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Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio review

Phil gave us a nice introduction to the Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio when a weary UPS delivery person dropped it off the day before Thanksgiving, but we wanted to revisit it after using it for a few days. It's the first accessory available for the Nexus 9, and with a hefty $130 price tag, we know that it's important to learn all you can learn before you plunk any money down.

The Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio (opens in new tab) is designed for people who need a keyboard to use with their tablet. It's not a toy, and it's not cheap. It's also not a full-sized keyboard like the one you're probably used to using at your desk. Google has covered the basics, making a keyboard cover that's easy to use and works as well as a small keyboard can. And that's the thing — this is still a small, cramped Bluetooth keyboard designed to use with a tablet.

Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio

There are some features that are nice to have. You can use the arrow keys to navigate around, and the return key is like tapping on anything you've highlighted. Keyboard shortcuts — like search + return to bring you to the home screen — work well, and are a great addition. Be warned that these may not work unless you're using the stock Google keyboard. The same goes for both of the emoji keys (apparently you can never have too many dedicated emoji keys).

The keyboard itself is well built, and having real mechanical keys with about 1.4mm of travel is great for people who need that tactile feedback to effectively type anything more than gibberish. You still have full access to anything you want to touch on the screen, and the combo of touch navigation and a keyboard for text entry works as well as you would think it should.

Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio

The idea here — a custom mechanical keyboard designed into a folio-style cover for the Nexus 9 — is a great one. The execution, not so much. It's not Google or HTC's fault, but using a small keyboard like this isn't very productive for most of us. Using it for something like a Google search, or even a Hangouts message is a bit of overkill, and trying to write the next great American classic novel on a tablet is not going to be easy on this cramped keyboard case. But — there's always a but — for the person who might need to edit something in Google Drive on the way to a meeting, or the business traveller who wants to get something done on a long flight, it's a fair purchase.

The rest of us need to think long and hard before we part with $130.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

19 Comments
  • Save up a few more bills and go with the Suface Pro tablet (the one that uses the full version of Windows...) Don't try to make an Android tablet into a laptop, it just isn't worth it.
  • I agree with you. I have tried bluetooth keyboard with my Android tablets and previously owned iPad and I have never found them very useful. To get any real work done efficiently I need a laptop or a surface pro.
  • I think the surface pro isn't worth it either. Expensive and small. I question the need for tablets at all, frankly. Just get a laptop. Else use smartphone.
  • I get your point, but the base Surface Pro 3 is literally 2x the price of the base Nexus 9. Can't say they're comparable products. I agree you should't try to make an Android tablet a laptop... but the Surface Pro 3 at $800 + $130 for the keyboard is now competing with laptops that are better at doing most things, too. It's a better machine than the Nexus 9 w/ keyboard folio, but it's still not as good as an actual laptop.
  • Both are compromises, the Nexus 9 is still a decent tablet tho, the Surface Pro kinda compromises equally in the tablet end as the laptop end, and it's twice as expensive... Yet despite all that I actually view it as a better value than the Nexus 9. A Nexus 9 will never replace a laptop, ever. For someone who's highly mobile a Surface Pro can absolutely replace a laptop AND a tablet, and you always have the option of hooking up a larger keyboard and display at home (with full functionality, unlike the Nexus which will still have you reaching across the display for many things). I don't own either btw, tho if I needed a laptop right now I'd probably get a Surface Pro (I'll always have a desktop tho), and I'm actually getting my mother a N9 for her birthday cause i think she'll like the aspect ratio. Also lived with an ASUS TF with keyboard dock. Point is, I think in unbiased as can be. There's one thing that can't be denied, this keyboard is overpriced. The Surface's is larger and has a touchpad, for the same price. ASUS old Transformer docks had a touchpad, a battery that charged the tablet, USB & SD ports, again, for the same price. There should be a $50-75 discount when buying the N9 + keyboard together.
  • Good honest review Jerry, exactly what I thought it would be (the outcome, not the review.)
  • I just can't think of anyone that would be better served with this than they would a Chromebook and a Nexus 7.
  • I would think someone that is actually a touch-typist should review a keyboard like this, not someone that hunts-and-pecks with their index fingers. For example, he says in the video that you will occasionally touch the screen while typing. Well, if your fingers were where they're supposed to be when typing you wouldn't have that problem.
  • I also have this keyboard. I also type for a living. My hands hit the screen all the time, too. Because the keys are close to the screen.
  • You will often end up touching the screen on purpose anyway, I've lived with an Android tablet with keyboard dock and the reality is that it's ill suited for that usage model... My dock even had a touchpad, albeit a crappy small one, but without it things are even worse. Reaching across the keyboard and unto the display to scroll or move a cursor or check a notification doesn't sound too bad, but it gets old, fast, and it's terrible from an ergonomic point of view. Do note that despite all that I actually liked having the keyboard dock for my ASUS Transformer, even if I only used it while traveling. I'm just disappointed this usage model hasn't evolved much on Android in three years, specially when they sell it as part of the Nexus experience. Granted, at 9" and with a 4:3 aspect ratio there isn't room for a touchpad, but still... Lots can be done on the software end, and never mind the two emoticon keys while other essentials are relegated to multi key shortcuts. You're better than this, HTC/Google.
  • I type 70 wpm with those fingers. Not saying I'm Mavis Beacon, but there's a good chance I type more every day than most people you know.
  • How does the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 keyboard compare to this? Is the Samsung keyboard bigger? Wondering if that would be more of a tablet to get to do typing on.
  • I have to disagree with this review. Now i have been using tablets as a laptop replacement for years - going back to the first Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 and a Logitech bluetooth keyboard. So I am quite use to the smaller keyboards. I have to say this one from Google has really niced size keys - particularly for a device this small. I have no issue typing on the keyboard. Like I say, I am used to this. Write the great American novel? No. Keep up with email, author work related documents in Google Docs, etc.? Yes. My only real criticism thus far, is the balance - or lack that of. I wish the keyboard part was a little heavier to better balance against the weight of the tablet when open. It is a little unstable in its current form. Otherwise happy with this and do not think the price is too high. My last 2 tablets have been Asus Transformer tablets with the matched keyboard. Overall, I find the Nexus keyboard an acceptable alternative. The only thing I think I will really miss about the Asus keyboards is the extra battery power built right into the keyboard to power the tablet to hours of extra time.
  • I thought to myself when the nexus 9 came out...... It's a great time to buy a nexus 7 2013 and I wish I didn't have to say that but IMO it is Posted via the Android Central App
  • You added nothing to this post.......
  • Got one. It is not great but it does what I want it to do. Somewhat worried about using it full time as the keyboard is next to the screen when closed. . . Scratches??? While the temptation is high to return it, I'll keep it. BTW, I love the Nexus 9.
  • Why the hell don't they just take a regular size keyboard from a desktop, slap a case on it Bluetooth NFC and call wham. These finger crunching keys are so a waste
  • I'm surprised that the keyboard is fixed. They should have used magnets so you cold adjust the position. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Think long and hard before buying a Nexus 9 too! Uneven performance all around, instead of a Nexus logo it should have said Meh!