Want a Cheap Laptop? Add a Keyboard to an iPad or Android Tablet Computer

Many people own and love their tablet computers. I have an Pad Mini and it has become my primary traveling computer. I hear similar statements from owners of various Android tablets as well. As useful as these tiny powerhouses may be, they are still seriously hampered by the lack of a keyboard. The solution? Add a keyboard!

iPad Mini with Logitech Keyboard

That suggestion is obvious. Adding an external high quality keyboard converts a tablet computer into a reasonably-priced laptop computer. Perhaps it should be called a netbook.

The pictures in this article show my iPad Mini in action with a Logitech keyboard.

NOTE: Beware! You can find a number of poorly built external keyboards for tablets. Some of them have rubbery, “chicklet” style keys. Avoid them! A junky keyboard is as bad as, or worse than, no keyboard at all.

Why bother adding a keyboard? Because it makes typing much easier and therefore opens up a huge range of uses for this super-compact computer. I have known some people who previously used TWO computers when traveling: a tablet for convenience and a regular laptop for more serious use, such as for writing newsletter articles. Today you can combine the two and carry one lightweight device for both purposes.

A few years ago I wouldn’t recommend a tablet for heavy duty writing or for image editing or other applications that required significant processor power or storage space. However, the technology of tablet computers has improved radically in the past two or three years. Prices have dropped, the tablets’ processors are much more powerful than they were just a few years ago, the display screens are as good as, or better than, laptop computers of only a few years ago.

Today’s storage space is essentially unlimited by using the various cloud-based storage services. Today, you can choose from Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and a plethora of other online services will provide more storage space than you will ever need. With most of the cloud-based file storage services, a few gigabytes of storage space is available free of charge while even larger amounts are available for modest fees, usually much cheaper than purchasing your own disk drive.

If you have seen the display screen of the Retina display screen on an Apple iPad, you already know that the display is sharper and easier to read than that of the typical laptop computer.

Today’s software for tablets still is not as powerful as that available on desktop and laptop computers but does have most of the capabilities that 99% of us want. Indeed, email apps, web browsers, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of games work as well on tablets as they do on higher-powered computers. The processing power in most of today’s tablet computers is usually sufficient for the majority of computing tasks that consumers run although not enough for intensive engineering computers or for sophisticated graphics editing. However, NASA sent men to the moon in 1969 by calculating the route and using computers that provided far less computing power than today’s low-cost tablet computers!

While you can purchase inexpensive keyboards from many sources, my experience with cheap keyboards has been disappointing. You probably don’t want to use a cheap keyboard on your desktop computer and I suspect you don’t want one on your tablet either. I use a Logitech keyboard and am happy with it. I have also talked with tablet owners who use Zagg keyboards and they all report satisfaction with those. You may find still another brand that also is a pleasure to use. However, I would avoid the cheapest keyboards as they don’t have the “feel” of a higher-quality device.

The pictures in this article show my Logitech keyboard in operation. The keyboard is about the same size as the iPad Mini. In other words, it is too small for true touch typing. The larger iPad and most of the Android tablets with larger screens will support nearly full-sized keyboards. The larger Logitech and Zagg keyboards made for larger tablets will please even touch typists. Since I am not a touch typist, I don’t have many concerns about typing on a smaller than normal keyboard.

I didn’t want to carry additional gadgets with me. Having the iPad is enough, I don’t want to carry keyboards, speakers, chargers, and other add-on devices. I like the fact the Logitech keyboard attaches to the iPad by magnets so it never gets separated. Even though there are two pieces, the keyboard and iPad remain firmly attached to one another and function as one piece. Even better, both slip into the InCase carrying case that I use. It makes for one compact thing to carry. When removed from the carrying case, the iPad slips into a depressed slot in the keyboard, holding the iPad’s screen at the optimum angle for viewing in different lighting conditions.

iPad Mini between a telephone and a MacBook Air

I used a telephone and a MacBook Air in the above photograph to provide a reference showing the compact size of the iPad Mini and keyboard that is between the other two devices. I guess my next photograph is a “selfie.” That’s my hand holding the case with the iPad Mini and the Logitech keyboard inside. I left my hand in the picture to show how compact the entire package is.



As you can see by the above photograph, there are no wires attaching the keyboard to the iPad Mini.The connection is wireless, using Bluetooth technology. In fact, the keyboard and the iPad Mini can be ten or twenty feet apart and everything will still work. Admittedly, I don’t know why anyone would want to do that.

The keyboard and the carrying case are available from any number of vendors. I purchased the Logitech keyboard from Amazon. I see the price on Amazon today is $59.99. That price is a bit cheaper than I what I paid last year. The case made by InCase costs $23.95 at Amazon although I suspect you can find many other cases that will work at least as well as the one I use.

If you use a full sized iPad or a larger Android tablet, you will want to use a larger keyboard and a larger carrying case. Whatever you choose, I suspect you will be happy with the ease and convenience of using a nearly full powered computer that slips into an overcoat or a lady’s purse.

Thanks to the high-quality Bluetooth keyboard, the iPad has become my favorite computer for writing while traveling.

 

2 Comments

FYI – I have a widget that posts your column on my home page (laptop). It has not worked since the article you posted saying your website was working again.
http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/atom.xml

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    Correct. The new web page has different RSS feeds, including several new options. You can now use RSS to subscribe to comments, something not possible at the old hosting service. Thousands of pointers to URLs changed also.

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