Realising that on-screen “virtual” keyboards are awful to type on, a lot of tablet makers have been experimenting with attaching keyboards, with varying results.
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Asus was one of the first with their Transformer Pads. Unfortunately, even the latest Asus Transformer TF103 is thick, heavy and unwieldy. The tablet part clips into a plastic keyboard roughly the same size as the tablet. While they still work like a fast modern Android tablet, the product design is clunky.
The keyboard on the Transformer feels cramped, which makes some sense when you consider that it’s crammed into the size of a tablet. When you fold up the keyboard, you end up with a doubly thick tablet.
Contrast this with the brand new Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It’s a tablet that can replace your laptop and it has an excellent keyboard.
The Surface Pro 3’s keyboard is super thin and attaches with a solid magnetic clip. It uses incredibly thin keys but with a nice amount of travel (the vertical movement when you press a key). The keyboard also has a fold near the top edge, so that you can fold it up for an angled keyboard which goes perfectly with the tablet’s adjustable kickstand.
The tablet itself is incredibly powerful. It runs Windows 8 as an operating system and is powerful enough to run full Adobe Photoshop. The Pro 3 also comes with a pen that can be used like a mouse in most apps. The pen can be attached via magnets to the side of the tablet, though not while charging.
I found typing on the Surface Pro 3 to be a little cramped but not much worse than a regular laptop keyboard.
The biggest downside to the Surface Pro 3 is the price. The cheapest version starts at $1199, and that does not include the keyboard which costs an extra $200. The TF103 has an RRP of $499 (16GB with keyboard dock) and will be available through selected retail partners. The TF103 will also be available later in 2014 as a standalone tablet (without keyboard dock), with an RRP of $429.
The Surface can actually replace your laptop, while the Transformer will still need a powerful back up.
by Hadyn Green
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