I firmly believe that there is a need for a compact, portable, ease to use, Bluetooth keyboard. I believe this because I use one daily with my iPad. I mentioned my Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard before when I reviewed Verbatim’s 97537 Mobile Bluetooth Keyboard and all the great things I said about it still holds true. It folds up nicely and is a joy to use. I can actually touch type on it. (Well, my version of touch typing, which is a highly modified, multi-fingered pecking style. It’s surprisingly efficient.) I’m using the Stowaway now, as I write this review of another Verbatim keyboard, the Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Wireless Mobile Keyboard, and saying so may foreshadow my ultimate opinion of Verbatim’s latest effort.
First, the good stuff, and there is a lot Verbatim got right with its Ultra-Slim keyboard.
As the name implies, the keyboard is small and thin, measuring about .25” at its thickest, 4.75” at its widest, and 8.75” at its longest the Ultra-Slim, as keyboards go, is barely there. This is a boon to anyone looking for a keyboard with a small footprint.
Verbatim chose to make the keyboard rechargeable instead of relying on replaceable batteries to keep the weight down and the keyboard thin. I haven’t had the keyboard long enough to test battery life, but I’ve only charged it once three weeks ago, I’ve used it in some limited testing and the keyboard still seems ready to go. Verbatim’s Quick Guide says the Bluetooth switch/indicator will flash, “…when batteries need to be replaced.” Since there are no replaceable batteries I can only assume they mean when the batteries need to be recharged. The problem is that this indicator flashes to show the keyboard is Bluetooth connected, so, again, I have to assume that the need to recharge flashing will be unique in some way. I haven’t seen it yet. Even so, it would be nice if there were some indication of how much of a charge is left. I wouldn’t want to wait until the unit is almost dead before knowing I need to recharge it.
The Ultra-Slim’s Mini-USB port for charging and power switch
In my experience, it’s hard to make a device feel substantial while keeping it thin and inexpensive. Verbatim almost pulls it off with the Ultra-Slim. The back is solid piece of matte finished aluminum that provides the stiffness and structural integrity, and the topside is of a good grade of plastic (you can choose between white or black). These two materials work together to give the keyboard a quality feel that is, unfortunately, ruined by the keys. More on the keys in a bit.
There are no visible screws, and the only other buttons or lights besides the keys themselves is a small power switch, a mini-USB jack behind the Verbatim logo, and the Bluetooth link switch/indicator in the upper right of the keyboard. Verbatim includes a neoprene cover, a USB cable for recharging, and a reference guide to help you with keyboard options, and there are many.
USB connectivity is easy and once you’re connected the keyboard interacts with your device as you might expect. Bluetooth shuts down after a minute of inactivity, but hitting any key will wake up the connection again. The Bluetooth indicator blinks to confirm your connection, but it’s not so bright that it’s distracting.
The top row of keys are each dedicated to a particular function. Screen lock and brightness controls, basic editing function, and music/sound controls are all there. You also get cursor controls (left, right, up, down) and CTRL, ALT, and what would normally be the Apple key on Apple keyboards, and they are a welcomed sight to serious typers. I’d like the option to create my own function keys, but I think most folks will be happy with what Verbatim included.
There are keyboard shortcuts too, and they give you access to features you won’t find on other keyboards. For instance, if you hold the “home” button ( the square with the rounded corners) down for a few seconds you’ll bring Voice Command or Siri on your iOS device. Other shortcuts let you move to the top or bottom of a page, switch applications, or bring up the search screen.
With all of that going for the Ultra-Slim you’d think that it should be in everyone’s mobile computing arsenal, right?
Well, not so fast. The Ultra-Slim has one glaring problem that will likely be a deal breaker for most people. Its hard to touch type on the Ultra-Slim.
Size matters! The Ultra-Slim nestled under my iPad2 may be too small for some.
To keep the keyboard wee, Verbatim chose to use flat, chicklet style keys that are squeezed close to each other. Though they provide good tactile feedback when pressed the keys themselves feel plasticky and cheap, and they are so close together that it is nigh impossible to touch type. That wouldn’t be so bad if you could pick up the keyboard and thumb-type, but it’s too wide for that. To make matters worse, the punctuation keys are even smaller than the character keys, which causes far more mistypes. Worse still, some keys are not where you expect them to be. The apostrophe key, for instance, is on the left, not the right like most keyboards. All of which forces you to slow down or stop completely to hunt for a key.
After typing on the Ultra-Slim for only a few moments my hands felt cramped and the mistakes I made were numerous, far more than I normally make with a full size keyboard.
So much for fast text entry.
Another minor irritation is that the included reference guide mentions keys and associated functions but give no indication which keys they are. For instance, the guide says you can change the input language by pressing and holding the “Menu” key. Which key is that? I’ve pressed and held every key, but the only language that changes is mine, which turned foul with frustration.
Verbatim’s Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard makes almost all the right moves. It’s small and thin, has a nice list of dedicated control keys and built in shortcuts, and Bluetooth works perfectly, waking and sleeping as you’d expect. From what I can tell, the rechargeable batteries keeps the unit powered long enough not to be concerned about it dying after several days of sporadic use, but keep it topped off just in case.
The keys are key when dealing with keyboards. Unfortunately, the Ultra-Slim’s keys are too small and too tightly packed to be useful to most touch typists. After using the Ultra-Slim for even a few minutes it becomes a noticeable relief to go back to a full size keyboard. I can’t see the Ultra-Slim being used for extended typing sessions unless you have the hands of a five year old.
On the other hand, if you need a keyboard for infrequent typing, or if you’re a non-touch typists who value compactness, function, and availability over fast text input you may enjoy the Ultra-Slim because it scores well in all those categories. And at around US$45 on Amazon, the price is reasonable. All of which is why I can RECOMMEND* the Verbatim Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard, but only to those in the latter group. Touch typists should consider something with bigger, well spaced keys like Verbatim’s 97537 Wireless Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard.
|Review Item||Verbatim Ultra-SlimBluetooth Keyboard|
* Note: My rating system goes like this;
- Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
- Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
- Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
- So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
- Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.