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Issue #96: Are any of these tiny keyboards worth getting? 🤔

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How are you? I’m typing this on a Keychron mechanical keyboard, but that will soon not be the case. You see, I went on Amazon and bought a number of tiny keyboards to see if any of them were a worthy addition to a small iPad kit. I’d love it if I could get away with a small bag, packing just the iPad mini 6 and a small keyboard, as well as the Apple Pencil, for creative forays into the city. Smaller is sometimes better, after all.

The problem with this isn’t the iPad mini, you don’t need a big screen if you’re setting out for a writing session. What you do need is a decent keyboard, and, traditionally, these are at least close to full-sized. There are tiny keyboards out there, too, but I’ve stuck with models that are at least reasonably sized, not directly set up to fail by sheer lack of size.

So, let’s see if there’s anything worth getting for a truly tiny iPad workstation, shall we?

First, let’s look at what we’ve got here:

  1. Logitech Keys-to-Go
  2. Zagg Tri-Fold Keyboard
  3. B047 Pocket Keyboard
  4. B033 Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad
  5. Rock Wireless Rollable Keyboard

Right off the bat, you can see that Logitech’s offering is standing out. It’s not folding or twisting in any way, it’s just a small, thin and light keyboard. I hadn’t thought to include it in this piece to begin with, but since I’ve included the long bar-shaped thing (the Rock Wireless Rollable Keyboard – what a name!), I felt that the criteria should be somewhat fluid. After all, Keys-to-Go could sit in a small sleeve that some bags have for things like travel documents or books, and if you had that sort of bag, then it’d be at least as portable as the rollable keyboard.

So, how are these to type on, then?

Logitech Keys-to-Go

Logitech Keys-to-Go

Let’s get the heavy-hitter out of the way right away. I’ve got mixed feelings about Keys-to-Go. It’s got a decent layout and size, and the fact that it can take a spill makes it a good companion on a café, or something. Just wipe it off and get back to it, should the worst happen.

But here’s the thing, I find it hard to get any sort of rhythm writing on this. You need to slam the keys more than I like, and that’s from someone who prefers mechanical keyboards. I find that my touch-typing misses a key here and there because of this. That’s a shame, I really want to like Keys-to-Go, but they just don’t work for me. This might not be true for you, and I will say that the errors happen less frequently these days, than they did when I first got this one. Try before you buy, and only if you’ve got the perfect bag for this one. That’s my advice.

Zagg Tri-Fold Keyboard

Zagg Tri-Fold Keyboard

Zagg’s keyboard folds in two places, splitting the actual keyboard in half. You get a trackpad that’s not at all as good or gesture-friendly as the one on your Magic Keyboard, but at least it works as a simple pointing device. It gets you by, nothing more.

As for the keyboard, it’s pretty nice to type on, a bit stiff and plasticky, but that’s to be expected from such a compact device. That gigantic crevice that separates the keys, though, that takes some getting used to. It works, it’ll get you by, but don’t expect to hit your normal typing speeds without plenty of practice on this one.

My main gripe with the Zagg Tri-Fold Keyboard, however, is that it’s not all that portable. I mean, of course it is, but compared to other foldable keyboards, this is thick and wide. If you’ve got a small or slim bag, and are hoping to fit a keyboard with your iPad mini, then this might be too thick.

Interlude 🇨🇳

The following keyboards are available in a ridiculous number of variations and names. They’re generally drop-shipped from China, even if you order on Amazon, and the branding varies. If you find a keyboard that looks like any of these, it’s likely the same model, or a clone of that model. That’s just the way it is with these things. Expect instructions in flawed English, and Chinese.

Right, let’s see what they’ve got.

B047 Pocket Keyboard

B047 Pocket Keyboard

I had my hopes for this one, and after having written a bit, I must confess that I’m confused. Look, it types okay, plasticky but not worse than a cheap Windows laptop. The plastic back makes it slide around a bit on some tabletops, which is a shame. Then there are the keys, which are pretty big overall. Some are massive, like the T, G, B, and N key. The only primary key that’s smaller than it should be the Y key, but it’s still pretty big, especially compared to some other keyboards tested here.

And you know what, after a while, this keyboard types okay. It folds up nice, too. There’s no pointing device though, so what you gain in space, you’ll lose bringing one of those. If this was my daily (portable) driver, I’d put some rubber feet on it. That’s my main gripe, actually, that it slides on smooth surfaces. This might be what some of you are looking for, actually.

B033 Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad

B033 Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad

It’s a good idea, to include a touchpad with your keyboard, but making it work, well, that’s tricky. This one’s particularly bad, especially if you try to scroll with two fingers. It’s like a janky mouse wheel, which, to be fair, is at least better than having no pointing device at all, but only just.

The form factor looks good at first glance, and this isn’t just plastic. The device folds up nicely, compared to the previous keyboard, the size is about the same.

However, this is a pretty tricky keyboard to write on. The bends are too high, and having small T and V keys isn’t helping. The keys are quite stiff, too, so you have to hammer down on them a bit, something that rhymes poorly with my big hands. If it weren’t for those chopped keys, and that ridge between them, this could’ve worked out okay. No, it’s a pass. Thumb-typing on my iPad mini is faster, and way more accurate.

Rock Wireless Rollable Keyboard

Rock Wireless Rollable Keyboard

This is a weird one. On the one hand, I like the idea of rolling up the keyboard, but on the other, it makes for a pretty bulky form factor. The built-in stand is a nice touch, just don’t expect it to hold heavier devices, or even work in portrait mode. The iPad mini 6 won’t work in the stand, making this feature essentially useless.

Folding up horizontally makes for an unnatural space between each row of keys. This, I found, was a lot harder to learn than having a gap in the middle of the keyboard. To make things worse, the keys are smaller than the other keyboards, and don’t feel too great. I don’t like this at all. Points for trying, but no, I prefer the touchscreen keyboard over this one.

So, who won? Well, I can’t see myself relying on any of these keyboards, to be honest. I can’t make friends with Keys-to-Go, and the gap on the Tri-Fold keyboard is too big. The B047 Pocket Keyboard is promising, and maybe, just maybe, I’d consider that. If I truly wanted to make a minimalistic writing setup, then sure, potentially.

Sorry to not be able to get you some good news here. Keyboards, they’re tricky business. The search continues.

Thord D. Hedengren