Quite a number of companies make add-on keyboards for the Apple iPad Air, and each has a unique design. Sharkk’s sets itself apart from the pack with a design that lets users easily flip between landscape and portrait orientations.
It’s also dramatically cheaper than most of its rivals.
Build & Design
This accessory combines a folio case with a physical keyboard, essentially turning Apple’s latest tablet into an Ultrabook with a clamshell design.
Opening the case is a slightly complicated process that involves sliding out a section of one side to become a brace for the iPad. Setting up without fumbling takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it because Sharkk’s design is much more flexible than many of its rivals.
There’s only one way to use most tablet keyboard cases — you open the clamshell and start typing, with the display always in landscape mode. Not so with Sharkk’s: the screen rotates 360 degrees on its brace, so that it can be in portrait or landscape modes. In addition, switching between the two is a breeze.
One of the few disadvantages of this design is, once the slider is open, this case is very long: 10.5 inches. In most situations that just makes it more stable, but the tray tables in the economy cabin of most airplanes are just 9.5 inches wide. Using this accessory is going to be problematic.
As it wraps completely around the iPad Air, Sharkk’s keyboard case protects the front and back of this tablet. There are necessary slots for the power button, headset jack, microphone, and volume buttons, plus a large opening for the speakers and Lightning port.
This accessory weighs in at just under a pound, so it basically doubles the weight of the tablet, which is par for the course with folio keyboard cases. Because of the brace that permits the screen to rotate, it’s a bit thicker than is typical, though.
Like most iPad cases, opening the clamshell turns on the screen, while closing it automatically turns it off.
The keyboard is roughly the size of the ones found in laptops. It is not as large as a desktop keyboard, but it provides a familiar typing experience.
Typing has the “ticka-ticka-ticka” sound typical of inexpensive keyboards (high-end ones are virtually silent), but this doesn’t really affect its functionality. The keys have good separation and acceptable travel.
Unlike some rival keyboard cases, Sharkk’s has a full five rows of keys, and almost every one of which is full size. This keyboard is completely suited to touchtyping.
In addition, there’s an extra row of keys for additional functions: there is a Home key, two buttons to make the backlight brighter or dimmer, one key to bring up the on-screen keyboard, plus cut, copy, and paste keys. On the same row is a set of media controls: jump backward, play/pause, jump forward, mute, and volume up and down.
Apple built support for external Bluetooth keyboards like this one into iOS, so there’s no additional software required to use Sharkk’s keyboard case. As a result, there’s no possibility of crashes or other bugs.
This accessory has its own rechargeable battery. So far this has lasted for weeks of frequent use, and is likely to go for many more, as Bluetooth devices require little power.
The main advantage of the Sharkk Apple iPad Air Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard is its ability to hold the tablet at either portrait or landscape modes, while most rival devices support only landscape.
The other feature that’s likely to draw attention is the very low cost: the list price is $70, but the product is currently listed on Amazon.com for just $37. That’s an outstanding value.