Yesterday I was speaking with someone who, at one point, pulled out his iPad 2 and looked up an address. I asked him how he liked the tablet and he replied that he loved it. He then went one to share with me that his company had given every employee one and, since doing so, very few are actually using their laptops anymore. It is a story that is being repeated in business after business, school after school and home after home. He also told me that while he likes typing on the on-screen keyboard, many colleagues don’t and they have been finding the various keyboard cases that are now available to be quite useful. Today we are going to take a look at Belkin’s offering. The Belkin Keyboard Folio for iPad 2 is a keyboard/case combination that shows how far we have come since the first iPad keyboards appeared a little over a year ago. It is fairly refined, offers good flexibility and, perhaps best of all, the keyboard that comes as part of it is actually quite good! Let’s take a closer look.
Here’s what Belkin has to say about the Keyboard Folio for iPad 2:
Experience the Feel of TruType™ Keys: Enjoy a comfortable typing experience anywhere you use your iPad. This versatile and protective folio stand has a built-in computer-style keyboard with well-spaced TruType™ keys. A spring mechanism underneath each key ensures a tactile response with every stroke, helping you to type faster and with less error than on a touchscreen. Plus, function-specific keys let you easily copy and paste text, moderate volume and control music.
Adjustable angles allow you to find just the right position whether you’re typing or viewing.
Cable-Free & Plenty of Power: A simple Bluetooth® pairing process means you won’t be tied down by messy cables during use. And 60 hours of active battery life and 2,000 of standby battery life will keep you going—simply use a USB cable when it’s time to recharge.
A Perfect Fit: The premium, stitched case hugs your iPad and protects it from scratches and scuffs, with a suede-like feel and inner lining that’s smooth against your device. The keyboard tucks away and the soft cover folds over to protect your screen when you’re on the go. Lightweight and form-fitting, it slips easily into another bag without bulk.
Built-in computer-style keyboard with tactile, well-spaced TruType™ keys
Function-specific keys for copying and pasting text, moderating volume and controlling music
Unique tri-fold design tucks keyboard away and soft cover folds over to protect screen
Adjustable landscape screen angles for typing and viewing
Pairs with iPad through Bluetooth®
60 hours active battery life, 2,000 hours standby battery life
Rechargeable using USB cable
Durable construction protects from scratches and scuffs
Premium, stitched exterior with a suede-like feel and smooth inner lining
Sleek design to minimize bulk
Camera lens cutout
1-Year Limited Warranty
The keyboard case has a unique tri-fold design that lets the keyboard tuck away behind the iPad or extend out. This image is of the case when it is actually flipped over and the iPad is face down. You’ll see why in a moment.
On one level the Keyboard Folio for iPad 2 looks just like any folio case.
It holds the iPad in place using a frame design that we have seen on numerous other cases including the Sena Florence and the Beyza folio that Judie is currently reviewing. Slide the iPad behind the frame and…
…it is “picture perfect”.
When the case is laid out in this way the keyboard it actually tucked underneath the side that houses the iPad. This is an unusual design and a good one since it keeps the hard keys of the keyboard far away from the delicate screen of the iPad. On the downside, the design does make for a case that is a bit bulky in places. Of course, any time you add a keyboard into a case you are going to lose the thinness of the iPad 2. It is a tradeoff that many seem to be willing to make. (Personally the jury is still out for me.)
Lift up the iPad on the left hand side (the right side is “hinged”) and the keyboard flips out. It is difficult to see it here but the top of the keyboard and the left hand side of the iPad (when facing it) are connected by fabric. This keeps the two together while allowing you the flexibility to position the keyboard and iPad at the most comfortable angle possible.
As a result, you can use the tablet just as you would in any simple folio case.
You can also use it as if it were a mini-laptop.
And because the keyboard and iPad are connected by flexible cloth you can move the keyboard closer to you and have the iPad angled somewhat shallow, or you can move the keyboard further away and have the iPad sit at a sharper angle. In other words, there is enough flexibility that you can arrange things in the most comfortable manner possible for you.
As a case and a keyboard/case the Belkin Keyboard Folio for iPad 2 works well, but what about the keyboard itself? Overall I would have to call this the best dedicated iPad keyboard I have thus far used. Sure, because it is only as long as the iPad the keys are going to be a bit on the small side, but I found the island keys to be quite usable. Elana did too! And when I asked her to compare a few of the various iPad keyboards we have here at home, this one came out on top for her too. The keys have a decent amount of play — but not too much– and they are fairly quiet as wells as nicely responsive. In addition, the keyboard has a row of dedicated keys along the top that make a host of functions just one keystroke away. Among them are Select Left, Select Right, Select All, Cut, Copy Paste and more. There are dedicated keys for controlling media, and there is a key that brings up the iPad’s search functionality. Finally, there is a key that brings up the soft keyboard. Since connecting to a Bluetooth keyboard removes the soft keyboard, this is a great way to bring it up on the screen if the need arises. I don’t see myself writing a book using this keyboard anymore than I see myself doing so using the on-screen keyboard, but for typing our an email it will more than serve its purpose.
If I were to make one major complaint about this keyboard folio it is the fact that the keyboard is permanently affixed. That means you can’t use the case without the keyboard’s bulk, and you cannot use the keyboard separately and apart from the folio case (something you might want to do if you are using a different tablet or your iPhone). That kind of limitation makes this a bit of a one-trick pony, but it is a pretty nice pony!
The Belkin Keyboard Folio for iPad 2 has an MSRP of just under $100. Considering you get a well made folio case AND a decent Bluetooth keyboard it is a good value. If you are looking to use the iPad as a laptop replacement and you want a keyboard, then you should give this one serious consideration.
What I Like: Nice construction; Design keeps the keyboard away from the iPad’s screen; Cutouts in all the right places; Nice keyboard that is quite usable; Dedicated keys add loads of functionality
What Needs Improvement: Keyboard permanently affixed to the folio so there is no way to use one without the other