The Apple iPad’s onscreen keyboard is usable for moderate typing, but if you’re planning on writing the next great American novel, you’re going to want an external one. That’s where the Apple Keyboard Dock might come in handy.
It is basically a standard iPad Dock and an Apple keyboard merged together that does the job of both; it holds the tablet at the proper angle for use and you enter text.
Its major drawback is a complete lack of support for landscape mode, making it a poor option for holding your device while watching movies.
The keyboard is powered by the iPad, not batteries; you can plug in a power cable to charge the tablet while you’re using it.
The dock also has a 3.5 mm headset jack, so you can connect speakers. You can also control music you’re playing in the background through a set of media keys.
In use, the iPad Keyboard Dock is simple and straightforward – you put the tablet in the dock and start typing.
Unsurprisingly, the experience is remarkably similar to using any recent Apple keyboard. The keys are the same size as those on a USB keyboard, and appear to have the same travel capacity. If you like Apple desktop keyboards, you’ll probably like this one.
For many people, a mouse automatically goes with a keyboard, but not in this case. You’re still going to need to touch the iPad’s screen to perform many actions.
This is partially ameliorated by directional keys, which are useful for word processing. They make it easy to select words, lines or paragraphs, and cut and paste without taking your hands off the keyboard.
There’s also a search key, and one that launches a slideshow of images stored on your tablet. There’s even a key to bring up the onscreen keyboard, though I can’t see a reason for it. I suspect Apple was just running out of ideas, because one of the keys is blank and appears to do nothing.
Given the iPad Keyboard Dock’s design, which is sort of a fat T shape, it’s probably not the best option for easy travel – it’s too heavy and awkward. But it works well sitting on a desk when you want to turn your tablet into a laptop.
On the other hand, many people are still going to need a dock that can hold their iPad in landscape mode for watching movies. And if you want a keyboard for taking to class or the coffeeshop every day, you’re better off with a Bluetooth one.