The Belkin Ultimate iPad Keyboard Case
Landing on our igeek desks this week is the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad. Having been selected as the lucky recipient (actually, I snatched it before anyone noticed) I thought I would give it the once over.
It's a case/keyboard combination for the 10" iPad that feels light enough not to have a deleterious effect on lugging the whole package around.
Now, I've never been too convinced of the need for a real keyboard for a tablet - tapping the screen seems to do the job, and indeed, the iPad was designed to be used without resorting to external peripherals. It's not, after all, some ghastly device like a Surface is it?
The Belkin takes its cue from the aluminium look of the PowerBook/MacBook Air, finished in snazzy silver plastic - there's a model finished in black in the pipeline, too. At this price (£99) you can't expect real metal, I suppose, yet I was perfectly satisfied with the build quality and feel. The structure is rigid and seems firm to the touch; the iPad snaps in nicely and the whole device gives the impression of a metal encased, slim, hardback book.
Opening out by means of a leather effect section reveals the keyboard and allows the iPad to snap magnetically into one of three positions that allow a choice of screen angle. It's a neat solution that allows you to pick a configuration depending on whether you're sat at a desk, lying in bed, on a train or whatever.
The keyboard isn't full size, obviously, but I managed substantial typing on it with no cramping or discomfort, which can't be said for many of the netbook keyboards I've tried. In fact, the whole experience is like one of using a superior netbook, one with a touch screen and the iOS experience.
Rather than just be a substitute for the onscreen keyboard, the Belkin adds serious functionality to the iPad experience. There are cursor keys, ALT and CMD modifiers (I tend to use CMD + arrow all the time on my laptop) a Home key and a FN key that gives you several useful shortcuts: search, show onscreen keyboard, cut/paste/copy, audio controls and bluetooth pairing. O, and there's the dictation key to tap to start the speech-to-text feature built into later iPad iterations.
Key action is good and deliberate and reminds me of the better netbooks' efforts. It's white, which may become a problem over time for the grubby fingered, but with nice gaps between each key nodding in the direction of the PowerBook's keyboard aesthetic.
There are the necessary gaps in the Belkin to allow access to buttons and cameras, plus a mini USB to charge the beastie. Belkin reckon 6 months battery time, based on 2 hours use per day. It turns itself on and off when you open and close it, so you can effectively leave it to its own devices.
So, in short, am I a convert to the physical keyboard for an iPad? In this guise, I would have to say yes. As long as I can keep the thing clean (neat freak, me)!
Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad: 8/10
Pros: Easier to use, good battery life, bonus keyboard features.
Cons: Made of plastic, keyboard may be too cramped for the ham-handed.