REVIEW – When you think about it, every review seen on The Gadgeteer site was written on a keyboard. It’s one of those things no reader thinks about—but the writer sure does. Writing on a keyboard can be a worry-free practice or it can be one full of frustration. It depends on whether the keyboard is easy to type with, dependable, error-free, backlit, and other factors.
Many times, Gadgeteer reviewers write about keyboards, hopefully on the keyboards they are reviewing. 🙂 Which is exactly what I am doing—reviewing the Officelab KB09112 Bluetooth keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Some might call it an Apple Magic Keyboard clone. I wouldn’t go that far, but the inspiration is most definitely there.
What is it?
The Officelab KB09112 Bluetooth backlit keyboard case is made exclusively for the 12.9 in. IPad Pro (5th/4th/3rd Generation). It is modeled after the Apple Magic keyboard for iPad with some notable differences.
The back of the Officelab iPad Pro 12.9 Bluetooth keyboard case is magnetic, so the iPad sticks to it. The keyboard folds flat with the iPad screen sitting on the keys. It folds and unfolds in a cantilever style like the Apple Magic keyboard.
The surface is black matte plastic. The keys have rounded corners and are backlit with 7 color choices. There is an added top row of function keys—some functions are home screen, screenshot, backlight strength, audio volume, and others. The Bluetooth connection is 5.1—not the latest version, but recent enough. Charging is done via USB-C.
- Row of function keys
- Backlit keys
- Bluetooth connection
- USB-C charging
- Magnetic cover
- Dimensions: 11.26 x 9.09 x 0.67 inches
Design and features
The Officelab KB09112 keyboard’s similarities to the Apple Magic keyboard are not accidental. Unless side-by-side, anyone could be confused. I have no problem with that as long as Officelab does not mislead people that this is an Apple product—which they haven’t. In fact, some features on the Officelab keyboard are improvements over the much more expensive Apple keyboard.
Any comparison to Apple is fair because Officelab does a comparison on their Amazon page.
Officelab has incorporated a top row of function keys into the mix. This row has many keys that almost immediately become second nature since they are that useful. The Apple Magic keyboard sports no such keys.
The upper right corner of the keyboard contains the On/off switch, pairing and battery life lights, and the Bluetooth pairing button—which doubles as a forward delete key. The On/off switch is a visual design and functional weak spot on an otherwise well-designed keyboard.
The Officelab iPad Pro 12.9 Bluetooth keyboard uses a Bluetooth connection as opposed to Apple’s unique Smart Connector. Officelab points this out as if Bluetooth is better. I disagree. The Smart Connector allows the Apple keyboard to run off the iPad’s power, while the Officelab keyboard needs to be periodically charged—the same as any Bluetooth device. Knowing Apple, I suspect that they would charge a royalty for any device that utilizes the Smart Connector or prohibit it altogether.
The seven backlighting color choices are bright and neon-like, but it’s a gimmick. After trying the various backlight colors, I ended up back at white—where it will stay.
I have mixed feelings about the backlighting of the keys. While the characters on the keys are translucent for the light to come through, it’s not as bright as it could be. There is enough of a gap around the keys that the backlighting that shines under and around the keys is much brighter than the light that shows through the keys.
I couldn’t find any technical info on the key construction, but my guess is scissor keys by the way they feel. Typing is smooth, with just the right tactile feedback as the keys snap back into place after being pressed. Bottom line: it’s a joy typing on this keyboard.
One downside is that the Caps Lock key “on light” is in the upper right corner of the keyboard—well away from the key itself. I have unknowingly typed in all caps by accident.
There are many other double-duty keys sprinkled throughout the keyboard. It’s a bit of a learning curve, but the manual is good at explaining to them until you become comfortable knowing where they are.
As good as the typing experience is, the trackpad needs more work. It’s not easy to click unless any pressing is done towards the bottom area of the trackpad. Forget trying to press along the upper area.
However, sliding a finger along the trackpad is quick and fluid. It’s extremely sensitive—perhaps a bit too sensitive. Many times, I have accidentally touched the trackpad while typing, and the curser instantly moves to another part of the screen. So a sentence may start in one paragraph and end in a completely different paragraph. It took me a while to figure out what was causing this issue. Now that I’ve figured it out, I am more careful.
Palm rejection on the trackpad is good. I tried repeatedly to get the trackpad to react to my palm—to no avail.
The iPad attaches to the Officelab iPad Pro 12.9 Bluetooth keyboard the same way it does on the Apple Magic keyboard via a magnetic cover and floating cantilever. However, the magnet doesn’t feel as strong as Apple’s. I can slightly pull at the iPad’s bottom edge and it will fall off the cover. Plus, unless the iPad is firmly gripped when opening, the cover will release the iPad and it will fall onto the keys. Stronger magnets would solve this issue. Note that while the Apple pencil can be magnetically snapped onto the iPad to charge, there is no place to securely store it. Nor is there a place on Apple’s keyboard, either.
When closed, the Officelab keyboard offers decent protection for the iPad Pro, except for the exposed sides. I also worry about the keys rubbing on the screen, despite the four small rubber bumps protruding from the keyboard to allow some space between the keys and screen.
What I like
- Good typing feel
- Responsive keys
- Decent backlighting
- Stable Bluetooth
- Long battery life
- Sensitive trackpad
What I’d change
- Trackpad clicking is not as easy as it should be
- The trackpad can be too sensitive if touched while typing
Given a choice between the Officelab KB09112 Bluetooth keyboard and its emulated Apple MagicKeyboard, I would choose the Apple hands-down—unless the price is a factor. Then the balance tips in Officelab’s favor. Their keyboard is $100—far, far less than Apple’s $350. Plus, Officelab’s keyboard comes with a full row of function keys. Apple’s does not. If you can look beyond Officelab’s weaker trackpad and the lack of Apple branding, this choice is a no-brainer.
Price: $99.99 US.
Where to buy: Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided by Officelab.