The iPad Air can be a productivity powerhouse when paired with a great keyboard case. We've already put several of them head to head and now Belkin's back with another offering, the QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case. I had issues with some of the design choices Belkin made with the standard QODE Keyboard Case which I outlined in my review. Let's see if Belkin's top of the line offering fares any better in real world use...
Immediately upon unboxing the Ultimate version of the QODE case, I knew the materials were much higher quality than that of the standard QODE offering. The exterior is made of brushed aluminum that comes in either black or silver. On the back there is a mechanism that operates as a stand. Just fold the top portion forward and magnets hold the display in. You can choose two different elevations depending on what viewing angle you'd like.
I prefer the brushed aluminum of the QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case over the fabric of the standard case but the folding mechanism to prop up the screen still seems somewhat cheap to me and I would prefer to see Belkin use a hinge-style opening in future products. It's made out of a stronger material than the fabric in their standard QODE Keyboard Case but I still feel that after heavy use, it would start to show its age.
With the case attached you have access to all ports and don't need to remove your iPad Air from the case to charge it. I had no issue using third party chargers either which is a plus for folks who invest money into longer cables than the standard ones, something I've alway done. And if you plan on using a keyboard case regularly, the Ultimate Keyboard Case won't ever have to come off, unless you want it to.
I also haven't found the Ultimate Keyboard Case to add very much extra weight either, which is one of the drawbacks of the ZAGGkeys Keyboard Cover, which is built very well but comes at the expense of more added weight than others. The Ultimate Keyboard Case appears to be a happy medium weight wise but doesn't feel quite as high quality. It just depends on what tradeoff you're willing to make.
As for the most important part of a keyboard case, the actual keyboard, I'm still left disappointed in Belkin. Overall the layout does feel less cramped but there's still a glaring issue and it's the colon/semi-colon key. Nowadays keyboard layouts remain fairly standardized and moving a commonly used key and plopping it somewhere else isn't acceptable to me. I understand Fn keys and less used keys get shuffled around from time to time to make way for better design, but a heavily used punctuation key? Not so much.
High quality construction with brushed aluminum
Key spacing is done well
Slim profile and adds very little weight
Two options for viewing angles
The colon/semi-colon key being moved is extremely frustrating and will be a deal breaker for some
More expensive than other keyboards that are the same quality, if not better
Flap design to support the iPad in an upright position will most likely wear over time
The bottom line
I couldn't make it more than an hour or so using the QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case before ripping it off in frustration over hitting enter when I meant to type a comma. I assume the key next to the "L" key is the colon/semicolon key and my muscle memory tells me to tap further over than directly to the right. It's a shame too because I wanted to like this offering from Belkin. High quality materials and a slim form factor, it's almost there. They keyboard layout still needs work though.
Unfortunately I still wouldn't recommend any iPad Air offering from Belkin over some of the competition such as ZAGG and Logitech. Not only are they designed better, they're priced better. Most offerings come in at right around the $100 mark while the official price from Belkin is $129 for the Ultimate Keyboard Case.
Here's to hoping Belkin's next offering changes my opinion...