Many people use their Apple iPad as a laptop alternative. If this is you, you might be interested in a case that literally turns Apple's tablet into a laptop: the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad.
Build & Design
This accessory is a clamshell with a full keyboard on one side and a slot to hold the tablet on the other.
There are some great keyboards out there for the iPad, but many of them provide little or no protection for the tablet. The Ultimate Keyboard Case, on the other hand, wraps the device in a plastic and aluminum shell that protects it from bumps and scratches.
It's not an extremely rugged case, though. Your iPad would likely be in real trouble if you dropped it down the stairs, or dunked it in water. But it's enough for every-day protection -- I'd have no worries about putting this case in a backpack with other gear because I knew nothing would happen to the tablet inside.
Keyboard: If your iPad is a serious productivity tool, you really should get an external keyboard for it. Typing long documents is much easier.
The one that's built into the Ultimate Keyboard Case is quite good. It's just a bit smaller than a desktop keyboard, about the size of the one you'd find on a laptop. There's good key separation, and touch-typing is a breeze.
It does have one real problem -- one so obvious I'm surprised it passed testing. On all other keyboards, the Command button is just to the left of the Space Bar. Belkin for some reason, inserted a Siri button into that space. This means I call up Siri every time I want to hit Command-V to copy some text. Using this keyboard requires training yourself to find the Command button just to the left of where you expect it.
Because of it's design, there's no way to type with the iPad in portrait mode -- landscape is the only option. I don't consider this a problem, though, as I never type in portrait mode when using an external keyboard. Your milage may vary, however.
The Ultimate Keyboard Case gives you three possible angles you can set the screen up at. These are roughly 80 degrees, 60 degrees, and 50 degrees. This is one of my favorite features of the accessory, as many other external iPad keyboards give you just one option.
When you're typing, the tablet is being held up by magnets that fit into one of three slots. Set the screen in one of these slots and the keyboard automatically turns on. Remove it and the keyboard goes off. Close case and the iPad turns itself off. Open it and the iPad turns on. It's all very convenient.
Slightly less convenient is using the tablet without the keyboard. You can flip the iPad down so that it covers the keyboard and then pick up the device and accessory and carry it around and use it. But the combination is about twice as thick and heavy as the tablet alone.
But there's another option: with a bit of practice I've gotten to the point where I can pop the iPad out in 5 - 10 seconds, and at the end of the workday that's generally what I do. Using a tablet without the physical keyboard is a much better option for general web access, reading ebooks, playing games, and other personal (as opposed to business) computing.
Belkin found a nice way around one of the iPad's design problems. The Speaker is on the back, so a case that covers the back muffles it more than it's already muffled by be pointed the wrong way. Happily, this case uses what Belkin calls SoundFlow, which is a channel that brings the sound around to the front. This makes the sound louder than it would be without the case.
Although the iPad is attached to the keyboard quite firmly, the two communicate over Bluetooth. This means it's necessary to pair them together, but this is a simple process.
This accessory runs off its own internal battery. It's been going for over a week now on a single charge, and I expect it to keep going and going -- the other Bluetooth keyboards I have tested over the years have all last months on a charge.
There are advantages and drawbacks to using a protective case. No one wants their precious tablet to get scratched up or broken, but all cases add bulk. But they have an additional problem, too: most cases prevent the use of a clip-in keyboard.
The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad does double duty -- it both protects the tablet while also making it much easier to type long documents or lots of emails.
This accessory is $120, so it's $20 - $40 more than rival Bluetooth keyboards, but those don't also function as protective cases.
Those who are looking for good protection for their tablet and a way to make it more productive should consider the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad.
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