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Bend it, soak it, you just can't break it

Flexibility and strength mark out the Duraflex Keyboard, says Dr David Matthews.

Hela claims its Flexible Keyboard is virtually indestructible - a bold claim that invites one to put it to the test.

Made of completely flexible silicone moulding, the keyboards flop about like a strip of rubber.

This means that you have to use them on a firm surface but can roll or fold them to store in your laptop bag, for example.

There are two different sizes. The Mini keyboard is only 35cm wide, and lacks the numeric keypad of a full-size keyboard. The 'normal' keyboard is actually wider than a standard keyboard to house the electronics at one side.

The keyboards are supplied with a good-length cable terminated in a USB plug and are supplied with a USB-to-DIN connector.

Made of translucent white silicone rubber, you can see the flexible circuit board inside the keyboards. The keys are moulded into the rubber, so there are no parts to fall off. These keys, unsurprisingly, press with a rubbery click, which makes for a very wobbly typing action. If you hit a key on the edge I found that it sometimes became stuck. Using it is okay for a small amount of typing but rather tiring for long pieces. I found that if I typed at speed I was likely to miss letters.

Perfectly sealed

The big selling point of these keyboards, other than their portability, is the fact that they are completely sealed. This makes them resistant to dust and liquids. They can even withstand immersion in water or a shower.

And, being silicone, they should resist most chemicals and solvents.

I could not resist putting the maker's claims to the test. On went the coffee and then into the washing up water the keyboard went. It was easy to clean and dry. And it still worked perfectly. I dropped it, rolled it, folded it and even stood on it. It took the abuse in its stride. I would, however, expect a failure of the metal track on the flexible circuit board over time if it was persistently folded.

One proposed use for it is as a full-sized keyboard for people on the move with a laptop. It is easy enough to stow away, but you will need a firm base to support it. I did try it with a laptop stand, but found it too small, even for the Mini. The stand is a very handy device for those who use a laptop with a separate keyboard. It lifts the back edge of the laptop, thus lifting the screen to a more ergonomic height. The stand folds up and is easily stowed in your laptop bag.

A Duraflex keyboard would be ideal for situations where it might get wet, such as in a treatment room, and the Mini where space is limited.

Being able to disinfect and wash it enhances its suitability. I'm not sure about the typing action and feel for lengthy typing periods though.

- Dr Matthews is a GP in Thames Ditton, Surrey

THE FLEXIBLE OPTIONS

Duraflex Keyboard £28.20
Duraflex Mini-keyboard £25.85
Lapup 700 Portable stand £34.08
Available from www.hela.co.uk

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