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iPad Hardware and Accessories Discuss the iPad hardware and accessories

Wireless Keyboard review


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IvanLasston

 
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I have tried several keyboards with the iPad 1/iPad 2. The main reason I wanted a full keyboard is for when I remotely access computers. You lose a massive amount of screen real estate by using the on screen keyboard. Plus to access my *nix boxes I needed extra keys like arrows, ctrl, and esc. Below are my thoughts on the keyboards I have tried.

iPad 1 Zaggmate 1

Since the iPad 1 didn't have a smart cover I tried this case/keyboard combo - with a leather zagg skin protecting the back of the iPad. Zagg had a few lightly used demo models for half the price so I picked some up. It makes a very good case for use with the iPad without adding much bulk. The aluminum feels sturdy and the keyboard has a good feel to it. The keys are easy to type on. One minor nit is the esc key is also the home key. I could not get it to function as an esc key in some terminal/vnc programs I use - so vi was a pain to use. This is an outlier problem that most people wouldn't run into. The iPad was good in landscape, portrait seemed a little less stable but it was still usable in either direction. The battery charges through USB and seems to last forever. $100 retail is pretty steep but it is a case/keyboard/stand combo.

Since I had the iPad 2 - I wanted a minimal keyboard/stand for extended usage. I didn't want a case for the iPad 2 since I use the smart cover and a zagg invisible shield as the case for it. That is why I didn't buy the Zaggmate for the iPad 2. I got a verbatim fold up keyboard and a plastic stand for extended usage.
Amazon.com: Verbatim 97537 Wireless Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, iPad2 and Other Tablets (Piano Black): Electronics



Amazon.com: Arkon Portable Fold-Up Stand for Apple iPad, Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, Playbook, Xoom, Toshiba, Acer, Nook and Other Tablets (IPM-TAB1): Cell Phones & Accessories

This combo seemed to be pretty good. The stand worked in either portrait or landscape and was quite stable. I could change the angle but there I pretty much set it to defaults when working with the keyboard. The keyboard uses aaa batteries. This also seems to last forever. There are dedicated media buttons and a home button that work. There is also an esc key that did what I needed for unix work. 2 major pains - the number keys are quite small and hard to hit, and the space bar was cut in half so the keyboard can fold - so that was hard to hit for me as well. Typing was otherwise comfortable but if you think about how often you hit numbers and space bar - then you realize that the overall experience was more frustrating than it should have been. I did like that the keyboard was protected when folded and the case it came with was also a nice touch. $55 for the keyboard and $10 for the stand.

I just purchased a Flex Keys keyboard from Zagg for my iPad 2.
ZAGGkeys FLEX | Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard & Stand for Tablets | ZAGG

Just started using it. It looks like the Apple wireless keyboard but it is made of plastic, not aluminium. The first thing I noticed is that it can flex - and I had to bend it back to make it flat on the surface. Typing is comfortable and similar to the Zaggmate 1. It also has a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery. Zagg claims it lasts for weeks but I just got it so I won't know for a while. This keyboard got rid of the esc key entirely so that will be a challenge for me as well. (Yes I know ctrl-n will work in vi - it is just habit to reach up for esc) The keyboard case/stand combo is pretty slick. Keeps the keyboard protected and becomes my stand thus making it easier to carry in my man purse that I use for carrying the iPad 2. It does have a bunch of media keys, home button, search buttons that all work with the iPad 2. There is even a switch to change from iOS to android. Other than the cheap plastic and flex - I like the keyboard so far. It remains to be seen on long term durability and battery life - but for the iPad 2 - it was exactly what I was looking for. An external keyboard that was easy to carry - and a stand/case all wrapped into one. For $80 though I wouldn't expect aluminum but maybe something a little less prone to flex.

Apple Wireless keyboard

I tried using this with the iPad and it works well. My problems with it were - it was too easy to hit the power button, and I didn't find any cases that would turn into a stand. I had the external stand and I guess I could have just gotten a case and taken out the batteries if it came to it. There are some combo cases but I didn't care to carry a combo case. I wanted the iPad 2 stand alone and a keyboard/stand when I needed it. It is probably one of the best keyboards out there for it size - and probably one of the most durable - I just didn't like having the keys exposed. On the other hand at $69 and a case for anywhere from $25-$60 this would be one of the most expensive solutions for just a keyboard. It is also one that would take up the most space - as the apple keyboard is the largest of all of the above - for just a keyboard. Since the Zaggmate also doubles as a case the overall volume taken up in a bag seems smaller - than an apple keyboard, case plus stand.

Summary
Zaggmate - good sturdy case. Keyboard lasts forever and is quite usable. Expensive.

Verbatim Keyboard - folding keyboard with number keys and a split space bar which made typing harder than a normal keyboard, but still gave you back screen real estate, and was overall better for touch typing than on screen - but frustrating none the less.

Zagg Keys Flex - aptly named flex - but a very good combo of stand/keyboard/case that works with iPad 2.

Apple Wireless keyboard - very good keyboard - kind of large and exposed to carry around. Expensive.
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chas_m

 
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Thanks for that great overview and the time it took you to test and write up all that!

There are a couple of companies that make sleeves for the Apple BT keyboard that make it easier to carry around, particularly if you carry the iPad and accessories in something like a backpack or messenger bag.
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IvanLasston

 
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Do you have any recommendations on sleeves? What I didn't like is having the keys exposed. I've had keys popped off keyboards when they aren't protected. Most sleeves and cases I saw looked soft sided - which is OK but with the amount I travel I really abuse hardware - so I wanted more protection than soft cases provide.

What would be ideal is if Zagg made a case that operated the same way - as a case then as a stand - for the Apple wireless keyboard. Suggestion box idea!
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Yeah, here you go: Origami Workstation for iPad and Wireless Keyboard by Incase
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Chas, that looks great. It just says iPad. Will it work with the iPad 1? I checked all the pages and nothing says for sure. I need something like that for my iPad one and Apple keyboard. The price is nice also!

Reason I ask is because the iPad 1 is thicker than the II, some things do not fit well.

Edit: looked at it closely and I see no reason the way it's designed that either the older or newer iPad will not fit. I am ordering one.

Also thanks Ivan for your excellent review!
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Nice review - and props to you for admitting the man purse.

What has your experience been with typing lag? I remember trying this with my iPaq, then my bberry, iPod touch and a few other things - and they couldn't keep up with my typing. I considered using the iPad in this manner but didn't want to carry around the extra hardware - plus, I really can't use it at the office, unfortunately. Any noticeable character lag?
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I found pretty much all the bluetooth keyboards I used to be quite responsive. No real keyboard lag - I am a pretty decent touch typist but by no means would I break any records. The weird thing is how much you have to reach out to the iPad because there is no mouse. So with the ones I tried I would say I never noticed anything as far as lag goes.

Chas - thanks for finding that - It is pretty close to what I want except for the fact that when the case is over the Wireless Keyboard - the power button is still exposed on the side. I worry about my keyboard draining battery - too much travel and too much electronics sitting in an overhead bin that gets slammed by everyone. One thing about the origami case vs the Zagg Keys Flex - it looks like it just unfolds and holds the keyboard in place. On the Zagg Keys Flex - the keyboard actually goes in opposite of how the stand - stands up. It's a little weird to describe but it would be nice to pull the keyboard out and pop the stand all in one go - like this origami case. Very minor nit for the Flex Keys.

Actually Brian - I may start a poll topic - I'd be interested to see how most people carry around their iPads. I actually use this Eddie Bauer sling pack - but I'm calling a spade a spade - at the end of the day it is still a murse.
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With the black Friday sales - I decided to pick up another Apple Keyboard and the Origami case.

First - the Apple keyboard is significantly inside the edges of the Origami case - so very little chance of getting that power button hit. Pretty hard sided protection too - as good as the Zagg Flex Keys I would say. Setup is super easy - everything is velcro - just un-velcro - fold - and velcro - the fold - then put your iPad in.


This is opposed to the Zagg - where you pull out the keyboard - then fold the stand - and as mentioned before - the keyboard is facing away from you when you unfold the stand. (Just a nit as before)


I do like the Zagg power toggle - just a switch. For the Apple keyboard you have to hold down the power button for the keyboard to switch off.

The problem with the significant edges - is that now your keyboard/case is significantly larger than your iPad. Especially compared to the other cases - this will be the longest of the bunch.


One last problem - I hadn't used Apple's own bluetooth keyboard with the iPad 2 extensively as I didn't have a way to carry it around. I could not get any of the special keys to work - and searching on line yielded very little. This is a major ding - no home button, no volume keys, no media keys available to you on the Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

Also note that no keyboard that I tested - worked with VNC fully. That is - I had to go to onscreen arrow keys, ctrl, alt, cmd - then click the keyboard to get it to work with VNC Viewer. If you are working on VNC you will find yourself reaching up a lot to do typing.

The Origami case does allow you to keep the smartcover (or any cover) on your iPad. There is plenty of room to put the iPad onto the stand. The Zagg Stand on the other hand has very little space - so you'll probably have to pull your iPad out of whatever cover you have.


The Zagg does use magnets so it seems more inline with the feel of the iPad 2. Using Velcro works - but I think having magnets for the snapping would have been better for the Origami.

Final assessment - I like the Origami - but the Zagg being smaller and having special keys that works - as well as being cheaper - means I would recommend the Zagg over the Origami - currently. As I said I only have had the Zagg for a couple of weeks. There may be long term issues.

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