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Hands on with the Nexus 9's $130 keyboard case

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Getting productive with Google's tablet

Google's Nexus 9 tablet is well-designed for browsing the web, watching video, reading books, and more. But if you want to get more out of your tablet, you're going to want a better way to type on it. That's why Google is offering the Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio, a $129.99 keyboard case that makes it easier to type emails, bang out tweets, or write the next great American novel on your tablet.

The Keyboard Folio pairs to the Nexus 9 with NFC and Bluetooth — you just tap the tablet to the case, accept the on-screen prompts, and you're ready to go. Google says the battery in the case will last for up to five months between charges, and it was ready to go as soon as I took it out of its box. The Nexus 9 mounts to the back of the case with magnets, which grip it firmly enough that it doesn't move around or feel like it's going to slip out of the case.

You can prop the Nexus 9 up at two angles while using the case: a more upright one for use while sitting down and a reclined mode that I found better for typing while standing. Moving between the two modes is a bit clumsy, but it's not something you'll likely be doing very often.

The keyboard itself has physical keys as opposed to the touch-sensitive pad that Microsoft has used on the Surface keyboard. The keys are responsive, but the entire layout is unsurprisingly a bit cramped. I was able to adjust to it fairly quickly, but I'm obviously much faster typing on a laptop or desktop keyboard. If you've ever used a keyboard case with an iPad, you can expect a similar experience from the Nexus 9's Keyboard Folio.

Typing on the keyboard isn't as nice as a laptop, but it's better than using the on-screen keyboard

Presumably to conserve space, Google didn't include dedicated home, back, multitasking, or media controls on the keyboard. Instead, it mapped shortcuts to the search key, which can be used in conjunction with other keys to go home, open the browser, open email, and more. You can also cycle through your recent apps with Alt-Tab, just like on Windows. There's also a dedicated emoji key next to the spacebar, which is fun, but I'd rather Google have put a home key in its place.

Overall, the Nexus 9's Keyboard Folio is well matched to the tablet in both size and design. It makes for a fairly heavy case, if you aren't going to use the keyboard very often, and you can definitely get a basic Bluetooth keyboard for less than $130. But if you want the integrated experience, the Keyboard Folio is a decent, if a bit pricey, option.