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Verbatim Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard is tiny, overpriced and flawed

The more I review compact keyboards and keyboard folios, the more I am inclined to believe that the best keyboard for an iPad is no keyboard. The new Verbatim Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard (US$84.00) added ammunition to that argument.

The Ultra-Slim keyboard is typical of its class: it is small, lightweight, has good battery life, and connects to your iPad or iPhone through Bluetooth. In fact, the Ultra-Slim is probably the slimmest and lightest (6.9 ounces) Bluetooth keyboard I've seen. And that's exactly where I have a problem with it.

Make no mistake: the Ultra-Slim is perfect if you want the lightest possible keyboard around for Mac, iPhone, or iPad. But my concern is that so much effort went into making this keyboard compact that it's almost impossible to use. My current gold standard for keyboards is the Apple Wireless Keyboard. The one I have has given me years of flawless service, I can type quickly and accurately on it, and it's compact enough that it has traveled with me on trips where I want to use a keyboard with my iPad.

The Apple Wireless Keyboard is just a bit over 11 inches wide, and a little over 5 inches deep. The keys are nicely spaced both horizontally and vertically, and it's a fantastic keyboard for fast typing. Now let's look at the Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard. It jams approximately the same number of keys into a keyboard just over 8.5" wide and about 4.5 inches deep. As a result, there's no spacing between the keys at all, and it's quite easy to accidentally press two or more keys -- even with small hands like I have!

How small is that keyboard? Well, if you hold up the Verbatim Ultra-Slim next to the virtual keyboard on the iPad, they're about the same size. There's a hint here, folks -- if you think the iPad's keyboard is too small, then the Ultra-Slim is going to be too small for you as well.

Charging is done through a standard USB to micro-USB cable, and there's an on-off switch right next to the micro-USB port so the keyboard can be turned off to save battery life when not in use. There's also a button to enable discovery mode on the keyboard.

Getting back to the keys on the keyboard, they're just too small. Take the shift keys, for example -- the left one is about .75" x .5", the right one is about .4" square. On the Apple keyboard, they're 1.5" x .675" each -- a ton of space by comparison. Verbatim made the insane move of cramming even more keys into the bottom row of the keyboard than are on the Apple keyboard. The Apple keyboard has an fn key,a control key, two option(alt) keys, two command keys, the space bar, and the arrow keys in the bottom row. The Verbatim keyboard jams two Home button keys, a key to hide or show the iPad's virtual keyboard, and the backslash key into that same row -- 13 keys in a small space.

One other gripe is that some of the keys are in totally non-standard positions. For example, the quotation mark key that's normally next to the Return/Enter key on a Mac keyboard is squeezed between the left shift key and the letter Z. The backslash is on the bottom row instead of on the right side of the "QWERTY" row of the keyboard, and the delete key is on the top row instead of the number row.

Verbatim threw a number of iOS device-specific keys onto the top row, including a lock key, search key, brightness keys, cut/copy/paste, reload, rewind/play/fast-forward, and volume keys. These are fairly standard with most Bluetooth keyboards designed for use with the iPad

Conclusion

All things considered, I cannot recommend the Verbatim Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard. It's too small for any reasonable typing, many keys are in non-standard locations, and the price ($84) is ridiculously high. Apple's Wireless Keyboard is only $69, Logitech's Tablet Keyboard is $70, and there are generic Bluetooth keyboards that look much more comfortable for use with an iPad for as little as $13. Just yesterday, TUAW reviewed the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard that is regularly available for as little as $29.99.

My advice? Either learn to use the virtual keyboard on the iPad, which I've actually found gets much better the more you use it, or get the Apple Wireless Keyboard.

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