Friday, June 21, 2013

Communicator's Toolbox review: Belkin's Ultimate Keyboard and Case for iPad

The Communicator's Toolbox

One of the original goals of this blog was to review technology developed for professional communicators. While I have reviewed digital cameras, laser and inkjet printers, software and even the iPad 2, it's been a long time since I've focused on the writer's tools.

I've been using the Belkin cover/keyboard combination for about a month, now, since the company sent me a demo at my request for a review model. Overall, I have to say I'm thrilled with it.

I got my iPad2 about two years ago, just before a trip to Austria and Switzerland. With it, I bought a Kensington KeyFolio case with an integrated Bluetooth keyboard for two reasons: first, I wanted a sturdy protective carrying case for the iPad; and second, I wanted a real keyboard, as opposed to a virtual one.

Compared to Kensington case

The Kensington KeyFolio fulfilled its purposes well. Its tough synthetic leather construction has protected the iPad well. However, Kensington made some compromises with the keyboard to get it to fit in a space the same width as the iPad itself. There is only one Shift key, for example, and the apostrophe/foot mark key is one row lower than on the standard QWERTY keyboard.

Those don't seem like huge issues, but it took me a while to get used to it. Only after I started using that keyboard did I realize that I use both Shift keys, depending on which letter I'm trying to capitalize. Also, getting a semi-colon every time I expected an apostrophe was annoying.

The other drawback to the KeyFolio was its size. The synthetic leather is pretty thick. I thought at first that would be a better protector for the fragile-looking iPad. But the KeyFolio makes the iPad a bulky device, hard to put into an already overstuffed briefcase.

It's also heavier. At 567 grams (1.25 pounds), the KeyFolio is almost as heavy as the iPad2's 601 grams (1.33 pounds). Suddenly, I was toting over a kilogram of tablet computer — heavier than a MacBook Air laptop computer.

The new protector

I heard about the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for the iPad through a press release in my Mailbox (I get a LOT of press releases). When the item itself arrived, I was instantly delighted. Belkin designed the case to preserve the iPad's thin profile and form factor — two of its main selling points.
The base is made of aluminum alloy, and it's so thin, it's almost not there. Belkin says the keyboard is only 6.4 mm thick. The top is a textured rubber-like substance that provides adequate protection, at least in my experience so far. It has holes for the iPad's switches, camera, and earbud and power ports.

One of my greatest fears since getting
my iPad2.
Image source: 

Open it up and that same rubbery material is the hinge that attaches the two halves of the case: the rubber-backed shell that holds the iPad itself, and the aluminum-backed keyboard half. This is the only part that worries me — the rubber is very flexible and I always imagine it tearing.

But this flexibility is one of the great features of the case. On the keyboard side, above the keyboard itself, are three magnetic strips that hold the iPad up at your choice of three angles.
Belkin also uses the magnetism to power off and on the iPad when you close the case, just like with Apple's own tri-fold iPad cover.

A fully functional keyboard

The keyboard is smaller than the standard for a desktop computer, of course, to match the width of the iPad itself (or height, depending on how you hold it: 24.1 cm or 9.5 inches), but the layout is the QWERTY standard. It has two Shift keys, as well as Command, Option/Alt, and Fn keys. Overall, the typing experience on it is not much different from typing on a desktop computer's keyboard, except that the keys are a little closer together. The keys click satisfyingly when you depress them — unlike the standard Apple keyboard.


The aluminum back is prone to scratching, like all aluminum. After a month, there are several noticeable scratches and scuff marks on mine, and I don't consider myself a rough user. The hardest surfaces my iPad has touched are desks and tables, and the inside of my briefcase or pannier saddlebags.
Getting my iPad into the case was tricky, and getting it out again almost as hard. However, I can't imagine when that would be necessary.

Bottom line

Belkin's Ultimate Keyboard Case for the iPad is a great accessory for the professional communicator who wants to use the iPad — or for anyone who uses the iPad, travels or commutes with it, prefers a physical keyboard and is as worried about dropping or damaging the iPad itself. It's very lightweight, almost unnoticeable in my hands. It doesn't interfere with the operation of the iPad at all. In fact, I typed this review on my Belkin Keyboard Case. Plus, it provides peace of mind about damaging the tablet.
While it is prone to scuffs, it has protected my iPad. For a hundred bucks, no iPad owner should be without one.

Find out more on Belkin's site:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)