OtterBox is one of the top accessory makers for tablets and phones, specializing in cases that offer maximum protection for fragile mobile devices. But it also branches out into related products, including the OtterBox Agility Keyboard Portfolio + Shell, a keyboard case for either the iPad Air or iPad Air 2.
While this keyboard case offers more defense against accidents than some similar products, OtterBox targeted this one at executives so style played a larger part in the design than is typical.
Build and Design
As its name indicates, this is actually two products in one: the Agility Shell and the Agility Keyboard Portfolio.
The Shell is a polycarbonate case that wraps around the back and sides of the tablet and helps protect the device if it is dropped. The screen is mostly left exposed, however, but the edges of the case are raised, so if the iPad slid face-down the screen wouldn’t touch the ground.
There are openings for all the tablet’s ports, and OtterBox added additional buttons on top of the iPad’s Power and Volume Up/Down buttons so that these are both protected and usable. There are channels in the Shell so that sound from the tablet’s speakers is aimed toward the user, which makes it noticeably louder.
The price of this protection is weight: this accessory is almost as heavy as the iPad and roughly twice as thick. Doubling the weight is most noticeable when the iPad is being held for long periods, such as ebook reading or gaming.
This case looks very utilitarian and comes only in basic black. That said, it’s been designed to be used with other cases wrapped around it, and these add a more professional look.
On its back is a large open circle that exposes the Apple logo on the tablet, and is also a major component of OtterBox’s Agility System – this is how other Agility components like the Keyboard Portfolio are attached to the Shell via magnets embedded into both pieces. They can be separated with just a tug.
Agility Keyboard Portfolio
This portfolio wraps completely around the iPad and the Shell, adding an additional layer of protection, especially for the screen, which is completely covered with a rigid shield when the case is closed. The entire exterior is faux leather that has been stitched together, and the inside is faux suede, so this case has a very professional look and feel.
While this portfolio case isn’t as protective as some of OtterBox’s other offerings, it’s likely up to the job of defending the tablet inside from the worst that’s likely to happen in an office environment. The most notable exception is water – it’s up to fending off a bit of rain, but will be no help if the device is dropped into a fountain.
Again, the drawback to this protection is added bulk. The Agility Shell and Keyboard Portfolio together roughly triple the weight of the iPad, and they are 1.2 inches thick. That said, when it’s being transported, the soft exterior of the portfolio makes it more comfortable to hold than the iPad.
The tablet and Shell can be easily removed from the portfolio when the user wishes. The magnets that hold the Shell inside the portfolio are strong enough that, in our testing of this accessory, it never came out accidentally, but the two can be separated easily enough.
The portfolio has been designed to convert into a stand to hold the iPad up when the keyboard is being used. A small flap just above the keyboard flips up to keep the bottom of the tablet in place, but this means the screen can only be propped up at one angle: about 60º. This is a functional angle, but more flexibility would have been welcome.
OtterBox’s Agility system allows the tablet an be in either portrait or landscape mode when being used with other accessories in this product line, but the Keyboard Portfolio can only be used in landscape mode.
The keyboard that’s built into this portfolio has the traditional QWERTY arrangement in five rows of keys. The arrangement of letter and punctuation is the same as on any desktop keyboard.
The keyboard OtterBox chose is slightly smaller than is typical for this type of accessory. The difference is less than half an inch, but those who already find mobile keyboards cramped will find this one just slightly more so.
That said, there is enough key separation that there’s no issue with touch typing for anyone who has average-size or small hands. There’s only moderate key travel, but that’s typical on mobile keyboards.
There’s a row of reduced-size number keys above the letter keys, and these also do double duty as function keys, enabling the user to start/stop and jump forward/back in a media player running in the background, as well as control the volume, all without needing to switch apps.
Apple built support for wBluetooth keyboards like this one into iOS, so there’s no additional software needed to connect this accessory to the iPd Air or iPad Air 2, and there are never any performance problems. The keyboard functions almost the same as if it were part of a laptop.
Pairing the keyboard with a tablet is a quick and simple process.
About the only difference between this external keyboard and one built into a laptop is that it has to be turned on and off, and occasionally recharged. There’s an ON/Off switch just above the keys, and the accessory is intelligent enough to shut itself off it it’s not used for a while.
OtterBox makes no claims about how long this wireless keyboard will last before it needs a recharge. Generally speaking, Bluetooth devices of this type draw very little power and can run for months on a single charge.
Some tablet cases emphasize portability, but OtterBox goes for protection. The Agility Keyboard Portfolio + Shell isn’t the company’s most protective product, as it is designed for the executive suite rather than the job site. But it still offers better protection than most rival keyboard cases.
The integrated keyboard is quite good, even though it’s slightly smaller than is typical for tablet add-on keyboards.
The downside of all this is additional bulk, as this accessory more than triples the weight of either an iPad Air or iPad Air 2.
The Agility Keyboard Portfolio + Shell is $129.95, a typical cost for a high-end keyboard case like tis one. If you wish to buy the separately, OtterBox sells the Agility Shell for $49.95, and the Agility Keyboard Portfolio for $89.95. Be sure to buy the shell that’s designed specifically for your tablet, either an iPad Air or iPad Air 2, but the keyboard portfolio can be used with either model.