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Review: Azio Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad

I am this close to ditching my laptop in favor of my iPad. The only remaining obstacle: a keyboard. Like many users, I can't write effectively without a real, tactile set of keys.

I mean, sure, I can manage some basic touch-typing with the iPad's onscreen keys, but my fingers don't fly nearly as nimbly as they do with a real set of QWERTYs.

Apple's iPad Keyboard Dock is one option, but it forces you into a portrait orientation--and costs $69. For something a little more affordable, check out the Azio KB333BM Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard. (Aren't all Bluetooth keyboards wireless?)

Priced at $49.99, but available from Amazon for $37.25 shipped, the Azio keyboard offers a full set of perfectly sized, perfectly spaced keys. It's actually quite like a Mac keyboard, and in fact can be paired with a Mac, a PC, an iPhone, and pretty much anything else that accepts Bluetooth input.

Having spent some time composing notes, e-mails, and other documents, I have this to say about the Azio: it rocks. The keys are comfy, the feedback is just how I like it, and the Bluetooth pairing works beautifully. Even if I haven't touched the keyboard for a week, a couple "wake-up" taps instantly re-establishes the connection with my iPad. (The battery-sipping KB333BM goes into standby mode after two hours of inactivity.)

Many of the available extra keys (like F1-F16, Command, Home, etc.) are useless in iPad apps, but others -- like the play/pause/volume controls doubled onto some of the function keys -- work very nicely.

I think my only complaint with the keyboard is that it's not particularly portable. I mean, it's thin and fairly lightweight, but also considerably longer than the iPad itself. You could toss it in a carry-on bag, but Azio doesn't provide a case or anything else to keep it protected.

Even so, if you want to get one big step closer to the dream of using your iPad as a laptop, the Azio KB333BM is an excellent start. I like it a lot.

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