When it comes to me being mobile and productive, less is more. That’s why the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone (phablet) is my device of choice, compared to a desktop or laptop. I can have more power and information at my fingertips, all in the space that fills a pocket. I do as much as I can from the comfort of my hammock, impossible for a PC and awkward with a laptop.
One thing I do miss is a standard keyboard. Swiping words and text with a finger just doesn’t achieve the same speed and accuracy as typing. As much as I love my Logitech K810 Bluetooth wireless keyboard in and around the house (especially at night with the backlit keys), it’s a bit big to bring when I want to go out for coffee or beer. Although there are many folding wireless keyboards out there, I don’t really like any of them. That is, until I saw the Flyshark.
The team behind the Flyshark wireless keyboard up on Kickstarter sent me a unit to check out and review. Do I love it? Read on and find out!
(Note that this entire review, parts of a few other upcoming reviews, and recently published articles of mine were all typed only using the Flyshark keyboard)
Design & Durability
In person, the Flyshark wireless keyboard looks exactly like it does in the photos. That’s always a positive point when it comes to crowdfunded projects. The primary standout feature of the Flyshark is the compact and slim size. Compared to most all other folding keyboards out on the market, this one is thinner and definitely more pocket-friendly. When folded up, it’s not quite ⅝ of an inch thick.
The Flyshark is able to achieve such dimensions by removing a row of keys and doubling-up on functions. While most folding keyboards feature five or six rows, Flyshark has only four. The blue and green function buttons provide entry for numbers, common characters, media controls, and a few special ones. Sacrifices have been made in order to create such a small keyboard, so you’ll notice the lack of some keys: bracket/braces, escape, backspace, page up/down, and home/end.
When it comes to the main alphabet, these island-styled keys are practically keyboard-sized and spaced to prevent any sense of cramping. In fact, the touch and response of the keys feel nearly identical to that of my Samsung laptop. However, the non-core keys are slightly smaller or modified in order to fit. The bottom row of keys are a little more rectangular than they are of uniform shape. Even so, it’s not enough to disrupt the flow of fluid typing.
The compact profile of the Flyshark wireless keyboard also comes from having only a minimal border all around the keys. I’ve seen so many other folding keyboards with extra edge space that only adds to the overall size and weight. If you appreciate functional minimalism, you might be nodding in agreement right about now. Nod with me (yay). As such, the Flyshark ends up being quite pocketable, coming in a teensy bit thicker and half an inch shorter than my Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
What really wins me over with this keyboard is the lack of extra space between the keys along the fold. This is a very rare design aspect when it comes to folding keyboards. Most have additional separation that makes it almost feel like a split keyboard. I hate that compromise and avoid it whenever possible. It’s a personal preference (pet peeve) thing.
The locking mechanism is very nice and works as intended. All of the keys on the Flyshark keyboard compress when folded up, and their collective springiness gently pop the halves apart when the latch is undone. For those concerned about the durability of the hook, just put finger and thumb on the top and bottom to open it less forcefully. But I’m not that concerned, since this keyboard is built well. I popped off a key with a pair of pliers, just to see what kind of force it would take. These keys are not going to fall off unless you’re actively trying to make them do so. The key I removed popped right back into place with a click.
I love the aluminum exterior. It’s very light, solid, and holds up better than plastic. Not only that, the aluminum gives it that touch of class, making the Flyshark keyboard look more expensive than it is. You could get some engraving done or just stick on some decals for fun and personalization. Just remember that while aluminum is tough, it’s not immune to scratches or dents. It can handle drops and thrashing around in bags, but won’t look a fresh and new. Either way, it’s better than plastic.
Plastic feet help to keep the aluminum from making direct contact with surfaces. While the semi-malleable plastic isn’t the kind that provides big grip or traction, it does help prevent the Flyshark from slipping around too much. Compared to my Logitech K810 Bluetooth keyboard, it moves only a little bit more. But the Logitech also has softer, grippier feet, too.
While keystrokes on the Flyshark are silent, the keyboard itself tends to get a little noisy. There is no means to lock the keyboard open and totally flat. By the same token, attempting to use the Flyshark on a lap would be rather difficult (but then not so different than many folding keyboards out there either). Even though the difference may only be a millimeter or two, the unevenness is enough to create additional noise.
Is it a big deal? Not really. I’m just picky. So my (easy easy) solution has been to fold a small microfiber cloth twice and tuck it under the right side. It acts as balance aid, surface grip, and a silencer. It’s also quite handy to have, when I want to wipe dirt or smudges off the keys, my smartphone, glasses, etc. Since the cloth is so thin, I can keep it between the keyboard halves when I fold it up.
The Flyshark’s keys have ideal elevation and springiness to them. You don’t have to worry about always hitting dead center on a key, since pressing any part will register a stroke. So far, I haven’t encountered any missed keys from typing fast (100+ WPM). I also haven’t had a single problem with receiving duplicate/multiple characters with one keystroke. All button presses have been clean, quiet, and, most importantly, accurate.
While I can mostly type without looking, there has been a bit of an adjustment period with part of the Flyshark keyboard. I have to look at the number pad sometimes, and the special characters (in green) almost always. I don’t really mind, since it only takes a second, and I feel it’s a good trade for an overall smaller keyboard. Using the arrow keys has also taken a bit of adjusting, but it’s not so bad. Even with these minor differences, I felt right at home within the first hour of using the Flyshark.
When it comes to using the Flyshark with Android (4.4.2 on Samsung Galaxy Note 2), I really miss having an escape key. This is due to the way my smartphone’s on-screen keyboard pops up when I’m highlighting or selecting text. It’s not a fault of the keyboard as much as it is an annoying fact of Android OS. Either way, I have to reach up and touch my Note 2 each time I need to get rid of the on-screen keyboard.
The Delete button on the Flyshark keyboard actually functions as Backspace. However, holding Shift-Delete performs delete, which is something I’ve discovered with Android and other keyboards (can’t remember which). This has never really thrown me off.
There is this one quirk (bug?) where you can’t select text backwards, word-by-word. Holding Shift to select text while pressing any direction key works fine. Holding Control with either the Left or Right arrow keys (it doesn’t go with the Up and Down) to move the cursor word-by-word works just fine. Control and Shift work together perfectly when used with the Right arrow key. They just won’t go left, and repeat attempts ended up lagging my smartphone for about 15 seconds (I LOL’d).
Of the blue-related functions, there are only a few that work with Android. It appears that language switch (Function-T), select all (Function-A), camera shutter (Function-D), screenshot (Function-F), on-screen keyboard (Function-Z), cut (Function-X), copy (Function-C), and paste (Function-V) are meant to be compatible with iOS. The good news is that using Control with A, X, C, and V perform as you’d expect them to (select all, cut, copy, paste, respectively), which is normal-use for me anyway.
With the Flyshark keyboard paired with Android, Function-S does pop up a text search box. Instead of taking a screenshot, Function-F locks the screen just as Function-Delete does. Function-V types out v, Function-X replaces text with an x, and Function-C opens up the Android contact list. Everything else works as intended: homescreen (Function-Q), media controls, number pad, and volume. Unfortunately, you can’t cycle through apps with Alt-Tab, since I think the Function key throws off that combo. No biggie. When it comes to the green Functions, they all work totally fine.
With Windows 8.1, the Flyshark keyboard performs as when paired with an Android device, more or less. However, many PC shortcuts and features (e.g. Alt-F4) are inaccessible due to the lack of dedicated function keys. Comes with the territory, I suppose. But just as with Android, the blue Functions that work best are number pad, volume, media control, and text search. Also, unfortunately, there is still no Alt-Tab to cycle through open windows.
I’ve also found a few (Windows 8.1) quirks while messing around due to curiosity. The blue Function button with C pulls up the right-side Windows panel. The green Function key on the Flyshark keyboard acts like a shift key when pressing such keys as: a, backslash, forward slash, underscore, equals, and apostrophe.
If you want to get weird, green Function with s makes F, and green Function with colon makes end parenthesis. But, again, none of these were found through normal typing, so they haven’t interfered with my regular typing.
Unfortunately, for iOS users, I have not had the opportunity to test the Flyshark with iPhones or iPads.
Bluetooth & Battery
For being a device meant to pair closely with mobile devices, the Flyshark keyboard has quite the strong Bluetooth wireless range. I’ve been able to move it 25 feet away and still maintain a solid connection. That’s more than enough room for me, for sure. The Bluetooth is quick to connect right after it has been switched on.
So if your fingers are brimming with words ready to escape, you have only about one second of waiting. The keyboard automatically reconnects quickly if it’s been out of range or idle for a bit. The 1- to 2-second delay will clip the first couple keystrokes for the restless impatient.
The Flyshark keyboard only remembers one partner at a time, so those wanting to switch between devices will have to perform the pairing process. It doesn’t take long to connect, enter the prompted keys, and start typing. No big deal. Since it is a Bluetooth product, the Flyshark keyboard will experience those occasional reconnects. I’ve only had a few, and it interrupted my typing for a split-second. It doesn’t feel out of the ordinary, and I’m thankful it’s not like some keyboards that make a terrible, inconvenient habit of it.
I’ve only charged the Flyshark every few days throughout constant use. Not necessarily because it needed it, as much as I just wanted to “top it off”. The internal battery is of a decent capacity (considering the keyboard size) and doesn’t take that long to charge back up. The LED automatically shuts off once the battery is full. When I leave the house, I carry at least one external battery with me to charge as-needed, so something small like the Flyshark doesn’t worry me in terms of power.
I have been waiting for a keyboard like this. I prefer to travel light and unencumbered, while having quality tools at my disposal. When I write at home, a full-sized keyboard is good. However, if I want to work while enjoying coffee at a local shop, I don’t necessarily need big and comprehensive. I want small and functional – the right size to fit in my pack.
The Flyshark wireless keyboard is more portable than more other comparable folding keyboards out there. The design is made possible by the smart utilization of a secondary function key for commonly-used characters. Some people will miss certain keys, of course, but most can be found from the smartphone or tablet’s own keyboard. Although the Flyshark can work with PCs and laptops in a pinch, the true strength lies with mobile devices.
If I wasn’t already sold on the compact size and functionality, the Flyshark clinches it with an aluminum exterior and uniform key spacing. Aluminum not only stands apart from the crowd, it just looks and feels better overall. Having a large gap between keys along a keyboard’s fold is a deal-breaker for me. Although you’ll find hundreds of “folding Bluetooth keyboards” on Amazon, there are only a few that do not have a huge gap between keys at the folding divide. Of these that most closely compare to the Flyshark, they are either too thick and bulky, or too long and needs batteries. Neither of them have aluminum.
The Flyshark keyboard is not without its compromises, but it performs where it counts. The size and shape of main alphabet keys are ideal, and the tactile operation is top-notch. While it would have been nice to be able to lock the keyboard open, I feel I’ve managed pretty well. But the bottom line is that the Flyshark is fantastic, capable, and delivers everything I truly need from a mobile keyboard.