If you spend a lot of time working on the road - for example, in hotel rooms or at a remote office - bringing along a portable keyboard, a mouse, and a laptop stand lets you position your screen, keyboard, and mouse at proper heights, making for a more ergonomic workspace. Matias' Folding Keyboard may work as part of your on-the-go setup, but a couple of quirks keep it from being all that it can be.
Bringing keyboards into the fold
As its name implies, the Matias Folding Keyboard's claim to fame is that it folds up for travel. At 475 x173x35mm in size when closed, the keyboard is chunky compared to Apple's Wireless Keyboard - not as wide or high, though quite a bit thicker - but is still easily packable.
When opened up - you slide a small switch to release a lock holding the keyboard closed - the Matias Folding Keyboard is only 0.7 inches thick but nearly 18 inches wide. This width, similar to that of some desktop keyboards, allows the Folding Keyboard to provide something Apple's portable keyboard doesn't: a numeric keypad. If you're a road-warrior accountant, this is a welcome feature.
The idea behind the Matias Folding Keyboard is great, but there's a serious flaw in the implementation: Although the keyboard locks closed, it doesn't lock open. When placed on a desk or other flat surface, it's solid and stable, but if you try to use it on your lap, the keyboard's hinge sags into the space between your legs - in other words, the keyboard starts to fold up - making typing difficult. (In our travel experience, few hotels have desks with a keyboard drawer, or desks low enough to make typing comfortable, so we often end up using my portable keyboard on my lap.) If the hinge locked in place, or if there were a couple rigid bars or slats that could slide behind the hinge when open, this wouldn't be an issue; instead, you'll need to use the Matias Folding Keyboard on a desk or place something rigid on your lap under the keyboard.
The Matias Folding Keyboard connects to your PC desktop or laptop via USB; unlike most USB keyboards, the cable is detachable for better packing. Matias also includes a thin fabric carrying pouch.
NEXT PAGE: half-dome keys
Matias' Folding Keyboard may work as part of your on-the-go setup, but a couple of quirks keep it from being all that it can be.
Most keyboards use either desktop-style dome keys (which are traditionally larger and require more travel - the distance you have to press a key for it to register) or laptop-style scissor keys (which are generally thinner and require less travel and force to register). The Matias Folding Keyboard uses an interesting hybrid: dome switches with thinner, lower-travel keys. These keys look like those found on a laptop, but feel more like those used on a desktop keyboard. We found these keys to have a good feel with obvious tactile feedback and little mushiness.
The Matias Folding Keyboard includes a full numeric keypad, in order to conserve space Matias didn't include the traditional help/delete/home/end/page up/page down group (usually placed between the main qwerty area and the keypad). Instead, these keys are arranged in an odd vertical layout: help and (forward) delete are in one column next to the forward slash (\) key, with home, end, page up, and page down in another column to the right. It took us a while to get used to this arrangement while touch-typing.
Standard keys aside, the Matias Folding Keyboard has a number of unique and useful features. One of my favorites is subtle but useful: The numeric keypad includes its own Tab key, allowing you to perform many data-entry tasks with one hand. But the bigger convenience feature is that Matias Folding Keyboard overlays a second set of directional keys - the four arrow keys as well as home, end, page up, and page down - on to the home keys under your right hand (U, I, O, J, K, L, and M, along with the comma and period). You access these alternate functions by pressing the fn key which is located just above the lefthand shift key. This feature allows you to use navigation keys without moving your hands from the home area.
Placing the fn key above the lefthand shift key makes it convenient to use this navigational overlay; however, the downside is that the fn key replaces the traditional caps lock key, which has been moved to an alternate function of the slash (/) key. If, like me, you frequently use caps lock, you must press fn-/ to toggle it. Having used a standard keyboard layout for many years, we never did get used to this arrangement.
Matias Folding Keyboard: Specs
- Cable: 152cm
- USB 2.0
- Windows and Mac compatible
- Cable: 152cm
- USB 2.0
- Windows and Mac compatible
Despite a few key-placement oddities, Matias’s Folding Keyboard is a unique portable accessory that lets you pack a full-size keyboard in a relatively small amount of space. Its keys are very good for a portable keyboard, and it provides several useful features we haven’t seen on any other model, desktop or portable. On the other hand, the lack of a locking mechanism makes it a poor choice for use on your lap - a significant flaw in a keyboard designed for portability.