In the age of phablets, tablets and the stupidly huge iPad Pro, virtual keyboards have become synonymous with device use. Typing speeds have increased and the advent of emoji and other special characterisations during texting have meant software keyboard use has proved to be a consistently acceptable method of input. That being said, there are still those that prefer physical keyboards on or in tow with their devices. With that in mind, we look at the iClever Foldable Keyboard.
Disclaimer: iClever provided this device free of charge for review. This device was used for approximately a week with both iOS and Windows tablets to test compatibility. iClever offer a number of other Bluetooth peripherals, and we’ve reviewed quite a few of them. They offer decent build quality at great prices which make them a good option for anyone wishing to dip their toe into the market of smart device peripherals.
Overview & Unboxing
Bluetooth keyboards have been around for quite some time. In fact, I recall having my first Bluetooth keyboard way back when the first iPad was released to see how things worked then. The result was a mixed affair, with poor key caps and poor device/OS compatibility which is something the likes of iClever, and many other manufacturers have been cautious not to repeat with the evolution of the product since then.
With the iClever Foldable Keyboard, we’re looking at a peripheral that is eminently as pocketable as the device that it no doubt pairs with, be that a tablet, phablet or a smartphone. The device sits at just 166 x 120 x 14.8mm when folded up which, in comparison is smaller than the latest generation iPad Mini in all but thickness. That’s quite impressive really isn’t it?
The iClever Foldable Keyboard can connect to Android, iOS or Windows devices via Bluetooth 3.0 with the standard operating range of up to around 10 metres. Aside from its small size when folded, the keyboard offers a 750mAh battery which it’s claimed is good for up to 300 hours of uninterrupted use with a huge drop down to just 5 hours of uninterrupted use when utilising the included backlight.
- iClever Foldable Keyboard
- Micro USB cable for charging
- Carrying Bag
- User Manual
- Warranty Card
Performance & Use
When looking at portable keyboards the key aspects are usually footprint, key cap travel, battery life and build quality, so let’s start there. We’ve already mentioned the rather petite size of the keyboard when folded, but it’s not much larger when opened for use, sitting at 291 x 117 x 8.25mm. The folding is controlled via two aluminium alloy hinges on the back of the device. When opened the hinges provide support for the larger middle third of the keyboard, as well as the two outer thirds making up the final keyboard.
These hinges, as you might expect, are the bulky part of the design and not aesthetically pleasing by many normal metrics. However they are necessary to provide the folding design. To ensure stability when unfolded, there are two rests that can be flipped down at either end of the board. This is required as the hinge alone will offset the balance and make the edges of the keyboard spongey when pressed. This works for the majority of the keys, however for accessing those keys that are at the extremes of the board (the top right, left, bottom right and left) there is still an evident flex. We’d have liked to have seen a longer rest to resolve this.
As an aside, pairing, as for most Bluetooth peripherals of the last few years, is astonishingly easy. Open the keyboard (which powers the device on) and hit the FN + Bluetooth icon button to put it into pairing mode. Connect to it from the device of your choice and type away!
The keyboard itself utilises an aluminium alloy chassis with a plastic keyboard embedded. All areas that move (key caps aside) are metallic which gives a little more peace of mind as to the longevity of this product.
The Android, iOS and Windows functionality seems to work quite well with the WIN button doubling as the Control key for iOS devices and shortcut buttons working as you’d expect. Further functionality on this board is dealt with via the usual FN key combinations. Key strokes for volume, cut, paste, copy, and media controls are covered on the F keys (accessible by FN when in Windows mode) and the backlight key can be controlled via the FN key, with the arrow keys in tow to change through the Red, Blue and Green colour options. The backlight is quite unassuming and undercooked as a feature. The key caps themselves don’t lend themselves to allowing emitted light through the gaps and unless you’re in a very dark room they don’t particularly help. We’d recommend turning this off for almost all use to prolong the battery.
Finally, on that battery. Well we haven’t been able to kill it yet. We’ve used it for around 10 hours, with many more standby. Thanks to the features included however you can expect to go quite a long time without having to re-charge, unless you’re a heavy user of the backlight that is. If the device is left unattended for 10 minutes, it moves into sleep mode and folding the keyboard up entirely turns it off. We kept expecting the power LED to start flashing red to indicate that we’re nearing a dead batter, but no, nothing. To manually check the power status, users can hit the FN + the battery icon to see an LED notification of their battery status. Our unit is currently flashing a green LED twice. Unfortunately there is no indication of what that means in the manual.
The iClever Foldable Keyboard isn’t perfect however it does get many things right. The multi-device functionality actually works here which we’ve seen not to be the case on many similarly priced products, with OS-specific shortcuts working without incident. The battery life is simply excellent, and the folding mechanism provides a small footprint device (when folded) that actually delivers a full keyboard experience without splitting the keyboard into sections like similar products (such as the KiWiTEK foldable keyboard).
The two standout features of the device, the foldable mechanism, and the backlight, are both double-edged swords. The hinge mechanism whilst robust, suffers from a slightly inadequate rest solution to correctly balance the keyboard at its extremities, meanwhile the backlight, whilst having colour options, doens’t really provide enough light to type by in all but the darkest environments. We think a version two of this product could/should address these two aspects in order to provide an even better value proposition.
That’s the whole other point too; the value. This device is selling on Amazon UK for just £21.99 which is cheaper than much of its competition (albeit not by much, granted). For £21.99, you get a folding full keyboard, with approximately a 300 hour charge, with a small footprint, and multi-device support. Not too shabby in our opinion.
Our final thought is simply this; the iClever Foldable Keyboard is a perfect travel companion for mobile productivity, and at a great price.
Don’t forget to check out Amazon for many more iClever products.