Anyone interested in buying a tablet this year will be asking themselves the same question before they purchase one: what exactly am I going to do with it? While tablets are primarily consumption devices, excellent for web browsing and multimedia, the similarities to computers has many wondering if a device like this could replace their much heavier laptops.
Attaching a physical keyboard will go a long way to bridging the gap between a device you consume with and a device you can create on.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab Keyboard Dock, henceforth to be known only as "the Dock", is better than your average Bluetooth keyboard with a range of dedicated Android-specific buttons in its 84-key layout. The top row is allocated entirely to these commands, with the standard Home, Back, Search and Menu Android navigation buttons featuring alongside brightness and media controls.
The keyboard itself is well designed, with a sturdy plastic construction and decent key spacing in its island or chiclet keyboard design. The Dock feels solid and holds the tablet securely enough when on a flat surface, though we would always recommend disconnecting the tablet when you move from your desk. It's also a shame that the plastic dock mount can't retract or fold to create a flat surface for when you're travelling. It feels strong, but it would be a tragedy if it snapped off in a laptop bag en route to an important meeting.
The dock also features two external ports; a 3.5mm line out socket for connecting to external speakers or headphones and a 30-pin port for connecting the Tab's proprietary charger for power or for syncing with your PC.
But what is it like to type on this keyboard? We've had a chance to use the Dock under a number of circumstances now and we've been quite impressed. Typing long-form documents, like this review for example, is easy enough and comparable to using a netbook keyboard. Even for short note-taking we've found it's been worth grabbing the Dock out of our bag and mounting the Tab rather than using the on-screen keyboard.
We also love that you can navigate to Apps by typing in the first few letters of its title from the Homescreen. This opens the stock Android universal search feature and will save you loads of time having to dig around the Apps Drawer manually.
That said, there is room for improvement. We don't love the positioning of the dedicated Android commands and feel that the main four navigation controls would be better with a more prominent position beside the space bar. We also noticed that some of the key bindings were incorrect, with the " and the @ punctuation marks reversed on our review unit and the dedicated Settings shortcut not working at all.
There are also variations between Android and PC operating systems to consider; for example, commands like Ctrl C and Ctrl V don't copy and paste, and Ctrl Z won't undo a previous error — something we found out the hard way.
If you've picked up the Galaxy Tab we suggest you consider this accessory. Even if you don't intend to create long form documents on your tablet, the Dock will speed up email and SMS replies, and will even make web browsing faster for those who prefer to type rather than touch.
The Dock may be three times the price of a cheap Bluetooth keyboard on eBay, but it's well worth the difference. Its dedicated shortcuts and well-spaced key layout make typing fast and comfortable, while also making it relatively painless to navigate your Tab without smearing the screen when using the touch controls.