Belkin is one of the top makers of accessories for a wide range of tablets and phones, and naturally it hasn’t overlooked the iPad Air. The QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case has been designed to add a physical keyboard to Apple’s flagship tablet without also adding unnecessary bulk.
Build and Design
This accessory is a slim keyboard with a built-in dock, with no extraneous features. It fits over the screen of the iPad Air when not in use.
One of the highlights of the QODE is its uni-body aluminum design, so it’s a bit tougher and more rigid that just about all of its rivals, as they are mostly made of plastic. Not that Belkin’s offering is 100% metal: the keyboard is plastic, and so is a largish piece on the back that covers the battery.
But what really sets this keyboard case apart from its rivals is one of those inventions that’s so simple and yet so brilliant that one can’t help but wonder why it took this long for someone to come up with: the on/off button for the keyboard is located in this accessory’s cradle, and it’s activated by weight. When the iPad Air is placed in the cradle, the keyboard immediately turns on, and when it’s removed the keyboard turns off. This means the keyboard is always on when it’s needed and it’s never on when it’s not.
At 0.4 inches thick and 12.8 ounces (0.8 lbs.), the QODE is relatively thin and light, but there are moderately thinner and lighter options for the iPad Air available, like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard.
Although the corners are rounded to match the iPad, for the most part the design of this keyboard case emphasizes angles rather than smooth curves. The back is especially angular. As a result, the appearance of this keyboard does not match that of Apple’s tablet.
This keyboard cover offers barely acceptable “lapablility”. With the iPad in the dock and the two sitting in the lap they are slightly back-heavy, so they have a tendency to rock forward and backward when the user is typing.
Because it’s designed to fit over the front of the iPad Air, the QODE Thin Type has to be 9.5 inches wide, so there’s no room for a full desktop keyboard. Instead, this accessory has one that’s similar to the keyboards found on netbooks or other small laptops. This is easily large enough to touch type on, with decent key separation, though. There isn’t much room for key travel, but that’s typical of keyboards designed for tablets.
That said, this accessory does not have a fully standard layout of keys. Most keys are located in their normal locations, but some punctuation has been moved. For example, the colon/semicolon button isn’t next to the “L” key but is rather next to the spacebar. Getting a question make requires shift up on the period, rather than the typical shifting up on forward slash. This means there’s a learning curve when typing with the QODE Thin Type until the new locations are learned and become habitual.
Belkin included a row of function keys that help save the user time. These can control audio volume, start or pause music playing in the background, take a screenshot, and replace the Home button.
The dock is designed to hold the iPad Air up at a roughly 35 degree angle, which is approximately where most people would want it. It’s not possible to change the angle at which the tablet’s screen is held up.
Gravity holds the computer in its slot quite well under normal conditions. There are no magnets to make the connection more secure, however.
When the QODE Thin Type and tablet are not in use, this accessory acts as a screen protector. One edge of the iPad Air fits into a hinge along a corresponding edge of the case, and the two are held together with magnets. It’s up to the user to hold the resulting clamshell closed, however.
While this design will help prevent the tablet’s screen from being scratched while it is being carried around, it can’t do much to prevent any other kind of damage. This is a keyboard, not really a case.
Apple built support for external keyboards like the QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case into iOS, so there is no software to instal to use them. This means there are no software crashes or similar problems to deal with.
This accessory communicates with the tablet over Bluetooth, so there are no wires. The two devices must be paired so they’ll talk to each other, but this is a process that takes less than a minute.
Belkin says this keyboard cover is good for 97 hours of use on a single charge, which is certainly months of use. Testing by TPCR can confirm that it’s certainly good for at least several weeks of heavy use, with the battery still going strong.
The QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case for the iPad Air offers a good combination of portability and typability. Belkin intends this accessory for those who want to be able to easily separate their iPad and its external keyboard when it comes time to read an ebook, watch a movie, or play a game. Those looking for something to make their tablet into an iOS-powered, ultralight laptop should look elsewhere.
While this is not the best looking, slimmest, or lightest external keyboard available for this tablet, it’s sturdier than most of its rivals, and its innovative system for automatically turning itself on and off system is a real plus.
At $99.99 on the Belkin website, this accessory is comparably priced with other similar products.