Which portable keyboard is just your type?

Which portable keyboard is just your type?

Which portable keyboard is just your type?

The work-life boundary is increasingly blurred, these days. Emails ping in the pocket all weekend, and the entire world has become our workplace: the bus, the bath, the pub. The great literary minds of tomorrow are in their local Costas, hunched over sweaty phablets, and miraculously versatile though our mobile devices are, they’re miserable to type on for any length of time.

A Bluetooth keyboard is a gleaming doorway to a new world of peripatetic efficiency, but which doorway do you choose?
 Collapsible models help you feel like a fictional spy, but they generally take some getting used to. Larger keyboards are more welcoming, but they won’t slip into your clutch-bag. Chargers are annoying but batteries are expensive and wasteful … the decisions are numerous and dizzying.

Here’s a round-up of five of the newest and nicest around, to help you find a keyboard that hits the right buttons.

Anker Ultra Slim, £12.99,210g, 2 AAA batteriesPortable gadgets, like umbrellas, are susceptible to damage, calamity and accidental abandonment, so it’s always hard to know whether to invest in a sturdy-looking one, or buy the cheapest model available. 

For those inclined to the latter, this is an outstanding choice. Unglamorous, utilitarian and abundantly user-friendly, the Anker is the Sancho Panza of keyboards, and rattles affectionately under the fingers. There’s nothing seriously wrong with it, in fact, except the suspicion that it is probably less durable than, say, the Logitech. It’s also slightly narcoleptic for my tastes, hitting the sack if you leave it alone for 15 minutes. It weighs very little, it’s widely compatible, and despite the price I think you’d be seriously disappointed if you left it on a bus.VERDICT: The ballpoint pen of keyboards

LG Rolly, £69.87,170g, 1 AAA batteryThe LG Rolly’s folding mechanism is almost indecently satisfying: to unfurl its magnetised plates, or watch them flutter back together, is to encounter a rare state of spiritual harmony; to be assured that the Earth is essentially a decent place. Rolled, it isn’t much bigger than a generous stick of Brighton rock, and when open, it boasts two fold-out twigs that neatly support a tablet or phone. The keys are robust, the connection is consistently firm, and it is altogether a cheerful and elegant thing. There are one or two measly complaints: it hath no feet, so it slides around a bit on glossier surfaces, and the magnets are stored at each end of the key-rows, which disorientate the fingertips. Finally and most bizarrely, you have to hold the function key to type an apostrophe, which left me incurably enraged.
VERDICT: Flamboyantly discreet

Logitech K380, £34.99, 440g, 2 AAA batteriesIt’s always best to reserve the strongest intensifying adjectives for only the most appropriate occasions. With that in mind, the Logitech K380 is an unequivocal joy to use: it’s unusually beautiful, with smooth moulding and appealing, circular keys; the typing-action is sharp and muscular; it works with almost any device, desktop or mobile; the layout is neatly designed to accommodate Windows or Apple natives and it isn’t even very expensive. I am almost disappointed in myself for liking it so much: Logitech, with their stalwart Swiss functionality, were the favourites all along. All that being said, this is also the most cumbersome on trial: it’s twice as heavy as any of the others and almost a foot long — not much smaller than, you know, a keyboard.VERDICT: Ergonomic bliss

Microsoft universal foldingkeyboard, £99, 190g, Micro USBThis expensive and somehow po-faced keyboard folds down the middle into a slim, rubberised square, to be slipped, presumably, into the inside pocket of the discerning professional’s merino-blend overcoat. 

For the price, the keys are appropriately plush and bouncy, the design is shapely and splashproof, and it can be linked simultaneously with two separate mobile devices (although it isn’t compatible with Mac OS). The trouble is, the lateral fold results in a troublesome crevasse between the two facing halves of the keyboard, which must be delicately negotiated during typing. Odder still, in their pursuit of symmetry the designers have opted to grossly distend the T and N keys: a rash and hysterical decision which undermines the keyboard’s sense of decorum.VERDICT: Stern but sturdy

Celluon Epic, £65,70g, Micro USBRealistically, this is a gadget best suited to those who take a greater delight in the wonders of technology itself than in the efficacy of its applied function. The Celluon Epic is a tiny box that projects a blazing, red keyboard on to any flat surface.  A sensor on the gadget’s face detects the typist’s movements, allowing you to casually drum away on the tabletop like an eccentric pianist. It is by far the most dramatic keyboard on trial, and it would be fair to say it injects a sense of excitement into the otherwise mundane business of typing, but its recognition of keystrokes is predictably a bit imprecise, and the results can be mangled.

I did improve with a little practice, becoming more dainty and fastidious in my finger-placement, but it isn’t much easier to use than a smaller smartphone touchscreen, which slightly negates its raison d’être.VERDICT: Extremely cool, but fiddly