Tablet Accessories

This topic is NOT about companion devices/phones, but about accessories you strongly recommend for your specific tablet or tablets in general. I want to start off with my favorite (small format) keyboard for ANY tablet:

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This is the small format Lenovo ThinkPad Bluetooth keyboard. Years ago I bought a used one off FleaBay and I chose it for its size and Bluetooth capability (because I needed space for my various tablets alongside the keyboard in my small keyboard tray). The typing experience is outstanding (to me at least) and it has become my favorite keyboard - PERIOD. My only complaint is that PgUp/PgDn are in the small directional pad separated from Home/End, and no CapsLock of Fn indicator lights on the earlier model of the KT-1255 I bought. The one above, currently for sale at Lenovo, does have the indicator lights.

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I have a wired version of this keyboard that I use with the Go2 dock. It’s a great keyboard.

For a portable BT keyboard, however, the best I have ever used is the keyboard that came with the Slate 500 keyboard folio/case. I have used that with my old Asus Vivo Note 8 and currently use it with my Boox Nova 3 Color.

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My winner for most portable is still the M$ Foldable Keyboard, also no longer in their store. Windows, iOS and Android support and up to 2 pre-paired devices at almost full size. Couple of layout quirks, but no argument about space or flexibility. When folded, it is no thicker than the SDuo OG.

EDIT: Still available on Amazon - only 3 left in stock.

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I completely agree with endorsing the ThinkPad tablets mentioned above! In fact, I have the wired version at home for my desktop and docking stations for my laptop, and the Bluetooth one at the office (attaching a picture of my work setup).

For a tablet, however, these feel already a bit too big for portability for me. For mobile use, I like the foldable keyboard models (haven’t tried the MS one), but I really love the keyboard for the Thinkpad Tablet 2!

It’s smaller than the ThinkPad keyboards mentioned above, has an integrated stand and the typing experience is almost like with a regular ThinkPad keyboard. If only they had a real Trackpoint instead of the optical replacement. It is a tad heavy - I actually removed the metal plate inside the one I sometimes use for travel, getting the weight down to around 300g (downside: I was held up at airport security once because they seemed scared by the way the battery pack inside showed up on their scanner?? Maybe that’s normally shielded by the plate? But maybe they would have stopped me anyway who knows)
Unfortunately, I’m afraid they don’t produce this keyboard anymore.

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I have been a Thinkpad user for decades. Over the years, I have watched the development of Lenovo’s 10" Thinkpad tablet with hope and frustration. That keyboard was a lot of the reason. I was looking for a highly portable 10" tablet that could double as a laptop on the weekends for work. The 10" Lenovo keyboard is ideal for that purpose. Unfortunately, the Tablet 2 was grossly underpowered. Don’t quote me on this, but I think it was limited to 2GB Ram as well. The Surface 3, released just after the TP2, had a x7-Z8700 Atom, 4GB RAM and 128 GB SSD storage (not emmc like I think the TP2 was). The keyboard/cover was not as good as the TP2 but sufficed.

Does the keyboard stand work with any 10" tablet (does it just rest in there?) or is there a connection unique to the Thinkpad?

… nice work setup.

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I LOVED my ThinkPad x61s (again a two year old pickup in 2009, with the docking station. That keyboard was to die for in a laptop. If you’ve never used a ThinkPad keyboard it’s almost impossible to explain - as crisp as a mechanical clacky keyboard but quieter and with a little more give - you can type on one all day without any hand/wrist strain. I know I’m prejudiced, but nothing else like it.

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Next up, my docking solution that was highly recommended by @Desertlap the OWC Thunderbolt 4 Dock.

This is obviously for those with tablets or laptops supporting Thunderbolt (v. 3 or 4), and a bit pricey ($279), but worth every penny. It has worked flawlessly with the SP8 (TB4), HP x360-14 (TB4), HP x360-13 (TB3), LG Gram 17 (TB4), M1 iPad Pro 11 (TB4), M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14 (TB4), and even the non-thunderbolt GB12 (USB-C 3.0).

It’s the first (only) dock that I’ve used that didn’t make my computer heat up and fans run constantly; dock and undock without having to reset everything; or just plain crash.

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I like what Thunderbolt can give us, but the pricing seems just way off. I wonder what the bill of materials is for these, $20? I honestly don’t know, it could be $50, but I’m pretty sure these things have an insane markup.

Personally I find that USB-C docks give me all I need (I don’t push many super high resolution screens, just the internal and one external) for say $30. I did recently splurge for an Anker USB-C dock that added 3.5mm audio jack and an ethernet port, $65 at the time (now back up to $99). Truly single-cable for everything I need, including up to 85W charging.

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@JoeS that anker is a solid unit if you can forego true TB support. About the only thing I’d ding it for slightly, is you do have a bit of a throughput hit. Not huge (about 15%) and likely wouldn’t even be noticeable in the vast majority of use.

As to the OWC TB dock, it and a Dell Dock designed specifically for Dells highest end precision laptops are the only ones we’ve tested to date that have hit 100% spec compliance and the Dell costs almost three times as much

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Yeah I’m pretty happy with it. I have two Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 docks bought used ($99) but tbh the only thing they noticeably add compared to this little UCB-C dock is a more stable box (because it’s big) and more hassle connecting. The Lenovo dock often doesn’t get detected, requiring some combination of unplug replug, holding down the power button on the dock for like 15 seconds and then connecting, rebooting the laptop etc etc. Super convenient. :yum: In the end I always manage to connect, but it’s more “plug and pray”.

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@JoeS it’s funny you should mention the Lenovo docks. Just as you responded, I was about to add that they are the one brand I’d consistently avoid.

HP used to be as bad, but the last couple that they have released for their elite books have actually been decent with the caveat that video support is a bit hit and miss

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I think this should be the tag line for ALL Thunderbolt 3 docks - never had one that didn’t make me hold my breath every time I docked/undocked.

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Exactly, this is the main thing that has me back on USB-C docks, the software/firmware side just seems more reliable typically, so as long as I don’t need the amazing TB4 throughput, USB-C all the way!

Can’t have an eGPU over USB-C though, I’m actually pretty happy with my Sonnet 350W eGPU box ($200 at the time) and GTX1070 ($380 at the time, now listed for $900 :open_mouth: ). For some odd reason that one just works. Unfortunately it just has the card and the display outputs, so it doesn’t work like a hub. Makes sense I guess (you want all throughput for graphics) but it’s still a pain that you have to have a hub AND this thing connected in daily use.

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Is this a true shortage, or the conversion to crypto mining?

GPU’s are in short supply, partly I guess because of crypto, and partly supply chain issues. It’s so bad that we get Ars Technica articles like this one:

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@JoeS

I think I mentioned that our engineers have created some custom TB boxes for use with our own devices and one of them uses the guts of the Sonnet and a separate daughter board that provides the other more dock oriented functions such as ethernet and USB.

Definitely a Frankenstein style device, but gets the job done of the customer (and our substitutes the 350 watt PS for a 600 watt unit)

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@Desertlap that sounds like heaven! Where do I buy one?? :sweat_smile:

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We actually offered our design to Sonnet free of charge as a way of saying thanks. Their response was “appreciated, but I dont think my wife would allow it in the house, so probably our customers wouldn’t either”

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PS: Sonnet is another of the very few companies that have actual engineers at the uppermost levels of management and are a pleasure to work with

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USB 3.whatever-it-is-now*

USB-C is just the physical connector mating shells. Thunderbolt has always used USB-C (expect for when it was called LightSpeed and used USB-A in the only implementation that I know of).

  • signed: A. A. Pedant.
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