Looking for a well-built external keyboards to attach to your MacBook Pro, or just about any device? Jack Wallen reviews the Kolude KeyHub and concludes that it might be the one.
I love a good keyboard--almost too much. I liken my connection to a good keyboard to the relationship a professional athlete has to their favorite game-day shoes. When you pound keys day in and day out to produce over a million words a year, the keyboard used is of great significance. The right keyboard makes the job easy, while the wrong keyboard can put a major dent in your productivity.
When I find a keyboard that helps make my job easier, it's as though everything in the universe comes together in that moment and all is well. For that moment. Because there are always other moments, waiting in the background, ready to wreck that bliss.
When a new-to-me company reached out to ask if I'd be interested in kicking the tires of their all-in-in keyboard "hub," I accepted with trepidation. Why? Because most of these mobile types of keyboards tend to be on the less-than-effective side of productivity. They're either poorly designed, too cheap to last, or function on a level that's better suited to those who just want a keyboard to convert their tablets into pseudo laptops.
The box arrived and I immediately opened it like a kid at Christmas, because tech excites me. The second I pulled the KeyHub out of the box, all of those preconceived ideas flushed from my system. This keyboard was solid--crafted out of aluminum (top and bottom), this baby was built to last.
But the KeyHub has one seriously handy trick up its sleeve, beyond its solid build.
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Unboxed, plugged in, and ready to go
I decided I didn't want to connect this laptop to a phone or a tablet. Instead, I wanted to give it the full treatment and plug it into a desktop. Thing is, nothing is going to pull me from my Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHK) on my primary desktop.
It just so happens that I have a Beaglebone board and a case prepped for review as well. I put that together, plugged the keyboard in, and installed Ubuntu Desktop 20.04.
I had everything ready to go and began the testing. In fact, I'm typing on it right now and it is smooth as silk. Kolude has put together a keyboard that is an absolute dream for typists, from the key layout (which, I must confess, is decidedly Mac-centric) to the key travel and sound.
So good is the KeyHub, I'd say it's one of the most pleasing keyboards I've ever typed on. In fact, if the company made this in a split design, it could easily take the place of my Happy Hacking Keyboard. The keys are laid out in such a way that I don't feel the usual fatigue found with so many mobile keyboards, be they laptops or those used with tablets and phones. That does, of course, mean the keyboard keys are spaced out a bit more than I'm accustomed to. Because of that, your fingers will take a beat to acclimate to the layout--unless you've been using a laptop larger than 13".
Even the sound of this keyboard is pleasing. I've grown so used to the clickity-clack of the HHK, that all other keyboards are discerningly quiet. The KeyHub lives in that perfect space between too noisy and too quality, yet doesn't have the same plastic-y sound associated with many laptops I've experienced. It resides in that Three Bears-ian "just right" territory.
This keyboard should come with a trigger warning. The keys use a scissor for actuation. If, like me, you purchased a 2016 MacBook Pro with those dreaded scissor keys, you instinctually cringe at the utterance of the phrase "scissor key." However, these keys feel completely different than those that plagued Apple hardware. I've watched dust and other tiny debris settling on or near the keys, without the KeyHub crumbling in defeat. With my MacBook, I have to use every possible caution to keep those pesky particles from rendering the keys stuck or rrrrrrrrrrepeating over annnnnnnnd over.
The "hub" part of KeyHub
Okay, this is about mobile options, right? What is it about the KeyHub that makes it stand out, besides the build quality and key layout?
On the front-facing edge (that which would face your monitor) of the device is a row of ports (Figure A).
The KeyHub includes the following ports:
3 x USB 3.0
Plug the keyboard in your device (for me it was USB-C to the Beaglebone) and you can then make use of the rest of the ports for whatever you need. That new MacBook Pro you purchased, the one that has a severe lack of available ports? Dock that laptop with this keyboard--which is actually quite an improvement over the Apple keyboard--and you've significantly extended the available ports on your laptop. That's a big plus. Those additional ports don't noticeably increase the size of the keyboard--it's still fairly compact, coming in at around 16.29" long and 5.19" deep.
Other features include:
External monitor support
Multiple language layouts
No delay typing
The Kolude KeyHub is sure to please just about any type of user.
It took me quite a while to find a nit to pick about the KeyHub, and what I found isn't something that will even register with most users. Because this is a very mobile-centric keyboard, it would be nice to have the ability to attach it to multiple devices like a laptop, a phone, and/or a tablet, and switch between them. The KeyHub was not designed for that purpose. If I'm being fair, this is a non-starter of a caveat, seeing as how it's not a feature the hardware boasts of. The KeyHub is also not Bluetooth compatible. But, again, that's not an advertised feature, and I find that Bluetooth keyboards can be problematic with some operating systems.
That's how good this keyboard is--I had to "invent" problems to find something to not like.
If you're interested in the KeyHub, it'll set you back $139, but it's worth every penny. Given that it's the holiday season, this would be a great gift for anyone who would enjoy a comfortable, well-built keyboard.
You can purchase the KeyHub from the Kolude site in either Space Grey or Silver. The KeyHub will work with Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows.
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