Review: iClever Tri-Fold Wireless Keyboard with Backlight


The search for a great Bluetooth keyboard - for on the go 'real' typing - has been going on for years. Full size and reduced size keys, one-piece and folding, gapped and continuous key layouts, membrane and full travel keys, I've tried the lot. Have I found my perfect accessory this time? Not quite. But it's still the best darned pocketable Bluetooth keyboard on sale in 2018, I think.

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As you might imagine, making a full-size, full-travel keyboard that also fits in a pocket isn't an easy job. You're at the mercy of hinges and stability and robustness. And the sheer 'fiddliness' of it all is why most people don't bother with Bluetooth keyboard anymore - they either live with an on-screen phone keyboard or use a laptop!

But, as a writer and true road warrior, I want something in my jacket pocket that can be whipped out and pressed into service with whatever smartphone I'm using that day - to type fast and get things done, with the full phone screen always available and not cluttered by on-screen virtual keys. If this is also you then read on!

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

Arriving in a velvet bag, this is all metal and impressive. Magnets hold the folding sections closed, though when you pick the assembly up you notice lots of minor rattles - the keys, of course. Mechanical, full travel keys, so these were never going to be silent! (In contrast, the Microsoft UFK was silent and sleek, but had the minor compromise of lower key travel and the major compromise of that huge gap between the halves.)

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

All metal, the iClever Tri-fold design looks like it means business, and it does. There's zero Hipster chic here - once you open it out you're in 'geek/nerd' territory but you won't care, as you'll be looking at a full size keyboard that just appeared from your pocket.

The tri-fold design is neat, with metal arms that manage the opening process, while doubling as 'feet' - see the photo below. It's one of those hinge mechanisms that you'll play with for a while before getting down to any typing.

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

Most impressively of all, the fold system means that there's almost no clue as to the folding nature once unfolded - it looks and feels utterly one-piece. It's just a lovely keyboard.

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

The hinge ends, with the double feet, take most of the weight and provide most of the stability, but there are also fold-down 'legs' on the keyboard edges, as shown below - these are akin to the wing tip 'legs' on the old Harrier jump jets, if anyone remembers those?(!)

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

With these folded down, the keyboard is very secure and in fact I wrote all the text for this review on it. Piece of cake.

All Bluetooth keyboards need charging, of course. iClever quotes 300 hours of typing per charge for standard use, which is superb. Charging is via microUSB, with the port on the top and the battery thin and flat behind the main section of the accessory:

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

Ah yes. You know that 300 hour typing time I quoted? That can be brought down to 5 hours if you activate one of the Unique Selling Points here - the backlight! This uses dramatically more power, for obvious reasons, but when you're trying to work in the dark - for example on a lap tray in a coach at night - then the backlight proves its worth.

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

It has to be said that the backlight isn't very 'even'. Some parts are clearly brighter than others and you can see the LEDs that make the magic happen in several places. But you do get a choice of red, green or blue (you can cycle with a hotkey, Fn+Alt+[up]) and you do get a choice of two brightness levels:

iClever Tri-fold keyboard

Most of the time you'll work without the backlight, of course, to save power! You'll have spotted the full row of function keys along the top. These work (with the Fn modifier) to do cut and paste operations, plus media and volume control, and this all worked as expected with my test phones, including the Windows-powered Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro and the Android-powered Galaxy S9+. Three Fn modifiers are marked (on 'A', 'S' and 'D') to switch the keyboard between 'Android', 'Windows' and 'iOS' respectively. 

Using the keyboard in Windows mode, most things worked as expected, plus 'Win'+'E' for File Explorer and 'Win'+'A' for Action Centre, i.e. notifications. There are others that I won't bore you with here. Oddly, the two prominent shortcuts at the top left, 'Fn'+'F1' and 'F2', for search and web browsing, didn't work at all, though I later found that 'Win'+'S' brings up Cortana. Oh well, getting all of these right would have been the icing on the cake anyway.

Typing on this is just as satisfying on my main Desktop's keyboard, which is the important thing. You can - just about - use this on a lap, thanks to the rigid centre section, but you'll struggle a little with 'Enter', 'Shift', and so on, which will be moveable feasts. Far better to have the iClever Tri-fold sat firmly on a desk or tray, where it absolutely shines. (Literally, if you turn the backlight on!)

One regional thing is that if you want to get the " and @ characters just right 'by feel' then note that this is a resolutely US key layout and so you need to set your keyboard to 'English (USA)' in the phone's Settings/Language/Keyboard. Which then may have other repercussions, depending on how you use your virtual keyboard(s). And, as usual, non-English speakers will have to adjust further. Oh well, you can't please all the people all the time, I guess, and this isn't enough of a mass market product to allow for regional variants.

Of special note is the 'User Manual' that comes with the keyboard. Though only 7 pages long, it's in immaculate English and illustrated, with tips and advice on connecting up to various devices. It's a far cry from the terrible English and cheap productions that we often see from Chinese gadgets. One interesting tid-bit I gleaned from it is that this keyboard can be used 'wired' as well as via Bluetooth. I'm not quite sure when you'd ever need to, so I didn't try it, but in principle you can hook it up to a USB-A port on a tablet like a Surface Pro. Room for experimentation, there.

At £37, the iClever Tri-folding Wireless Keyboard isn't cheap, but then you're getting quite a lot for your money and it's still cheaper than the official Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard, even at the latter's cheaper £40 price point (and the Microsoft accessory has that annoying gap down the middle, which still catches me out, time after time).

In short, if you want a great Bluetooth folding keyboard experience in terms of sheer typing 'feel', then this is possibly the best you'll find. It's now part of my mobile pocket 'kit'.

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