A good keyboard is important, but nowadays, having one that can handle multiple devices is even more important. The Matias One is a great example of a keyboard that can handle multiple devices. In addition to the USB port, it also had built-in Bluetooth so that the keyboard could toggle between two devices, say a desktop computer as well as an iOS device. I used one of these keyboards for a couple of years. The ability to quickly switch between my desktop and iOS was invaluable. But the keys never felt right, the left shift key was terribly unreliable, the bright blue Bluetooth light was more annoying than helpful, and the odd key layout caused by the spot to rest a phone was more a hinderance than a benefit.
Kanex released a multi-device keyboard called the Mult-Sync which offers support for up to four devices simultaneously (three Bluetooth and one USB). It has it’s own set of pros and cons.
The typing experience on this keyboard is great. It’s very similar to Apple’s current crop of “chiclet” style keyboards. The keys are responsive and easy to type on. Because there isn’t the obnoxious rubber spot for a phone the home, end, page up, page down and delete keys all return to their proper location. The selected device indicator lights are much more subtle than the Matias and look just like num lock/caps lock indicators. There is a button to lock/shut off an iOS device as well as other common buttons like volume and music controls. The buttons for switching device are mapped to the F1 through F4 keys, so they don’t require extra real estate.
The keyboard comes with a USB cable, which if used negates the need for any batteries. It also allows the device to be paired with three other Bluetooth devices if for some reason a person had that need.
Included in the box is also a sweet little compact stand for phones and tablets. The stand folds flat for easy transport and comes with three possible angles. It is surprisingly sturdy and a great little plus.
The downsides are mostly minor, but some can be frustrating. The aforementioned stand only has three angles to chose from, so it’s limited in some scenarios. There is no button to activate the on-screen keyboard on iOS devices (the Matias had this), the only way to get the keyboard to show is to switch the keyboard to another device. speaking of switching devices, because there is just one Bluetooth receiver that toggles between devices the keyboard must constantly reconnect itself when switching devices (even USB) which creates a delay when switching devices that takes some getting used to. On iOS there is a bug that if the user starts typing before the reconnecting is complete it could freeze the phone and force a hard reboot. This happens to me at least every couple of days.
Another minor quirk is that the keyboard seems to put it’s indicator lights to “sleep” at some point. It’s unclear if there is more happening behind the scenes when this happens, but sometimes after idling for a minute it’s easy to forget which device is currently selected and can be frustrating.
There are also some other quirks with the special keys. Curiously, a “home” button was placed in the bottom left of the keyboard where the control or function key is usually found. This is nice for iOS, but on Windows it opens Internet Explorer. Most people probably won’t use this for Windows, but not having the control key in the bottom right takes a long time to get used to. There is a key for iOS spotlight that doesn’t actually launch spotlight (iOS 7 problem?) and the brightness keys don’t seem to do anything on iOS either.
Overall, this is a great multi-device keyboard. Logitech offers their line of Easy Switch keyboards, which come in both Windows and Mac models, as well as their solar-powered keyboard, but all of those lack non-Bluetooth connections (read: USB) which means that the rare scenario1 where a USB connection is required, means those aren’t options.
The keys feel good, and while the keyboard itself seems to have a little give to it when typing hard, it’s not inhibiting. Switching between devices is easy, and mostly reliable minus the issues with freezing iOS devices (which I was told by Kanex is an iOS problem that can be re-created with other Bluetooth keyboards as well). Anyone who likes the current generation of Apple keyboards should like this model as well, and it’s a great solution to having multiple devices.
- Mine [↩]