One of the accessories that really makes the Nexus 9 a productivity powerhouse is the Folio Keyboard for the tablet. Priced at $60, nearly $100 less than what it was a debut, this magnetically attaching keyboard and cover gives you a great feeling and functional keyboard while providing protection for your tablet at the same time. I have been using the Folio Keyboard over the course of the last several weeks and I have to say that I am impressed with the performance and ease-of-use. While not everyone needs a keyboard for their tablet, if you have a Nexus 9 and need one, this is not a bad option to consider.
Specifications & Form Factor
The Folio Keyboard, as the name suggests, is a folio/book style keyboard that wraps around your Nexus 9. As you look at the folio, you will have the keyboard side of the case and a then you have
the back of the case joined by a center binding. The back side of the case has two build in fold points which is how you adjust the viewing angle of your Nexus 9. I’ll cover this more detail later in the review. The edge of this back cover as well as the top have a magnetic strip embedded which is how your tablet connects to the keyboard and doesn’t slip out. Further, the area just above the keyboard also has a magnetic strip embedded to hold your tablet securely as you type. This back part of the Folio completely covers the back of your Nexus 9, including the camera. There is no cutout for it which some users may find a bit annoying as it requires you remove the tablet from the Folio. That said, because it is held on magnetically, it is very easy to slip the Nexus 9 off of the magnets to hold the tablet itself.
As for the keyboard, it is a 59-key layout that is about 85% full size of a regular keyboard. This is about the normal size of a keyboard for this size of tablet and while some users will find it a bit cramped, it is still reasonably comfortable. The key stroke depth is also comfortable and better than other keyboards designed for tablets out there. While it won’t feel completely like a full size keyboard under your fingers, it will give you enough satisfaction to feel comfortable typing at speed on it.
The center binding between the keyboard and the back of the Folio Keyboard is where you will find the batteries that power the keyboard and built-in NFC and Bluetooth chips as well as the MicroUSB charging port. When the keyboard is charging, there is a red LED light to let you know which will extinguish when it is fully charged. HTC claims that the battery will last about 5 months between charges and having used this keyboard for a couple of weeks now, I’ve not had any issues with it staying charged when I have been using it.
Paring the Folio Keyboard with your Nexus 9 is very easy and is done via NFC. To pair the devices, simply hold the power/volume rocker edge of your tablet to the center spine of the keyboard. Almost instantly they will be paired and you can start using the keyboard. Once the pairing is completed, connectivity between your Nexus 9 and the folio keyboard are kept via Bluetooth. This method for pairing the tablet and the keyboard is the easiest method I have found on any keyboard I have reviewed. Often times when it comes to Bluetooth devices, you are having to try multiple times to get things talking, then you have PIN numbers to enter and the like. None of that is the case with this combination which made the out-of-the-box experience excellent.
Design & Viewing Angles
I mentioned earlier that the back of the folio has two fold areas that rest along the back of your Nexus 9. These folds allow you to place your tablet in two different viewing angles for your comfort. The most common way you will use it is with the base of your Nexus 9 resting at the top edge of the keyboard with the first fold bent outward to give you a comfortable 48-degree pitch for viewing. If you want something a little more flat, such as when you are in a cramped space (think economy seats on an airplane), then you can push out the second fold of the back to lower to a 24-degree pitch. The idea that HTC had in mind when they designed the case was to give you some options depending on your environment, something that many shell-style or other folio style cases don’t give you. In my using of the case over the last few weeks, I’ve found that both viewing angles make using the keyboard easy while keeping your eyes on the tablet as you type.
While most keyboards that work with tablets feel cheap and cramped when you use them, that was not the case for the Folio Keyboard. Yes it is smaller than a full size keyboard but I found that it was very comfortable to type on for long periods of time. Roughly 90% of this review was written using the keyboard and my Nexus 9 over the course of several hours and my hands were no more fatigued than they would have been on my laptop or Chromebook over that period of time.
What makes this happen, I think, is the positive responsiveness of the keys. When you type, they have enough of a stroke depth that makes it feel like a real keyboard. That means I spend far less
time correcting text on what I have typed as I know that I have had a successful keystroke. It sounds simple but it can make all the difference when it comes to typing fast on a smaller keyboard. I think what also helps is the tactile feedback from the keys. They are not smooth but rather have a texture too them. That gives you confidence about your finger placement on the keyboard. Again, a simple thing but it makes a difference.
If you have a Nexus 9 and have been considering the Folio Keyboard, I have no problem in recommending it. The quality of the design and construction is excellent, the magnetic attachment of the back of the folio to your Nexus 9 is solid and strong and the keyboard is high quality and very responsive. In my case, it has turned my Nexus 9 into a proper laptop replacement when I want to work in a smaller area (like economy on a flight) or simply want something lighter and smaller when I go work in a coffee shop.
The Nexus 9 Folio Keyboard is $59.99 from Amazon