Tablet Keyboard Review: BlackBerry Mini Keyboard for BlackBerry PlayBook Review
Editor's Ratings (1-5): 4
What's Hot: Compact package with a form fitting PlayBook case, keyboard has a touchpad that performs tablet control functions.
What's Not: Key spacing is too small, keys requires extra hard press.
The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard is a Bluetooth keyboard that works with the BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet. The keyboard comes with a tablet case that's form fitting for the PlayBook and a folding stand on the back to prop up your tablet while typing on the keyboard. The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard also has something special compared to most portable keyboards we've seen: it has a built-in touchpad that offers mouse functions as well as gesture features. RIM makes this keyboard specifically for the BlackBerry PlayBook.
The design of the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard makes a lot of sense and provides convenience to the PlayBook users who need to carry their tablet plus a keyboard. It protects the tablet while providing cutouts and access to all ports, buttons as well as the rear camera on the BlackBerry tablet. While the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard holds the PlayBook in a sturdy hard TPU case, the case holds the miniature keyboard with 4 elastic bands in the corners. This is a nice feature for those who have already found their favorite case for the tablet and only wish to carry the keyboard instead of the whole case. The keyboard stays in the case securely, only thing that's minor inconvenience is the power on/off slider is partially blocked the bottom left elastic holder.
The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard offers a long elastic closure band to keep the two sides of the case shut securely. And it has a built-in stand on the back to hold the PlayBook in a comfortable angle for typing. The keyboard has a charging port, and you can use the charging adapter and cable for the PlayBook to charge the keyboard. The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard has a faux leather exterior in black with a patch of sky blue accent behind the stand flip. The interior has soft lining that won't scratch your tablet. When closed, the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard is not much bigger than the PlayBook tablet itself in length and width, only adds more thickness measuring at 7.90 x 5.5 x 1.10 inches. The case with the keyboard inside weighs exactly one pound.
The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard has a normal QWERTY keyboard layout with shortened Shift keys and Enter keys, and minus the Delete key. The Space is long and nice to use, and the two finger anchor keys (F and J) are dented to let you know their locations without looking. The keyboard has a dedicated number row on top of the letters with symbols sharing the space. The four directional buttons live in the bottom right corner, which are very handy for many tasks. The keyboard width (from the most left key to the most right key) is 7", so there isn't a huge room to give the keys more spacing. As a result, the keyboard feels a bit cramped. It will take you a while to get used to the key locations before you can type reasonably fast. Couple this with the fact that the keyboard requires more firm key press, you will need some time to get used both the small spacing and the required strength level to press the keys.
Unlike many portable keyboards we've seen that have built-in dedicated keys to save you from using the touch screen too often, the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard solves that problem by giving you an actually touchpad. RIM built most tablet control functions into the touchpad, which works like a mouse - one finger tap functions as left mouse button click; two finger top functions as right mouse button click. And it works like a touchpad that supports some gesture control features such as scrolling the screen with two-finger strokes. And we are not done. The touchpad also has built-in functions when working with the cursor on the tablet screen. If you point the cursor to edges of the screen, you can use the touchpad to slide photos, switch apps, etc.; put the cursor on the bottom of the screen, you can quit applications by sliding up on the touchpad as you would on the touch screen of the PlayBook; put your cursor on corners, you can access settings, status bar and bring up the on-screen keyboard.
The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard works with all the apps on the PlayBook we've tested it with, and the touchpad gesture controls work in most places as well including web page browsing, Office files, notes, and more. The small touchpad has sensitive response, but it won't take too much time to get used to the gesture controls. The only thing that's missing from the features is palm rejection and this prevents the keyboard working in some places like posting in certain forums. The keyboard works supports English, French and Spanish; and offers many key combos shortcuts for text styles, copy/paste, accented characters and more.
Pairing and Battery Life
Pairing the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard with the PlayBook is easy. When you turn the keyboard on, it will go into pairing mode. Go to the Bluetooth settings on your PlayBook to search and pair with the keyboard. We also tested the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard with a BlackBerry Bold 9930, it didn't work with the smartphone.
The BlackBerry Mini Keyboard has a built-in rechargeable battery. It doesn't come with any charger, but you can charge it with the PlayBook charger. The keyboard should last you up to a month with a moderate use. There is a tiny LED light on the small power on/off slider to let you know the status of the battery and charging.
First of all, kudos to RIM for making the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard for the PlayBook tablet. While several other tablets get their own keyboard options, it's great to see a keyboard that's specifically designed for the PlayBook. The case is a perfect fit for the tablet with easy access to all ports, buttons and the rear camera; and we love the built-in stand for comfortably typing and watching multimedia content. The keyboard is compact and the touchpad is a very unique design. We also loved that the tablet control functions are built-into the touchpad along with gesture controls. The only real issue you might face with the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard is the fact that space is limited and the spacing of the keys might through you off your normal typing habits and experience.