If you don’t mind carrying the extra bulk, Lenovo’s Keyboard Folio Case lives up to the ThinkPad brand’s reputation for having the best keyboards on the market.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad keyboards get raves for good reason: The key travel, feedback, and spacing make for the most comfortable typing available on a mobile device. When I saw the island-style keys on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Keyboard Folio Case ($100 as of March 7, 2012), I thought there was no way the company could replicate that amazing typing feel with those keys. I was wrong.
It’s all in the shape of the keys. Whereas most island-style keyboards have flat, square keys, the ThinkPad keys are concave, allowing your fingers to settle more easily into the middle of each key. The spacebar is just the opposite: It’s rounded out, making it very easy to find with the sides of your thumbs. Key presses are deep and responsive. Even though the spacing is no wider than on other attachable keyboard docks, it feels roomier and more like typing on a laptop.
Since this device is an Android keyboard, the function keys on the top row are all Android-related. Across the top are volume controls, a home button, brightness controls, settings, lock, zoom in and out, and playback controls. Also of note are the actual, separate Page Up and Page Down keys accompanying the arrow keys. That’s right–these are not secondary functions of the arrow keys, but dedicated keys, a pleasing find.
In the middle of the keyboard is what looks like an old-school ThinkPad eraserhead pointing stick–but it’s really oh-so-much better. It’s an optical mouse that you don’t have to push at all: Just glide your finger over it, and the cursor moves around the screen. By placing it in the middle of the keyboard, Lenovo keeps the main benefit of the pointing stick, since you don’t have to shift your hands from the keyboard to move the cursor around the screen.
The keyboard connects by USB, but it is enclosed in the folio case in such a way that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is the only thing that can fit the plug. That means the keyboard gets its power from the tablet’s sole USB port, so you don’t need to worry about batteries or charging (though you do give up the ability to sideload something to the tablet via USB). The keyboard itself has three grooves along the back that the tablet slots into, providing three different angles; unfortunately, all three angles tipped the tablet a little too far back for my taste. All of the tablet’s ports and buttons, as well as its pen, remain accessible when you have the tablet in the folio case, and you can easily slip the tablet in and out. The leather wrapping of the folio case gives it a premium feel.
I found some drawbacks, however. The Keyboard Folio Case is bulky, and adds a lot of weight. The ThinkPad Tablet is already one of the chunkier tablets on the market, and the extra bulk of the Keyboard Folio Case makes it rather unwieldy from a portability standpoint. On top of that, the dock offers no additional ports, and no extra battery. I might be more inclined to tolerate the bulk if this dock added running time, as the Asus Transformer TF101 Mobile Docking Station does. No matter how nice a keyboard is, if it makes you hesitate to add it to your bag because it’s so big and heavy, the add-on is defeating the purpose of the tablet.
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