Turn your iPad into a typewriter
TREVOR TAN rounds up some keyboard covers and cases which not only protect, but will increase the number of ways you can use your device
Published on Apr 15, 2014 6:10 AM
Zagg ZaggKeys Folio for iPad Air
This cover is the priciest of the lot reviewed here, but it ticks every box on the list of what you would want from an iPad Air keyboard case.
This folio case has a Bluetooth keyboard cover and a plastic back case, which protects both the front and back of your iPad Air. Its smooth exterior is made of faux leather but allows for a good grip.
When the cover is closed, the device is only 17.7mm thick. The connecting hinge allows you to adjust the viewing angle incrementally all the way to 135 degrees.
The full-sized keyboard means you do not need to relearn any new key positions. I hardly made a typo when using it.
The keyboard has an additional top row of Function keys - a dedicated Home button, Lock Button, Siri and volume controls. Usually, such functions require you to hold down a Function key and one other key.
Furthermore, the keyboard is backlit, which makes it great to use when you are on a long-haul flight and the plane cabin is in sleep mode. There is a dedicated button to activate the backlight and you can even change the light's colour.
The cover's major downside is that it is rather heavy at 535g. Add the iPad Air and the whole combo tips it over the 1kg mark.
Also, this keyboard works with the tablet only in landscape orientation.
Despite these slight drawbacks, this is the best iPad Air keyboard case on the market.
Moshi VersaKeyboard for iPad Air
A major downside of owning an iPad keyboard case is that you may lose a foldable cover. But the Moshi VersaKeyboard offers a great solution.
It has an origami-inspired foldable front cover which supports the iPad Air's auto-wake and sleep functions. On its plastic back is a slot for you to store the detachable Bluetooth keyboard. So you get the best of both words.
Insert your iPad Air into the back case, and you can fold the front cover back to read an e-Book. You can also place your tablet in either portrait or landscape orientation using the foldable cover.
When you need to do some word processing, just slide out the keyboard and type away.
The detachable keyboard is slightly smaller than most iPad Air keyboards. However, the keys are well laid out. Additional iOS controls, such as volume and cut and paste, are combined with the number keys and activated using the Function button.
Overall, I made few errors typing on the keyboard. But its tactile response is lacking and the experience feels rather flat.
The VersaKeyboard adds 380g of carrying weight and doubles the thickness of your iPad Air. But the overall weight is still under 860g, which you can easily lug around.
If you do not mind the lack of a tactile response and having to slide out a keyboard, this is close to an ideal case for the iPad Air.
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air
This Bluetooth keyboard cover attaches to your tablet using a magnetic clip like Apple's Smart Cover.
It automatically wakes up your iPad Air when you open it and puts it to sleep when you close it.
However, it does not provide any protection for your tablet's back.
Weighing only 330g and measuring just 7.3mm thick, it is about 140g lighter and 0.2mm thinner than the iPad Air.
Its aluminium cover (space grey or silver) complements the look of the tablet.
On the inside of the cover, there is a full-sized keyboard with a magnetic groove behind it. The iPad Air can be secured in the groove only in landscape orientation. It is possible to use the keyboard with the tablet in a portrait position, but it will be rather wobbly.
The 60-degree viewing angle is not adjustable, but I found it ideal for typing with the keyboard. The keys are placed close together so your fingers do less travelling. They are responsive and have a nice tactile feel.
The experience of using this was almost as good as using a conventional keyboard. However, the keys are not backlit.
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad mini
This folio case protects both the front and back of your iPad mini. Its rubberised exterior prevents slippage, while the front and rear flaps are thick enough to protect the tablet from scratches and bumps.
The case is only 19.3mm thick and weighs 285g. Together with the iPad mini, it weighs 626g.
The case supports the iPad mini's auto wake and sleep function. On the reverse of its front flap is a Bluetooth keyboard. You dock the tablet by sliding it into the two corner clips of the rear flap. It fits both generations of iPad minis.
To use the keyboard, open the rear flap and dock the tablet onto a magnetic strip above the keyboard.
There is only one docking angle and it is nearly 80 degrees. I found it to be quite uncomfortable as I had to slouch to view the screen.
But the keys have a nice tactile response and are well laid out. I made very few mistakes when typing.
However, it is a bit irritating having to press the Function key and "Q" for Tab, as the Tab and "Q" are combined in one key.
If you can get used to this quirk and the peculiar viewing angle, this may be the case for you.
Belkin FastFit Keyboard Case for iPad mini
This case works more like a cover. It works like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, supporting the iPad mini's auto wake and sleep functions.
At 7mm thick and weighing only 145g, it is the lightest of those reviewed here.
FastFit's magnetic clip is larger than the Apple Smart Cover's. While it is able to attach itself to your iPad mini easily, the magnetic strength is not very strong and it tends to slip off easily.
The case's exterior is a silvery aluminium. Inside, instead of the glossy surface found in many cases, the keyboard has a matte black finish which does not attract fingerprints and smudges.
The keyboard is not backlit. You dock your iPad mini on the magnetic groove behind the keyboard. The best thing about this case is that although the viewing angle is fixed, it is set at a comfortable 60 degrees. Many iPad mini keyboard cases, which I have tested, sit the tablet at 70 or 80 degrees, making it difficult to view.
The keyboard is slightly cramped. So you may get some typos along the way. While the keyboard layout is mostly logical, there are some quirks. For example, the Pair key is sited in the position usually occupied by the Delete key. So, naturally, I kept hitting the Pair key instead of the Delete key, which is located just below it.
This keyboard case is great for careful users and also for those who do not care if their iPad minis show off their scratches.
Zagg ZaggKeys Cover for iPad mini
Unlike most iPad mini covers, this one lacks a magnetic hinge to attach it to your iPad mini.
Instead, this cover consists of a Bluetooth keyboard and a hinge with a groove.
You insert the iPad mini into the groove and close the cover on the tablet's screen. As it is just a cover, there is no protection for the tablet's back.
Although the review unit is meant to support only the original iPad mini, my iPad mini with Retina display slotted easily into the groove.
Only 6.3mm thick, the cover is 1.2mm thinner than my iPad mini and weighs just 306g.
It supports the tablet's auto wake and sleep functions. After pairing, it automatically syncs the Bluetooth keyboard with the tablet when you open the cover.
The hinge lets you adjust the position incrementally all the way to 135 degrees.
The island-style keys, though scaled down, are logically laid out. The Caps Lock and Tab keys are combined in a smaller key which sits beside the "A" key. I found myself adjusting to this new layout rather quickly.
I made few errors during typing and each key was very responsive. To put the icing on the cake, this keyboard is backlit.
This story was originally published in Digital Life on March 19, 2014.