With a design so simple it's almost genius, Microsoft's new tablet keyboard will be a coveted accessory, particularly for those with a Windows 8 mobile device.
Tablet owners, Microsoft has a new keyboard you should know about. Yes, it's meant for
At roughly 10.25 inches long (almost 10.5 with the cover) and 4 inches deep, the Wedge Mobile Keyboard is one of the smallest tablet keyboards available, coming in under both the
Made of an aluminum base, plastic keys, and a rubber cover/tablet stand, the keyboard weighs exactly 1 pound with its two AAA batteries installed (there's no provision for rechargeable batteries, but if that's a concern, you can always invest in a set of third-party AAA rechargeables). Its size and weight already make the keyboard an easy travel companion, but Microsoft has gone the extra mile in terms of its on-the-road friendliness.
With the rubber cover on, the device automatically turns off, meaning you don't need to remember to hit a power button. The battery tray is also convenient. The batteries slide into one end of the rubber wedge on the bottom of the keyboard. Simply push the battery icon in and the tray slides out, but only far enough to slide in a pair of AAAs. Since you can't completely remove the tray, it can't fall off or get lost.
The keyboard itself has shallow, tapered keys with a 17.5mm key pitch, close to that of a full-size desktop keyboard (typically 18mm to 19mm). Typing on the Wedge Mobile Keyboard simply feels right; the keys have satisfying bounciness without feeling mushy. The biggest size sacrifices come with the supersmall arrow keys and the function row keys. There is also no number pad, but you do get a series of four Windows 8-specific hot keys, Search, Share, Devices, and Settings, each mapped to a "charm" icon function in Microsoft's new operating system (I'll let
Thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity, the Wedge Mobile Keyboard will pair with pretty much any modern computer or mobile device. I successfully used it with a desktop running Windows 8, an iPad, and an Android-powered
Those inactive hot keys are one ding against the Wedge Mobile Keyboard's status as a universal tablet accessory. A similar negative is the absence of specialized keys that might work with other operating systems. That's not surprising given that this is a Microsoft product, but it prevents an unequivocal recommendation for the Wedge over the Logitech Tablet Keyboard, which has dedicated iOS buttons that can help ease the pain of tasks like copying and pasting. Then again, the Logitech board doesn't have charm hot keys.
It's too bad that Microsoft didn't embrace the entire universe of tablets, because once you fold it in half, the rubber keyboard cover makes an outstanding stand for virtually any tablet on the market. It's easy to set up, it stays in place, and its physical design is so simple that it will work with anything, in portrait or landscape mode, with a tablet cover or without. The rubber feels strong, like it can take the beatings inherent in both travel and frequent use. And compared with most other tablet stands out there, it requires no convoluted flap-folding, nor does it make you align your tablet in a specialized notch. It just works, and well.
It's probably unrealistic to hope that either Microsoft or Apple would ever make a keyboard designed to work as well with its own OS as with those of its competitors. Perhaps Logitech can tackle that task. In any event, if the Wedge Mobile Keyboard is any kind of preview of Microsoft's internally made Surface tablets and laptops, its hardware partners should indeed be concerned.
The keyboard itself is a solid mobile accessory, and the stand is brilliantly simple and effective. Android and iOS tablet users, you might yet consider the Wedge Mobile Keyboard, especially if you're more concerned with straightforward typing and overall ease of use than OS-specific hot keys. For those of you planning to buy a Windows 8 tablet, I expect the Wedge Mobile Keyboard will be a popular addition, whether your tablet comes with its own keyboard or not.