I'm hunched over, my fingers clumsily punching out a silent staccato. Even as intent as I am on the task at hand, I am achingly aware that my posture is terrible. But I am too determined to master this new instrument to pay any more attention to that. I know that my mother and my teacher were right: I will probably perform much better if I sit up straighter and make myself generally more comfortable, but I can't focus on more than one thing at a time.
As I keep practicing, I gain momentum. But my progress is still too frustratingly slow for my liking. My fingers can't seem to find the same kind of rhythm on this keyboard as they have on the one I normally use for work and pleasure. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that this is a no-name, Made-in-China creation? Surely Joshua Bell wouldn't touch anything less than a Stradivarius?
But I am, sadly, not a virtuoso. And so I cannot go all diva and require a Strad or a Steinway. Besides, it is already more than enough that I am using this Bluetooth keyboard and iPad cover in conjunction with a highly prized and coveted brand.
As with much of the merchandise available at Chinese stores, the keyboard was decidedly less expensive than it goes for at our local electronic chain stores. While the adage 'cheap and cheerful' definitely has a certain allure, it also left me a bit nervous that I was potentially buying a dud. And these types of 'cash only' establishments aren't exactly known for their generous return policies!
However, in the end, my limited budget overruled my scepticism, and I simply couldn't resist the price (R400, as opposed to R1 200 for the Apple version). This means that I spent a few nerve wracking hours wondering if it will actually work. I consoled myself that, if it didn't, I'd at least still be left with a decent, faux leather cover to protect my iPad.
You, dear reader, have been spared that suspense, but I had to spend about 4 hours waiting for it to charge before being able to turn it on. According to the manual, it takes about 4 to 4.5 hours for the keyboard to reach full charge. I'm usually a patient sort and I don't often wish the hours away, but this time I did!
I charged up the keyboard by connecting it to my laptop via the included USB cable. The Bluetooth indicator light turned red as soon as charging commenced. This proved that there was some life in the device after all, and I was very relieved. My relief soon turned into growing alarm when the red light quickly went off again. I tried connecting it to a different USB port, only to encounter the same thing. In the end I left it in the port, and just counted down the hours.
When the charging time was finally up, I flicked the on switch and almost kissed the keys when the Bluetooth's blue light came on. Pairing my iPad with the keyboard could not have been easier. I simply accessed the settings menu on the iPad, turned on the Bluetooth and used the keyboard to type the access code that appeared on the iPad's screen.
The pouch is designed in such a way that it can be unfolded to let your iPad stand and tilt up at a comfortable viewing angle.
The buttons on the keyboard feel rubbery and I think it's definitely going to take some time to get used to typing on it. But it will be faster than on the virtual keyboard, so all in all, it was money well spent, I reckon.
It is small (designed to be no wider than the iPad), so the keys are crowded and close together. But that is the nature of these particular beasts, no matter which brand they are.
The keyboard is also soft, since it is made of silicone, so I have to press down really hard to enter the letters. The upside to this is that it is much more lightweight than some of its sturdier Bluetooth counterparts out there. Since it is made of silicon, it is also dust and spill resistant, meaning that I will be able to easily wipe it down with a damp cloth.
I started off typing this on the bed, but now that I have moved it to a harder surface of the desk, it seems to be working a little bit better. At least I don't have to peck out the letters with one finger, as I've had to do on the virtual keyboard. But the fact that I have to press down so hard to input text means that I am still not typing nearly as fast as I do on my laptop. It also means that I might, in the long run, end up with carpal tunnel syndrome!
I really wish there was some way to adjust the device so that it can become more sensitive to touch. I can only hope that the keys will loosen up a bit with frequent use. If not, I don't envision myself banging out a great South African novel on this baby any time soon.
Despite the sticky keys, I really like that the keyboard gives one access to page up and down keys as well as to some other iPad-specific shortcuts, including a key taking you straight to the home page, keys to adjust screen brightness, and various media player controls such as volume up and down.
Although this particular keyboard has been designed especially for the iPad, the box proclaims that it can be paired with other Bluetooth-enabled devices too. It is compatible with iOS, Mac, Windows and Linux.
Once the built-in, 450 mAh Lithium battery is charged, and you use it continuously, it will reportedly last for about a week on a single charge.
I'm really hoping that the keys will become a bit looser as I continue to pound away at them. If so, I will finally be able to stop lugging the laptop around when I travel and just take the iPad to work on the fly. So this keyboard could be just the thing to turn me into an exotic, jet-setting type! Well, that, and an actual invitation to GO somewhere exotic would certainly be helpful too, and a ‘plane ticket so that I can be whisked to aforementioned exotic destination…