Several Windows 8 and RT tablets have excellent first-party keyboard options, namely the Type Cover for the Surface and Surface Pro and Nokia’s Power Keyboard for the Lumia 2520. But sometimes the official keyboard is expensive (see the two keyboards I just mentioned) and some tablets just don’t have first-party keyboard options.
That’s where MiniSuit (maker of my Lumia 1520 case) comes in. The MiniSuit BluBoard is a universal wireless Bluetooth keyboard that works with Windows 8 and RT, Windows 7, Android, and iOS. It won’t break the bank and you can keep using it even if you switch tablets. But does it do everything a Windows tablet user needs a keyboard to do? Find out in our full review.
Fold that keyboard up
The MiniSui BluBoard is a silver keyboard with black keys. It comes built into a non-removable black folio case. The front and back flaps of the folio can fold up under the keyboard during use, creating a steeper angle for the keyboard.
When not in use, the folio folds up and stays closed using magnets. The folio/keyboard is about one centimeter/half an inch thick when closed and weighs one pound. In other words, it’s light, thin, and easy to carry along with your tablet or inside of a bag.
The keyboard itself measures 11 x 7 x 0.5 inches, giving it a very similar footprint to those of the Type and Touch Covers for Surface. The BluBoard is about half an inch wider (and obviously thicker), which is fine. Its keys here are slightly smaller than those of the Type Cover. But they are also spaced farther apart, making them easier to use for poor typists like me. The keys don’t light up.
Just above the top row of keys are the Bluetooth button, power slider, and LED indicators for Caps Lock, battery, and Bluetooth. The Bluetooth button puts the keyboard into discovery mode. The power slider requires a little too much effort to push, but works well enough.
On the right side of the keyboard is a micro-USB port. The BluBoard has a built-in rechargeable battery that provides 120 hours of working use, according to MiniSuit. Having to charge the keyboard before its first use is a minor hassle, but after that it should hardly ever require additional charging. Luckily the keyboard can be used while charging, and it does come with a micro-USB cable.
The BluBoard has all of the most important keys a Windows user needs, though as with any small keyboard it does sacrifice a few useful ones. The top row of keys defaults to shortcut keys. Most of these only function with iOS, but Search, Volume Down, Volume Up, and Home (jumps to web browser’s home page) work with Windows 8 and prove quite useful. To use the shortcut keys as Windows function keys (F1-F12), you have to hold the Function key located at the bottom-left of the keyboard.
With the Function key in the bottom-left corner, Control gets pushed one key over to the right. Not a huge deal, but it would have been better to have reversed their places and put Function on the right instead (as it is on my netbook computer). The “Command” key acts as the Windows key and sits immediately to the right of the Spacebar. Press it to jump between desktop and the Start screen, among other things.
The BluBoard’s Delete key actually acts as Backspace, deleting the character to the left of the cursor instead of the right. The keyboard lacks a true Delete key, nor does it have Insert, Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys that I could find. Those omissions could limit its utility for serious document editing, though most regular users probably won’t notice or care.
MiniSuit’s BluBoard includes a built-in tablet stand that will hold most tablets up to 10-inches in screen size at an optimum angle. Just slide the tablet in and it should fit securely. Tablets can also be used in portrait orientation without issue.
The tablet slot is perfect for the Surface RT and Surface 2, but not the thicker Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2. You can still use the Pros with the keyboard, but you’ll have to set them behind the keyboard itself and engage their kickstands instead of relying on the keyboard’s built-in slot. Few tablets come as thick as the Pro though, so almost any other tablet should fit fine.
The BluBoard’s tablet slot has another downside: it’s not case-friendly. Just as the Surface Pro is too thick for the slot, so will be any tablet inside of a case. The solution is either to remove the tablet from the case when using the keyboard or just use your tablet case’s own stand, much as I described doing with the Surface Pro.
Windows 8 and RT setup
Having positioned your tablet for use with the BluBoard, you’ll then need to connect it via Blueooth. Windows 8 and RT hide the Bluetooth menu away so well, I had forgotten my Surface’s Bluetooth was even turned on.
Here’s how to get there:
- Pull up the charms bar by swiping right from the right edge of the screen or moving your mouse inward from the screen’s bottom-right corner.
- Select Settings.
- Choose PC and devices.
- Select Bluetooth. At last!
- Make sure Bluetooth is on.
- Switch on the keyboard and press the Bluetooth button. The Bluetooth LED should start blinking.
- After Windows detects the keyboard, select it and then choose to Pair when the menu pops up.
- Windows will display a series of eight numbers for you to type on the keyboard. After typing them, don’t forget to press Enter.
- After a few seconds, the keyboard should be paired with Windows. You’re ready to type emails and leave positive comments on our articles!
Other than being a well-constructed keyboard, the MiniSuit BluBoard has two key advantages: compatibility and price. It’s great to have one keyboard that will work with most or all of your tablets, be they Windows, Android, or Apple-flavored. Even if you replace whatever tablet you’ve got down the line, this keyboard should still work with it. Can’t say that about a device-specific keyboard.
Then there’s the price. Although the suggested retail price of the BluBoard is $89.95, both Amazon and MiniSuit sell it for $39.99. Given that the Surface Type Cover 2 costs $130 and the Nokia Power Keyboard rings up at $149.99, the BluBoard’s price is much easier to swallow. Of course, it doesn’t have backlit keys or a touch pad, nor can it be used as a screen cover or to power your tablet. But some people just want a quality portable keyboard, and that’s what you get with the BluBoard.
Here’s hoping that Windows Phone 8 will eventually get Bluetooth keyboard support as well, in case we could add another platform to the BluBoard compatibility list.