Provides: Bluetooth keyboard input and protection for iPad 2 Developer:Cirago Minimum Requirements: iPad 2 Price: $89.99 Availability: Now
Amongst a veritable deluge of Cirago products Appletell picked up at Macworld | iWorld 2012 is a sleek aluminum keyboard case for the iPad 2: aka the IPA6000. The Bluetooth 2.0-compatible keyboard weighs in at a mere 12.2 ounces and features a rechargeable battery rated at 40 hours of use, while protecting the screen and sides of your iPad with all ports, plugs, and switches available for easy access. For the true mobile professional, size and weight are key concerns, so the all-day battery life of the iPad is a winner, but its onscreen keyboard is definitely a dud. A Bluetooth keyboard that that offers protection with a slim profile and iPad-matching battery could be the ultimate mobile accessory. The question is, does Cirago’s offering fit the bill?
The IPA6000 certainly delivers on a number of important fronts. Its machined aluminum matches the iPad and offers protection appropriate for carrying in a briefcase or messenger bag. The slim profile and light weight (less than one pound) are must-haves for road warriors, and the standard micro USB charging cable is likely shared by your other devices, so there is no new cable to worry about losing. The pop-up easel has three positions to hold your iPad at a perfect angle in either landscape or portrait mode, and the whole setup is solid enough to tap, swipe, pinch, and gesture without the iPad wobbling or shaking.
Other notable features include:
Key feel: Crucial, given the onscreen keyboard’s lack of usability. Key return is crisp and precise, feeling very much like Apple’s own chiclet-style laptop keyboards.
Compact, Light, and Protective: The case+iPad combo is still less than half an inch thick, and foam padding along all corners offers plenty of protection for daily carrying.
Hot Keys: At the top of the keyboard are a number of useful iPad-specific keys, to invoke the home screen, display the onscreen keyboard, jump directly to search, cut/copy/paste, etc. Users of the eMate 300 will feel instantly at home (more on that in a moment).
Battery Life: Although it is not stated on Cirago’s website, the battery life for the case is estimated at ~40 hours, though in average daily use of approximately six hours, it took the better part of 10 days before the battery was exhausted (that is 60 hours for the numerically disinclined)!
Although there is much to love about the IPA6000, there are a few design flaws that may be deal breakers for some users. The first is the key layout: there are some unneeded and oddly arranged keys that are frustrating for two reasons. First, the non-standard layout makes adjusting to this keyboard challenging – like the Home key between the apostrophe and Return keys (highlighted in red), or the full inverted-T arrow keys rather than Apple’s split Up/Down arrow design (highlighted in blue). Second, there are keys that serve no purpose on the iPad, like dual Control keys on either side of the space bar, and Home/End, which make the regular character keys too small for truly comfortable typing (also highlighted red). The result: the letter keys are only about 3/4 of the total keyboard area.
eMate users may remember Apple’s keyboard, which omitted several standard keys of the day to make the relevant keys bigger. As a bluetooth keyboard the IPA6000 can be used with a Mac or PC, but the cramped keyboard layout results in a subpar typing experience on the iPad, which is ultimately the main purpose of this case.
Some other drawbacks of the IPA6000 include:
Powersaving: This case is an absolute miser, and shuts off after about 15 seconds of no keyboard input (the iPad pops up the onscreen keyboard when the Bluetooth connection is lost). It takes about 1-2 seconds for the keyboard to wake back up and reestablish the connection, so any pauses in typing result in a brief delay.
No Back Protection: When the iPad is secured in the case the front and sides are covered, but the iPad’s back is exposed. This is not unique to Cirago’s design (Apple’s Smart Cover leaves the iPad’s back naked), but may be an important feature for users in more extreme environments.
Cirago’s Bluetooth Aluminum Keyboard case has a number of great features, but is ultimately flawed due to its nonstandard layout and unnecessarily cramped keys. Even after a few weeks of use, it was still far to easy to jump to the beginning of a line instead of inserting a carriage return due to that oddly-situated Home key. Cirago’s case design and battery life are both superb, but the keyboard design choices leave much to be desired—the guiding principle of the design needs to be a focus on making the most-used keys the biggest, rather than cramming in every key imaginable.