As I have said before, the only thing I don’t like about my iPad is using the on-screen keyboard to type long emails. I’m always happy to try out a new keyboard case, so I asked Julie if I could give the Keyboard Folio for Apple iPad 2 a try when Sena offered one to The Gadgeteer. Let’s give it a closer look.
Many images in this review can be clicked for an enlargement.
The Keyboard Portfolio for Apple iPad 2 is made of handcrafted European genuine leather in black, red, and brown. You’ll notice I received the red, and it has a shiny, smooth surface. The stitching is done in red thread, and it is very even and straight with no loose strings. The only branding on the case is “SENA” embossed on the bottom right corner of the front. The case measures 9.5″ long X 8″ wide X 1.4″ thick with the iPad 2 in place. Empty, it weighs 1.1 pounds. It adds considerable bulk and weight to the iPad 2. There are no magnets in this case, so it cannot automatically sleep/wake your iPad.
The back has a long strap that’s sewn to the case near the middle of its length. One end wraps around and becomes a snap closure for the folio. The other end snaps flat to the back for storage, and it opens up to become an easel-style stand for the iPad 2.
The interior is lined with a red velveteen-type fabric to prevent scratches to the iPad. You’ll notice there are cutouts for the iPad 2′s front-facing camera and the home button. The keyboard is held in a leather frame inside the front cover. A flap wraps around the top of the keyboard and folds under to hold it in place. You can remove the keyboard from the case, if desired.
The Keyboard Folio comes with a micro USB cable for charging the built-in 450mAh lithium-ion battery. Sena says you can expect about 45 hours of use or 55 hours of standby time. They also say you can expect about 20 days of usage between charges. It took about 4 hours to charge the keyboard with the USB port on my laptop. A red status light blinks to indicate when the battery is low and is on steady while the battery is charging.
The keyboard is covered with a rubbery black silicone. You can see the covering completely encapsulates the keys, which should protect against dirt and spills. You can also see the silicone surface is a dust magnet.
The Bluetooth (v2.0) keyboard connected very easily with my iPad 2. You simply put both the keyboard and the iPad into pairing mode and enter the supplied 4-digit code into the keyboard to establish the connection. I had to go through the pairing steps each time I wanted to use the keyboard; it didn’t remember my iPad 2 and automatically connect.
The keyboard can be used with other Bluetooth devices, such as some smartphones or tablets, and with computers .
You’ll notice that the keyboard is a not-quite-standard QWERTY format. All the keys on the left side are as expected, but there’s no shift key on the right and many punctionation keys aren’t where you expect them. There are function keys on the top row, including a “home” key that returns the iPad 2 to the home screen, volume/mute controls, media playback controls, and a search key that opens spotlight search. There’s also a keyboard function key that sometimes, but not always, opens the on-screen keyboard in apps that accept keyboard input. The other function keys performed as expected.
The keys had a nice touch, but it took some getting accustomed to typing on the keyboard because of its small size. It was also hard to do capital letters without both shift keys, and adding punctuation always required me to stop and search for the key. I’m a touch-typist, so these problems slowed me down. However, typing on the keyboard is much better and faster than using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard.
You’ll also notice in the above picture that there are three narrow slots along the length of the leather strip above the keyboard. I’m not sure what the purpose of these is. They aren’t little pockets that could be used to store memory cards. They extend the full length under the keyboard, so small things would disappear in there.
There isn’t a way to snap the front closure tab to the back of the case while you’re using the stand. You can see the flap hangs down in front of the screen. Depending on how tall you are, the flap may obscure a portion of the screen while you’re typing or simply trying to watch a video using the stand function.
You can better see here how far the closure flap hangs down over the screen.
The easel stand is attached to the back of the case with a ribbon to limit how far it can open. There’s only one angle possible with this case. Hopefully it’s a good one for you, but it tilted the screen back a bit too far for someone as short as I am. I could see the screen, but I would have preferred it to be a bit closer to 90 degrees.
The Keyboard Folio is designed to allow you to use the iPad while it’s in the case. The sloped back of the iPad and the hard back of the case that extends past the iPad itself combine to make it a bit difficult to get your fingers in to access the controls. In the topmost image in the above photo, you can see there are cutouts for the headphone jack and the sleep/wake button, but there is no opening for the microphone. Second from top shows that the cutout for the mute/screen lock button and volume rocker doesn’t line up properly and leaves part of the volume rocker covered. The next image shows that the back speaker and the dock connector are both uncovered, and I could charge the iPad 2 while in the case. The sound wasn’t really affected by the case. You can also see the micro USB charging port and the power switch for the keyboard.
The last image shows the flap that holds the iPad 2 in the leather frame. This flap simply slides into a pocket under the iPad; there is nothing to secure it. The weight of the iPad pushes against this flap, and it loosens – allowing the iPad to slip out of position, especially when you are using the stand. When this happens – and it always does – the ports and controls on the iPad no longer line up properly with the cutouts. You probably won’t be able to plug in the charger or headphones or maybe not even use the volume rocker without first shoving the iPad 2 back into proper position. (Note: I had shoved the iPad into proper positon before I took these pictures.)
The biggest problem caused by the iPad slipping out of position is that the front-facing camera isn’t centered. You’ll have a lot of trouble if you want to use FaceTime with the iPad in this case. Even if you start out with the camera centered, the weight of the iPad slowly loosens the flap and the camera slides out of position as you talk.
Also note that the opening is a small circle that’s too small to expose the ambient light sensor located just above the camera.
This is a screen shot of the image from the front-facing camera, snapped just before I took the picture of the camera alignment.
I didn’t include a picture taken with the back camera because Sena didn’t make an opening for the back camera in this case.
Although the keyboard has some non-standard features that are to be expected in these small tablet cases, it actually works pretty well. The case itself is made of beautiful leather, but it doesn’t seem to be very well designed. There’s only one position for the stand, and that angle may not work for everyone. Although the folio is designed to allow you to use the iPad while in the case, Sena forgot about including openings for the back camera and the microphone. The opening for the volume rocker isn’t big enough and covers part of the button, and the opening for the front-facing camera isn’t big enough to expose the ambient light sensor. The biggest drawback is that the iPad 2 isn’t held securely in place, and it slides out of position and makes the cutouts useless. At $150, this case is just too expensive for what you get. I can’t recommend the Sena Keyboard Folio for Apple iPad 2.