Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad
Two Halves Are Better Than a Whole
Rating: 7/10 Very good, but not quite great
These Bluetooth-powered keyboard and case combos for Apple’s tablets are extremely popular, and with good reason. They effectively turn your iPad into a kind of iOS-based MacBook Air.
In fact, if you slap an iPad into Belkin’s newest keyboard case, the result will be slightly thicker than the thinnest parts of the 11-inch air, but the weight and dimensions are otherwise pretty much spot on. When the iPad is closed up in the Ultimate Keyboard Case, the whole thing measures around 0.75 inches thick and weighs just under 2.5 pounds. For comparison, Apple lists the newest 11-inch Air at 0.68 inches thick and 2.38 pounds.
Unlike most of the ultrathin keyboards we’ve looked at recently, which have detachable keyboards that snap onto the face of the iPad, Belkin’s is one solid unit: a keyboard and a protective case, joined by a leather-ish hinge. But the whole package is sleek. The keyboard is high quality (it’s very similar to the Logitech Ultrathin) and the folio-style iPad cover is an attractive blend of plastic and aluminum. It comes in both silver and black, and both choices look like a laptop when closed. There’s some nice attention to detail all around, but since it’s one single unit, there’s no way to use just the case or just the keyboard. That’s the only real drawback to what’s an otherwise fantastic iPad setup: you can’t have one half without the other.
As you would expect, the keyboard cover also acts as sleep/wake switch, thanks to the magnetic closure on the lid. There are also magnetic anchors that offer three different viewing angles. There isn’t a huge difference between the three angles, but the hinge offers enough adjustability that you should be able to avoid glare in most situations.
The case’s shell covers most of the back of the iPad, with cutaways for the headphone port, microphone, sleep/wake button, camera, charge port and volume controls. Belkin has gone further than just the basics we’ve come to expect though, adding some nice touches like a little built-in channel in the case that helps redirect the iPad’s rear-facing speakers so that audio is a bit louder. Belkin calls it “SoundFlow design,” which makes it sound more sophisticated than it is. It doesn’t improve audio quality at all, but it works better than just say, reflecting and sound off the flat surface of an iPad smart cover.
Many a nice iPad accessory has been marred by a poorly thought-out keyboard, but thankfully, that’s not a problem here. Belkin’s keyboard isn’t an exact copy of Logitech’s Ultrathin keyboard (which remains, to my mind anyway, the gold standard in thin iPad keyboards), but it doesn’t deviate much. The keys are roughly the same size, though more squared off, and the layout is essentially the same, although there are no dedicated keys for common actions like copy and paste. Instead you’ll need to hit the fn button and the corresponding function key — a two-stroke combo instead of a single key press. It’s not as convenient, but it won’t slow you down too much.
Typing on the Ultimate Keyboard Case’s keyboard feels nice. The keys themselves have a decent amount of travel for a small chiclet-style keyboard. I also found that, despite the fact that Belkin’s keyboard doesn’t offer a cutaway around the spacebar (a huge problem with the Archos keyboard case I reviewed) it wasn’t a problem since the actual keys are raised enough that you can hit the spacebar with ease. In short, although Logitech’s Ultrathin is still the best keyboard I’ve used with an iPad, the Belkin is a close second.
In an ideal world, the keyboard and case would be detachable. Then, you could use the keyboard around the house, throwing on the case only when you’re headed out. Most of the time, I don’t need the case portion, so the Logitech — with its fully detachable keyboard arrangement — remains the superior choice. But for those times when I need a complete keyboard and case solution, the Belkin fits the bill.
WIRED Sturdy case and a great keyboard. Prop up your iPad at a variety of angles. Battery lasts weeks between charges. If you need a keyboard and a case in one, this is one of the best. Fits iPad 2 and later.
TIRED You can’t have one function without the other. There’s no single-press solution for copy and paste and other common iOS tasks.
Photo by Alex Washburn/Wired