Many people choose a tablet instead of a laptop to get a computer that’s both more portable and more flexible. But even those who love their tablet should consider whether they could make it better by adding an external keyboard.
One of the main advantages of tablets is that they are compact, so it may seem counterintuitive to add the extra bulk of an accessory. Even so, it makes sense for some, especially businesspeople and students.
Physical Keyboard: A Productivity Powerhouse
An external keyboard is still the best tool ever invented for entering text, and over decades it has made the jump from typewriters to desktops to laptops to tablets. That’s why those who create a lot of content with their tablet would probably be better off doing so with a physical set of keys.
The obvious advantage is the ability to touchtype, something that’s not possible with a virtual keyboard. Those who are very skilled in this can type faster than they can talk. In addition, pushing keys is easier on the user because the buttons move under the fingertips, absorbing some of the impact.
The disadvantage is additional bulk. Even the smallest and lightest add-on keyboards are close to the size and weight of tablets.
And there’s additional cost, too. Good add-on keyboards aren’t cheap — the Microsoft Type Cover is quite good, but it’s $130. And that’s a typical cost for a high-quality model.
However, these drawbacks are inconsequential for those who spend hours every day entering text on their tablet, whether it’s long emails, elaborate spreadsheets, in-depth reports, novels, news articles, etc.
But this doesn’t mean a laptop with a built-in keyboard is automatically a better option than a tablet with an add-on keyboard. No matter how useful a physical set of A-to-Z keys can be when getting work done, it’s just a hindrance for most of ways we use computers to relax, like reading websites, playing games, watching video, and reading ebooks. Being able to leave that accessory behind when it’s not necessary makes tablets much more flexible than laptops.
Virtual Keyboard: Maximum Portability
Tablets are the purest computing experience developed so far, with no accouterments to get between the user and whatever they are doing. To type, the user only has to reach out and touch the screen — no other input device is necessary.
Paring the computer down to the point that it’s just a display maximizes portability. Obviously, adding a keyboard detracts from that advantage.
But it’s hardly nirvana. A pure tablet experience means having to type with an on-screen keyboard. Poking at pixels is a slower process than pushing keys, and it tends to make the fingertips numb after a few hundred words.
But these are but minor issues to those who primarily use their tablet as a way to access information or entertainment rather than producing content with it. A virtual keyboard is ideal for short emails, status updates, tweets, and similar quick posts.
No One Right Answer, But Lots of Options
Because it depends on how each individual uses their tablet, everyone needs to judge for themselves whether to add a keyboard to their device.
Fortunately for those who decide that a keyboard is a logical addition, there are options for nearly every tablet on the market. There is thriving market for iPad keyboards in a wide array of designs, and accessory makers haven’t ignored Microsoft or Android tablets, offering clip-on keyboards for both.