I am a keyboard junky when it comes to my iPad. Every time I get a new iPad, I buy a slew of keyboards to go with it. The reason being, I am very particular and finicky.
Here’s what I look for:
- Good Layout
- Long Battery Life between charges
Here’s my current lineup of iPad Air keyboard cases. From left-to-right: Zagg, Belkin, Logitech:
All of these are iPad compatible bluetooth keyboards that last a week or two on a charge and come complete with a case, combined.
If you’re in a hurry, I’ll cut to the chase (here’s the spoiler) – Zagg is the winner.
Let me explain why by assessing them by my criteria
Zaggkeys Folio Backlit Keyboard Case for iPad Air
This one is the Goldilocks of the two, not too heavy, not too light. Okay, a keyboard can never be too light, unless the whole thing falls over in your lap… which is what happens if it has no weight to it. Luckily, the Zagg feels sturdy, doesn’t fall off the edge of your knees when you type, but isn’t like lugging around a paperweight.
I’ll be honest, though, when you first open the case, it does feel a bit cheap – mainly, because the side that holds the iPad is ultra thin – but, also, because the non-slip finish that presents itself when it’s closed is a little naff. However, when you pop your iPad into it, both sides feel evenly weighted and it’s a nice compromise.
The Zagg was the fastest to go from sleep-to-ready. By the time I’d cracked open the case and put it in my lap, it had already established the Bluetooth connection and was ready to go.
The keys are a tad small compared to the others, but they have good proportions. Most important (to me, anyway) is that the left-hand ‘Shift’ key is large (notice how small the one on the Logitech is). The keys are reasonably tacky (in a good way) and feel sturdy.
Also, the keys are backlit (hurray!) which was not true of the others.
Long Battery Life
To be fair, I haven’t really tested them all against one another on this dimension. All the manufacturers advertise that they last several months in standby and a week, or so, with heavy use and the Zagg held up to this claim.
The Zagg would otherwise be perfect in every way, except that you cannot fold the back cover 360 degrees around behind the unit, so that you can hold the iPad in one hand (instead, you must hold it open like a menu). Both of the other iPad keyboards allow you to do this. There are times when I am reading a long document, or magazine, and prefer to flip the keyboard out of the way.
That said, I did appreciate that the hinge has a really good grip on it, allowing you to tilt the iPad in any position you want, as opposed to being stuck in one position. There is a limit to how far back you can tilt the iPad back (so, it doesn’t fall off your lap), but it articulates well and I found it easy to find the optimal position, whether in my lap, on an airline tray table, or at a desk.
Belkin QODE ULTIMATE Wireless Keyboard and Case for iPad Air
The Belkin was the heaviest of the three, because it has a very sturdy case around the keyboard itself. This is nice, but then it puts the iPad itself in a very thin cover with a hammock. I didn’t feel that the iPad was as safe in this construction, as the others.
This is where the Belkin really loses marks. Unlike the other two keyboards, which come with an on-off switch and a Bluetooth connection button (to force a connection when you need to), this one has no buttons whatsoever and claims to be intelligent enough to know when to turn itself on or off (most of these keyboards can detect when they’ve been shut and go to sleep).
In practice, I found myself getting very irritated with the Belkin, because it never seemed to be ready when I needed to type. This was true in many situations: when I cracked it open, or when I used it after not touching the keys for awhile. I was often banging on the keys, willing it to connect, in vain.
Like the Zagg, the Belkin has a large left-hand ‘Shift’ key, which I like. It’s keyboard is better than the Zagg’s, too, in terms of tactile feel. But I couldn’t get over the connectivity problems to fall in love with it.
Like the Logitech, the bottom side of the iPad is free, so you swing it down to the keyboard base and secure it with the magnetism. There are three ‘guides’, representing three different tilt angles. Unfortunately, thses are so close together that they don’t make much difference, in reality. However, this may be nice for some people (the Logitech only swings into a single ’tilt’ position).
Long Battery Life
The battery performance was fine – probably, because it never seemed to connect to my iPad properly!
I wish that the iPad case was more protective of the iPad, itself. Sometimes, I had a little trouble closing it properly without it having a bit of an over-bite, since the hammock connection allows the two sides to move independently of one another. It does work well, though, when folded back and held in one hand, although the unit feels heavy.
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air
This felt the lightest of the bunch. Technically speaking, it might not be, but it’s fabric cover gives you the sensation that it’s lighter. I enjoyed the tactile feel of the cover, too, although it began to get a little frayed and dog-eared on one corner after a couple weeks’ use.
The unit connected successfully when I needed it. Faster than the Belkin, but slower than the Zagg.
Argh – I hate the keyboard! It feels great to type on, but that blasted tiny left-hand ‘Shift’ key drove me crazy. I often closed down my App by mistake, whenever I wanted to capitalise something (I’d hit the function key and something else at the same time, especially the square key).
Long Battery Life
Battery life was good. It often served me for a month at a time.
This would otherwise be an extremely good case if not for the blasted keyboard layout. The fabric cover feels more expensive than the Zagg (although, not as durable), plus it doesn’t show fingerprints (like the Belkin exterior). It goes from sleep to ready fairly quickly, plus there’s that connectivity button if you’re in a hurry and it didn’t wake up properly.
I’ve got to say that Zagg is my personal favourite. It’s not without problems, but the problems of the other two are deal-killers, IMHO.