The last nearly 10 years in portable tech have seen a change from physical keyboards to touch screens but there’s been a little bit of backlash and more and more physical bluetooth keyboards have become available. Touchscreens are great but if I’m typing more than a few lines I want a physical keyboard.
I’ve looked at a number of them over the years and they’ve slowly improved and gotten more sophisticated and the iClever USB Bluetooth keyboard is the most sophisticated I’ve seen thus far. The list of extras it’s got is surprisingly long.
The first clue is in the name – USB and bluetooth. I’d usually want to use the keyboard with my phone or tablet but it can also be used as a standard USB keyboard. For someone like me who seems to carry a huge bag of IT gear with me wherever I go this extra ability is a bonus. There’s a single combination of keys to switch between USB wired and wireless modes and it thankfully doesn’t lose its pairing in when in wired mode.
The keyboard is optionally backlit with three colors – red, green and blue each of which have three light levels. The backlighting is mainly through the top of the keyboard but is bright enough to light up and around most of the keys with the dimmest points being on the bottom left and right. This illumination does take a hit on the battery so I’d reserve it for when you can plug in or know you’ll be able to recharge soon. That battery is a 750mAh microUSB rechargable non-removeable model and iClever claims 5 hour with the backlights on full and 300 with the backlight off. I about 6 and half hours of usage with the backlight on and we’ll have to trust them on the backlight off – it certainly lasted the 3 weeks I used it comfortably. There’s no power button and it switches on when you unfold it, going to sleep after a couple of minutes of inactivity.
That metal folding case design is a homage back to the early Palm keyboards and improves on the original design. The folding keyboards have always been solid in the centre but have flexed slightly on the outer two thirds when you start typing fast. After a couple of days using the keyboard I realised the rubber end caps could be folded out to make feet which eliminates the problem.
It’s a membrane keyboard and iClever claim the keys are full size and I’d judge it nearly there – they’re a touch smaller than I’m used to and have smaller gaps but the difference only takes a few minutes to adapt to. There’s a full set of function keys at half height which also have media and web control keys and a decent size space bar. The only quibbles I had were with the smaller than ideal Enter key and half height arrow keys which I found too close together for comfort. The model I received is a US key layout rather than a standard UK one which will put some off – although to a touch typer it’s not a big issue.
Included in the box: Keyboard, microUSB Charging cable, manual, pouch
iClever was formed in 2010 as a consumer electronics manufacturer and designs, makes and sells a range of products including chargers, FM transmitters, tablets and bluetooth devices. We’ve previously reviewed and recommended their six port USB charger.
- Suitable for work on the go although it needs a hard flat surface to use properly
- Target gender: Unisex
- Optimized for ambidextrous use
The keyboard is not the most economic way to enter data into your phone or tablet – that’s your onscreen keyboard. Similarly if you are looking for a basic physical keyboard iClever makes a smaller version for £23. The extra £10 gets a bigger battery, optional backlighting and the ability to use it as a USB keyboard.
Product dimensions folded without pouch: 12 x 6.5 x 1.4 cm
Product dimensions unfolded : 10.6 x 29 x 1.3 cm
Weight including pouch: 299g
Compatibility: Android, Windows Desktop, iOS. Not compatible with Windows Mobile 8 or 8.1
Battery: 750mAh lithium non-removable
Recharge time: 3.5 to 4 hours
Usage time: 5 hours with back-light on (pessimistic in our testing) to 300 hours with back light off
Materials: Aluminum body with PET plastic keys and feet
Warranty: iClever promise 30-day money back, 12 month replacement and lifetime support
The first question when looking at a keyboard is how well can you type on it? The iClever backlit keyboard passes that hurdle with ease with nicely sized and travelling and sized keys on a base that with the addition of legs flexes a surprisingly small amount.
The backlighting is a nice additional extra and the ability to work over USB will be of benefit to many travelling techies but perhaps the most important hidden extra in the keyboard is the battery life – 300 hours of typing is long enough that you might forget to charge it!
If you type a lot on the go while sat down you should have a keyboard and iClever have taken an already nice typing system and put enough genuinely useful extras into the keyboard that it deserves a place in a techies bag. Recommended.
The review is based on the iClever Ultra Slim 3 Color backlight Bluetooth Keyboard kindly provided by iClever.
Click to read more about our eco icons and access icons used in this review. This article was first published on 31 March 2016.