By Dan Moren
June 19, 2017 7:07 AM PT
iClever Bluetooth Keyboard review: Compact and long-lasting, but not without quirks
Keyboards come and go. I’ve been through more than a few on my iPad. For a while I used my Apple Wireless Keyboard in an Origami case. Then a Logitech K811 also shoved into the same Origami case. When I got my iPad Air 2, I found a pretty good deal on a Logitech Type+ and used that for a while. But recently I noticed that I’d stopped taking the iPad places because the Logitech case simply made it too bulky. So when I came across a deal on the iClever Bluetooth Keyboard, its compact nature and split design intrigued me, and I started carrying it around when I didn’t need the full keyboard-case experience. Now that I’ve made the jump to a 10.5-inch iPad, the Type+ case no longer even fits, so I’ve ditched it for the iClever full time.
Recently, I posted a couple pictures of my iPad work setup, and was inundated with questions about the keyboard. Inquiring minds, it seems, want to know. So here’s the rundown on what I like about this keyboard, and what could use some work.
Size: The compact design of this keyboard frankly can’t be beat. Folded in half, it’s only very slightly thicker than the 10.5-inch iPad with a Smart Cover. It’s also small enough that you could, if you really wanted to, probably slip it in the back pocket of a pair of men’s jeans. The weight of it is almost negligible—I don’t have a scale handy, but iClever says it’s just 6.2 ounces; it’s certainly a lot lighter than my previous keyboard case. I particularly appreciate the embedded magnetic fastener, which makes it snap pleasantly together when you fold it up, and doubles as an on/off switch to boot.
Battery life: Honestly, I’ve yet to have to recharge the iClever. That’s not too surprising: keyboards are hardly high-power devices. In the eventuality it does need to be plugged in, it takes a standard micro-USB cable. There’s also a battery indicator, which I appreciate, even if it is a bit minimal. (Press the Function key and the R key, which has a battery icon on it, and a light will blink multiple times, each indicating a quarter of battery power left: four times, 100 percent; three times, 75 percent; and so on.) iClever says the keyboard will last for 40 hours of typing and up to 30 days of standby. Seeing as how I left it sitting around for several weeks without using it and I still have at least a three-quarter charge, that would seem to bear out.
Keys: Okay, they’re not the best keys in the world, but they look cheaper than they feel. They are a bit smaller than full size, but not so tiny that I have trouble touch-typing. Obviously they’re not mechanical switches, so if that’s a non-starter for you, look somewhere else. But they do have more key travel than recent Apple laptop keyboards, so that’s a win. There are, however, some downsides to the layout and tradeoffs with the size, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Split layout: This one is obviously a bit of a subjective preference, but I’d wager also the reason behind most of the curiosity about this keyboard. Back in the day, I used to use a Microsoft Natural Keyboard after I’d had some problems with RSI; these days I’ve switched back to standard keyboards, but the split ergonomic design still appeals to me. I find the iClever’s split layout pretty comfortable to type on, though it definitely took some getting used to.
The price: At just over $30, the iClever is definitely on the affordable side. You can probably find cheaper, but for me it seems to strike a pretty decent balance for the cost. At that price, it was worth it for me to buy one to test out, even if I didn’t end up using it regularly. As it stands, I’d say that I’ve easily gotten my money’s worth from it, even if it does have some caveats…
Split layout: As I said above, the layout has taken some getting used to. In particular, the “B” key is just on the wrong side for me: I’m used to hitting it with my right hand, and I’ve had to retrain my muscle memory to look for it on the left side. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s definitely an annoyance.
Flaky keys: I’ve remarked on this elsewhere, and I remain unsure if it’s just this unit, Bluetooth connectivity, or what, but some of the keys don’t always register on the first try. Specifically, I find that the ‘V’ key often seems to require a second press—or a firmer, more intentional press—to show up. Many’s the time that I have typed a word with a ‘V’ in it, not realized that it didn’t show up, and then had iOS’s autocorrect gleefully change it to a word that makes no sense whatsoever.1 Other keys occasionally seem to have a similar issue, but with nowhere near as much frequency. Again, I don’t know if this is a flaw that’s endemic to the keyboard or simply this particular unit, but it’s worth noting.
iOS-ish keyboard layout: This is probably my biggest irritation with this keyboard. While it does let you toggle between Android, Windows, and iOS/Mac keyboard layouts, the iClever’s iOS layout isn’t quite right. Specifically, it maps the Windows key to Command and the Alt key to option, which puts them in the opposite places from where they should be. That’s not unique to this keyboard, but at least when you run into it on a Mac you can remap them. No such luck on iOS. I’ve gotten to the point where I at least don’t have to stare down at the keys to remember which is where, but it definitely took some time.
Miscellaneous layout issues: Depending again on your personal preferences, some of the rest of the iClever layout may prove less than ideal. The arrow keys have the full-size left/right and half-size up/down of recent Apple keyboards, which not everybody is a fan of. (I prefer the inverted-T layout personally.) The number keys—which double as function keys—are half-height, which makes them more annoying to hit at times, while some of the symbol keys on the right-hand side, like the brackets, colon, and quotes are half-width, which can be a bit maddening as well. The Delete key is a little too far to the right to hit comfortably. The Caps Lock key doesn’t have a light on it to tell you whether it’s on or off, but, frankly, my fingers are usually obscuring it anyway, so that’s kind of a six-of-one-half-dozen-of-another. In other words, like any keyboard, it has its quirks: how much they bother you is going to vary from person to person.
Is this the keyboard that will make you settle down and stop looking at iPad keyboards? If you’re a keyboard connoisseur, then no, probably not. The non-iOS layout and the flaky keys are probably going to turn you off. But if you’re just looking for a super compact, long-lasting wireless keyboard to get stuff done? This might very well fit the bill. The split ergonomic layout is the big wildcard, and from what I can tell, it certainly seems like that might be the big draw for some folks.
At the end of the day, for the $33 price tag on Amazon, it’s a pretty solid little keyboard that you can throw in a bag and use when the onscreen keyboard just isn’t cutting it. I might not want to write my next novel on it, but I’ve just written this entire 1300-word review on it with few problems, so consider that at least a modest seal of approval.
- It turns out that if you type “very” and the “v” doesn’t show up, iOS is pretty happy to change it to “dry.” Also “I’ve” with no “v” becomes, through some bizarre black magic, “I’be”. Go home, autocorrect: you’re drunk. ↩
[Dan Moren is the official Dan of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]
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