The next entry in our seemingly endless parade of new iPad keyboard cases is the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad (US$129.99). This case, which works with the second- through fourth-generation iPads, has some new features that make it attractive as a full-time companion for your tablet.
The keyboard in this case is backed with a nicely-designed aluminum shell, and uses black keys with white lettering. The iPad cover is kind of an odd affair -- it's made of what feels like hard polyurethane around the sides, but the "hinge" that connects it to the keyboard and allows the iPad to be placed into three different positions is made of a much thinner flexible plastic with a faux leather look.
That thin plastic makes it possible for this keyboard to be only 6.4 mm thick. That's pretty incredible, beating the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover at 9.96 mm.
There are generous openings around the camera, switches and ports, and a nice touch for those who want to be able to hear sound from their iPad while typing -- a small channel for directing sound from the speaker to the ears of the typist.
Like the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, the Ultimate Keyboard Case automatically senses when the iPad is flipped into typing position and turns on the keyboard. When the iPad is moved to a "tablet" position or closed, the keyboard turns off. This helps the battery run for up to 160 hours between charges and stay viable for up to 1,900 hours (6 months) in standby mode. It uses a USB to microUSB cable for charging.
As mentioned earlier, the iPad can be magnetically "locked" into three different positions (all in landscape mode) for typing, so getting the screen adjusted to resolve a reflection is a piece of cake.
Weight-wise, the Ultimate Keyboard Case tops the scales at 14.7 ounces. That means the iPad/case combo is almost exactly the same weight as an 11" MacBook Air -- 2.39 pounds versus 2.38 pounds. That's quite a bit lighter than the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio (2.69 pounds) and the needs-to-go-on-a-diet Logitech Keyboard Folio for iPad (2.82 pounds). If the amount of weight you lug around is important to you, the Ultimate Keyboard Case might make your day.
When using the Ultimate Keyboard Case on a table or desktop, I found it to work just fine. The keys seem to be spaced almost identically to the ones on my Apple Wireless Keyboard, and unlike the keys on the Logitech keyboard folios they are much more standard. In other words, I don't need to type a fn-Q to hit the tab key, nor does going into Caps Lock require a fn-A.
Using the Ultimate Keyboard Case in my lap was a different matter. I found that even the slightest jar made the iPad flop down into my lap. The magnets that hold the iPad in place just don't seem to be as strong as those on the Logitech cases. That, coupled with the rather flimsy plastic "hinge", seems to be a strong warning to users to keep this thing on a table or desk.
One feature I did like a lot was the addition of three keys to the bottom row -- a microphone key for use with Siri dictation on the iPad, an @ key next to the space bar (perfect for typing internet URLs), and a key to change to an alternative virtual keyboard like the popular Emoji keyboard.
I was very impressed with the SoundFlow design of the iPad holder. At the same volume level, the perceived volume was noticeably louder with the case installed than when it was off. That's a real plus if you like listening to music while working on your iPad.
While the support of the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case seems a bit wobbly for laptop use, this is a strong competitor to Logitech's recent product launches. The slightly lower price tag, ability to prop the screen in three different positions, SoundFlow design and keyboard layout are all points in favor of Belkin's latest keyboard folio.
Lighter than the Logitech Keyboard Folios recently reviewed by TUAW
Ultrathin; it's hard to believe it's a keyboard case
Excellent feel to the keyboard, with no function key required to use tab or caps lock functions
Helpful keys for Siri dictation and changing keyboards
Less expensive than the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio
Can be "locked" into any one of three positions while typing
Auto on/off feature works very well
Thin plastic prop on the back of the iPad case doesn't work well when using the case in a lap
Does not offer as much protection as the Logitech folios we recently reviewed
Who is it for?
Anyone who wants a fairly lightweight iPad keyboard folio case with good keyboard feel, automatic on/off features and a standard keyboard layout.
We're giving away our review Ultimate Keyboard Case to a lucky TUAW reader. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
The entry must be made before May 17, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
You may enter only once.
One winner will be selected and will receive a Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad valued at $129.99.