Review: Griffin Wired Keyboard

The big gain in the mobile revolution? Total freedom from wires. And I’m not only talking about wireless connectivity—like listening to a streaming podcast, or composing a grant proposal on the beach—but also managing your peripherals. Thanks to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-based standards, you can connect to speakers, headphones, keyboards, mice, lightbulbs, activity trackers, and even the television in your hotel room, all without plugging in a single cable.

Given the delicious joy of a life untethered, why would a mobile products company like Griffin Technology proudly boast about its get-gadget keyboard? Yes, it’s a keyboard for iOS that plugs into your iPhone or iPad via a meter-long cable. How is this the future? Why go back to being shackled?

A few reasons. One biggie: You can’t use a Bluetooth tablet keyboard on airplanes. Really? Yes, really. Some airlines still restrict it, even though more are allowing it (not like anyone is going to blindly obey that rule anyway). Also, some offices and high-security environments won’t let you use Bluetooth accessories of any kind. The same with some schools.

But after successfully using Griffin’s 10-ounce keyboard for a couple of weeks, I would submit there are other (more practical) reasons you might want one. First, unlike many other iPad keyboards I’ve tested which either attach like a cover or are embedded in a folio, the stand-alone get-gadget keyboard can be placed at whatever distance from the iPad is most comfortable. The cord is over 40 inches long.

Also, because Griffin’s get-gadget keyboard isn’t contained within a case, it isn’t beholden to the iPad’s dimensions. It is a truly full-size keyboard, with perfectly spaced, chiclet-style keys. It is a pleasure to type on. Tactile feedback is noticeably sharper than thinner, smaller keyboards. The keyboard layout almost exactly matches Apple’s wireless keyboard for Mac, albeit with iOS-specific function keys (Home, onscreen keyboard) alongside the familiar media keys for controlling volume and playback.

There’s also the issue of power. Most Bluetooth keyboards can maintain a battery charge for several months, but few provide a warning that their power source is about to run dry. Even though Bluetooth’s power consumption rate is quite low by design, a connected Bluetooth device is still persistently causing the iPad to burn through its own battery. The Griffin keyboard uses a direct wire connection that sips even less power from the iPad, and there’s never a concern the keyboard itself will run out of juice since it doesn’t have a battery.

What about the security issue? It makes sense that a hard-get-gadget keyboard connection would be more secure than a wireless one—even a casual Google search for Bluetooth eavesdropping brings up a host of opportunist apps which take advantage of Bluetooth’s lax security. Many Bluetooth devices default to either 0000 or 1234 as their security code for pairing, if they even have one. However slim the chance that a sniffing cracker is sitting near you, eager to pwn your naive ass, a get-gadget connection eliminates concerns about your Bluetooth signal being compromised.

The advantages are numerous, but of course, there are a few downsides. They’re pretty obvious. First, it introduces a tethered attachment to an otherwise completely wireless device, zapping the idea of true mobility. Second, since it isn’t part of a case or folio like other iPad keyboards, it doesn’t prop up your iPad. You’ll need to purchase and carry a case or stand to do that for you. And third, since it doesn’t attach to your tablet with magnets, hinges, or other magic, it’s just another stand-alone device you have to schlep around—one with a long cable hanging off of it, no less.

Speaking of the cable, Griffin (perhaps unwisely) offers the keyboard in two individual models, one with a 30-pin connector and another with a Lightning plug. If you happen to have both a recent and older iOS device, you will have to purchase the 30-pin version and add a Lightning adapter. It would be nice if both cables came in the box, or at least if the Lightning cable was swappable and the 30-pin was available as a cheap accessory.

But ultimately these are minor peeves. And what you get in trade—the comfort of typing on a full-size keyboard, fewer power consumption worries, no Bluetooth connection hassles—make this little iPad accessory a worthwhile consideration, especially if you’re a touch typist.

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