I am a huge fan of the 7″ tablet form factor. Small enough to fit in a back pants pocket, thigh cargo pocket, or a coat hand pocket, smaller tablets like the Nook, Fire, Nexus 7, or Tab are accessible in just about any situation. If you carry a bag or a purse you can put these thin touch-based devices inside and hardly know they’re inside.
Android tablets have advantages over the iPad in several ways, but one of the largest is the ability to customize the virtual keyboard to suit the user’s typing skills. I’m a pretty fast touch typist (around 100 – 110 words per minute) and thanks to SwiftKey 3 I can tap type on my tablet at about 40 – 50 WPM. This is usually good for Facebook, email, chatting on GTalk or Facebook Messenger, or even some shorter blog posts. However, every now and then I want to do a lot more typing or need to do more text manipulation than is manageable on a touch screen device. In those cases, the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard for Android 3.0 devices comes in super handy.
Dimensions and specifications
First off, the model 920-003390 keyboard from Logitech is only good for devices running Android 3.0 and later. This shouldn’t be a big deal for anyone running a decent tablet, but some phones are still running Gingerbread or even Eclaire versions of Android OS. More recent operating systems like Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jellybean should work just fine. My Nexus 7 tablet is running Jellybean.
Inside its protective hard case / easel, the keyboard is 11 3/4″ long, 5 1/4″ wide, and 3/4″ thick. It weighs a pretty hefty 1 pound, six ounces. The actual keyboard is 11 3/8″ long, just over 5″ long, and 0.63″ at its thickest point where the batteries are. The keyboard (sans case) weighs 14 ounces.
The case is made out of hard plastic with a faux leather covering on the outside and a fuzzy blue felt material on the inside. The case transforms into an easel for propping up your tablet, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
If you’re used to a “chicklet” style keyboard than the Logitech will feel right at home to you. I’ve used several versions of portable keyboards before, from the collapsing “butterfly” keyboard paired with a Palm Vx in 1999, to membrane keyboards that could be rolled up, all the way to Apple’s wonderful Bluetooth keyboard. The Logitech is much more similar to the Apple keyboard, especially when it comes to the responsiveness of the keys. The older butterfly style keyboards felt very flimsy while typing — the Logitech feels very solid.
There are a few Android-specific keys on the keyboard, most notably the home key, the “back” key, and the menu key. The menu key is super bad ass for use with apps made before the Android 4.x operating systems. There are also control, alt, and function keys. The function key allows for a few special characters (like the tilde ~ , which may be useful for some programmers and sysadmins), but mostly launch applications or serve as media controls.
You can launch Gmail, the “Browser” stock Android Web browser, the Google Calendar app, or Google Play Music using the different app launching keys. If you have multiple music apps installed you should have the option to choose one. I was very surprised I couldn’t choose Chrome as my default browser. I “froze” the Browser app with Titanium Backup Pro, but Chrome still doesn’t launch from the app key. That’s not a fault of the keyboard — I believe it has something to do with my current version of Jellybean and the custom ROM I’m running.
Anyway, there is a power switch on the upper right “shoulder” of the keyboard that is easy to reach, and a very small button underneath the spine of the keyboard that allows you to connect the keyboard to an Android device. You only need to push this button if you’ve paired the keyboard to something else before.
The keyboard is powered by two included AA batteries. I wish the keyboard was rechargeable via USB, but it’s a small nitpick.
This was by far the easiest thing I’ve ever paired via Bluetooth. I enabled Bluetooth on my Nexus 7 and then turned on the Logitech keyboard. A notification popped up on my tablet and asked me if I wanted to pair with the keyboard. I said yes, and typed in a four digit security code. That was it, and I’ve never lost pairing or had difficulty with the connection. I wish all Bluetooth widgets worked this way.
The keyboard itself is great. I have written several of my Gibberish posts on it since getting the keyboard in late July. The hard case can be used as an easel to prop your laptop up. It’s an ingenious design, but I’m nervous about how well it would perform with a larger, heavier tablet.
The exterior case has a hinge. The two sides of the clamshell are held together by magnets. Pulling the case open reveals a blue plastic arm that folds flat into the case.
A slight tug on the blue plastic arm causes it to extend like so:
The blue plastic arm has a lip at its end. The center of the arm extends another 1 3/4″. The hard case folds onto the two lips further back on the arm, while the tablet sits on the lip of the extended arm. Wow. Someone should draw a monster based on this paragraph; it’d be horrific. Anyway, the tablet exerts pressure on the exterior of the case, which in turn exerts pressure on the two lips on the arm. The lips only extend 1/4″ up, but if you’re careful it is stable enough for even larger tablets. I have an iPad 3 and the easel does just fine with it. I have set the case up on my torso several times as I type in bed.
At about $50 delivered via Amazon, the keyboard isn’t cheap. However, it is exceptionally functional, is well built, and seems pretty thrifty on batteries. The folding easel seems rickety at first, but once you get the hang of it and understand its design and limitations you should be fine, even with a bigger tablet. I wish it was rechargeable and that the stand was a bit more sturdy, but other than that I’m completely happy with it.