If you have an iPad and need a real keyboard, the Voix Genie is a lightweight Bluetooth wireless keyboard that's an alternative to Apple's dockable iPad keyboard.
The Voix Genie is a clone of the wireless keyboard model that is included with modern Macs, only constructed entirely from black plastic, against Apple's satin aluminium design with white keys.
And unlike the dedicated keyboard made by Apple for the iPad, the Genie has no dock nor rear bracket built in – it's purely a wireless keyboard with no attempt to physically support a tablet.
Like the Apple iPad keyboard, there are specialised keys across the F-line on top. But these keys are still serving primarily as F-keys – F1 to F12 – and you must press these with the blue 'fn' key in the lower left corner to use the extra functions.
The order is mixed-up compared to Apple's but nothing that should trouble any user. Where Apple puts the square Home button in the left-of-F1 position, for example, Voix leaves in the Esc key, and transposes Home to the far right.
So here's a rundown of those extra functions you won't find on a regular keyboard designed for Windows or Mac OS X: F1 key brings up the virtual screen keyboard, F2 takes you to the iPad search screen, F3 starts a slideshow from the Pictures library, F4 switches off the screen while F5 locks it, F6 to F9 are media control buttons (different order to Apple here: respectively stop, play/pause, rewind, forward) and F10 to F12 are for volume mute, up and down.
The Voix Genie we tested was UK-tailored, with a pound-sterling sign on the '3' key; although it also had the US-style single-height enter/return key on the 'A' line. This contrasts with UK keyboards that tend to have the return key as double-height to span A and Q lines.
You can use the Voix Genie with a regular computer too of course, pairing by through Bluetooth as you would with most wireless keyboards, typing in an ad-hoc PIN code to complete the setup process.
The special modifier keys either side of the Voix Genie's space bar are definitely inspired by the Mac though. Immediately next to the spacebar on both sides is 'command' (aka, 'the Apple key' to veteran users), followed by 'alt' (and labelled both 'alt' and 'option', as with Apple's iPad keyboard); then 'control' on the left side only.
Beyond the iPad
So you might think this keyboard would be ideal for full-time Mac users too. We encountered one key-command bug though, and wonder if more may be lurking. In Mac OS X, pressing Cmd-Ctrl-D brings up a dictionary definition of any word currently under the cursor. Strangely, this refused to work on the Genie after we paired it with our MacBook Pro.
But the biggest let-down of the Voix Genie, besides it's cheaper-feeling construction overall, is the core keyboard key action.
The current generation of Apple keyboards have short-travel keys, which some long-time typists dislike. Just compare the modern bubble-membrane technology to classic buckling-spring designs such as the venerable IBM Model M; and its Apple counterpart, the Extended Keyboard II.
The latter are very noisy by modern standards, but excel in the feedback they offer to a touch-typist's fingers.
The feel of the modern Apple keyboard is very positive though, we'd argue, with a confident action that gives good tactile feedback in use and can still enable lightning touch-type speeds.
The Voix Genie, meanwhile, also has a scissor-switch action with membrane rubber below, yet felt far too spongey to this typist. It requires more pressure to complete a typing action, slowing down writing, with almost no quiet-click feedback.
And that sponginess theme continues to the entire keyboard itself. Unlike the Apple keyboard's stiff chassis, braced by the underlying rigid metal frame, this plastic Voix Genie flexes in the middle, further eroding any pretensions of high quality.
To its great merit, though, the Voix Genie has a built-in rechargeable battery, and can be connected to a regular computer USB port with an included cable to charge that battery. Voix claims that a full five-hour charge will provide 40 hours of use.
NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>
Read all our reviews of the best tablet PC here
Find more keyboard reviews here