A sure way to boost the productivity potential of your smartphone or tablet is to pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard. Not only is it much easier to type emails and documents on your iPad or Surface, but the combined weight and size of a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard is usually much less than that of a laptop. Microsoft's Universal Foldable Keyboard ($99) succeeds when it comes to portability, but falters in terms of productivity.
One of the most portable Bluetooth keyboards ever, the Microsoft Universal Foldable keyboard weighs just 6.3 ounces and measures 5.7 x 4.9 x 0.4 inches when folded. When open, it's 11.5 inches wide, nearly the same as my daily keyboard, the Apple Bluetooth keyboard.
At the top is a row of very useful keys: two separate pairing buttons (you can pair the Microsoft keyboard with two devices), volume and media controls, a search button, and a button to tell the keyboard the OS running on the paired device -- Windows, Android or iOS. (Mac OS users must select Windows.) The Microsoft keyboard will work with any Bluetooth 4.0-enabled device or smartphone running Windows 8.1, Android 4.4.2 or iOS 7.
Because the keyboard folds in the middle, a number of keys are oddly sized to accommodate the hinge. For example, the T, G, H and N keys are all much larger than traditionally sized letter keys. There are also two space bars, one on either side of the hinge.
I like that the keyboard automatically turns off when you fold it up, saving battery life; Microsoft says the battery should last up to three months. When it runs out, it can be recharged through a microUSB port on the right side.
With just 0.5mm of travel (less than half what you'll find on a typical notebook) but 60 grams of activation, the Microsoft keyboard was surprisingly comfortable to type on. That's not to say there's no learning curve. The irregularly sized keys, as well as the large gap in the middle of the keyboard, caused me to look much more often at the keyboard than I would normally. I found that I would hit the large T key when I was aiming for the R key.
As a result, my score on the Key Hero Typing Test was 48 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy, about 20 words per minute slower than my average when using the Apple keyboard. The fold in the Microsoft keyboard also makes it impossible to use the keyboard in your lap, further limiting the add-on's usefulness.
Microsoft estimates the keyboard will last up to three months on a charge, which is fairly standard for a Bluetooth keyboard. When the battery is low, you can recharge it via the micro-USB port on its right side.
There are several great features about Microsoft's Universal Folding keyboard. It practically disappears in your bag, and I like that it's easy to pair with multiple devices. However, the sacrifices Microsoft had to make to ensure that its folding keyboard is highly portable are just too great. The irregularly sized keys, plus the fact that you can't use the keyboard in your lap, makes this an impractical option for those looking to travel light.