here's a quick clip to show how it handles:
Weighing in at 555grams, the keyboard is compatible with Windows, Android and iOS devices.
Here are dimensions and system requirements in full:
Dimension: 15.5cm (L) x 13.4cm (W) x 2.9cm (D) System requirements Requires a device that runs the following operating systems:
- Windows 10/8.1/8
- Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2
- Apple iOS 7 to 8.1
- Android 4.3 to 5.0
- Tablet or smartphone must be Bluetooth 4.0 enabled
- Device must have Human Interface Device (HID) keyboard support
One of the stand out features of the keyboard is its ability to pair with two devices at the same time since many people have both a tablet and a smartphone these days. You can switch between devices through buttons on the top row. There is also a lock button which allows you to lock and unlock your tablet or phone directly from the keyboard. This works a treat on iOS but when you’re using an Android phone that requires you to swipe to unlock, you won’t be able take full advantage of this feature.
Design and feel
The foldable design makes the keyboard easy to slip into the side pocket of a bag so it's a breeze to carry it around all day. It’s a nice design but one of the drawbacks is that it splits the set of keys in the middle, leaving a gaping chasm. This wouldn’t be a problem for touch typers but for people who have an unconventional typing style, it might take some time to get used to.
The matte plastic keys are comfortable to type on and bear resemblance to the those on a Chiclet keyboard but without the spacing between keys. The tactile feedback is spot on and it really does feel like keys on a real keyboard as you can feel the satisfying "bump" when you push down. The minimal spacing between keys may pose some issues for people since it’s sometimes hard to tell when one key ends and another begins, but that’s what happens when you need to save space on a portable keyboard.
One thing to bear in mind is that the majority of the keyboard is covered in a felt-like material which is lovely to touch but can become a nightmare when it comes to keeping it clean. I’m still trying to extract remnant of biscuit crumbs off the back of it now. It is, however, spill resistant.
To provide another perspective on the Universal Foldable Keyboard, I enlisted the help of a friend, who is a big keyboard-phile, to try it out and give his feedback:
Looks like it works a treat. Pretty easy to type on, and the keys certainly feel good. I wish it had a menu key on the right hand side for use on computers, but more keyboards seem to be lacking that these days (sadly). It’s pretty easy to set up, which wins points with me. Using the keyboard, my typing speed isn't really compromised. It’s certainly much easier to punch out a few words or take notes using this instead of typing on the screen. Not bad overall. A little more feeling for the edges of the keys might help to reduce mistyped letters - I find myself looking at the keyboard so I can place my fingers properly, rather than touch typing as I normally would on a keyboard.
The Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is a useful piece of hardware for workers who crave a full-keyboard experience on their tablets and smartphones. It’s probably one of the better portable keyboard options you’re going to find and at $129.95, it’s not a huge investment for a pleasant typing experience.
LH Reviews is a new weekly feature where we test new productivity software and hardware to see if it's worth the money.