If you’re looking to write the next Great American Novel on the iPad, good luck using the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard. You’re going to need a physical keyboard. And wireless bluetooth keyboards are the current solution for connecting a traditional tactile keyboard to the iPad to get some serious typing done.
The Zippy BT-500 ($50) is such a bluetooth keyboard that can connect to the iPad, although with its cramped keys, it doesn’t end up improving much upon the touchscreen typing experience.
The Zippy BT-500 is an ultra-compact keyboard: just under 9 inches in length and 4 inches from top to bottom. It is much smaller than a normal desktop keyboard. The compromise the Zippy BT-500 makes for this smaller size is that its keys are smaller and more cramped than a normal keyboard. And that is where the rub lies with the Zippy BT-500.
At times, I found using the Zippy BT-500 only a slightly better experience than using the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard itself. The BT-500′s keys are too close together, and my fingers (which are pretty slender for man hands, by the way) too wide to accurately hit the keys. I found myself making just as many mistakes with the Zippy as with the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard. I was, however, able to increase my accuracy by using a slower hunt-and-peck method—where you use just your index fingers to slowly select and hit each key.
I can’t recommend the Zippy over the Apple’s own wireless bluetooth keyboard, which I’ve reviewed in the past for use with the iPad. The Zippy is cheaper at around $50 or less, compared to $70 for Apple’s bluetooth keyboard, but with Apple’s keyboard you get full-size keys, and at around 10 ounces compared to the Zippy’s 11+ ounces, the Apple is a little lighter as well.
That’s not to say the Zippy BT-500 doesn’t have some redeeming characteristics. It has the full 82 keys, including a Windows key that doubles as the Apple key—sacrilege for all the Mac users out there.
The BT-500′s signature feature is that it allows you to instantly switch to up to 6 bluetooth devices. For example, with just a press of a few keys, the keyboard can switch between the iPad and iPhone. A neat feature, but likely only useful to a handful of people.
The Zippy is powered by two AA batteries, which can easily be replaced via a removable access panel on its back. There is also an on/off switch next to the panel as well as a reset button.
The Zippy BT-500 ($50) Wireless Bluetooth keyboard is impressively compact but makes too many sacrifices in the size and spacing of its keys to be comfortable to use. I found myself making just as many typing errors with the BT-500 as I did with the iPad’s own touchscreen keyboard. For just $20 more, you can get the Apple Wireless keyboard, which gives you full-size keys and a much more accurate and comfortable typing experience.