Best iPad keyboard cases for 2013
We put five keyboard cases through the wringer in the PC Pro Labs. Which is the best option for your new iPad?
The popularity of the iPad has seen the market for cases and accessories explode, but it's tricky to tell what's worth buying - and what's just a cheap cash-in. We've rounded up five top keyboard cases to find out what's the best for your iPad.
Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio
Price: £104 inc VAT from Amazon
Of all the devices on which to place a solar panel, an iPad keyboard is a strange choice. All the other Bluetooth keyboards on test last for weeks, if not months, from a single low-power USB cable charge: the energy savings recouped from the solar panel are minimal at best. Worse still, Logitech has placed the solar panel on the base of the keyboard, which means it doesn’t even see the light when in use. Also, there’s no USB backup if the device runs out of juice.
That said, the Solar Keyboard otherwise fulfils its role with aplomb: the keys are sensibly spaced and just the right size; it clasps the iPad firmly into the case and doesn’t wobble, even on juddery trains; and the case folds away into a slim, light portfolio. It’s no looker, though: our review unit’s grey and red colour scheme (other colours are available) gives it a dated look, and the price is even less attractive.
Cygnett Sandstone Lavish Connect
Price: £40 inc VAT from Cygnett
The Cygnett Sandstone wouldn’t look out of place tucked under the arm of George Clooney, earning its “Lavish” moniker with swathes of soft, brown imitation leather. While this portfolio-style case keeps the iPad snugly secure, it’s bulkier than a Stephen King hardback, tripling the width and almost doubling the weight of the iPad.
The keyboard can be easily detached to make the case slimmer and lighter, but that’s about it’s only saving grace. The keys are tiny and hugely wasteful of the available space; the arrow keys cause the cursor to jump erratically around the screen; and a couple of times our iPad slammed into the desk as the flimsy ribbon-strung kickstand collapsed. A case of style over substance.
Freedom i-Connex Combi
Price: £80 inc VAT from The Accessories Crowd
Part-keyboard, part-origami lesson, the Freedom i-Connex Combi teeters on the brink of over-engineered. Like Apple’s Smart Covers, the folding screen protector flips around the back of the case to form an elegantly folded stand. The keyboard itself is stowed in a tiny compartment in the back of the case, ready to pop out when needed.
It’s clever, but flawed. The stand wobbles when you prod your finger at the screen and on moving trains, which is distracting. The keyboard is cramped and suffers from the same erratic cursor key problem that afflicts the Cygnett device. The underside of the keyboard has been rubberised to prevent it sliding around like the Logitech Ultrathin and ZAGG models, but it falls a good distance short of perfection.
Price: £99 inc VAT from Egalaxy
Rating: 5/6 - Recommended award
The ZAGGkeys PROplus suffers from the same design flaw as the Logitech Ultrathin – there are no rubber feet on its underside, so it slides on smooth surfaces. Also, the slot in which the iPad rests isn’t magnetised, which risks the iPad jumping free, although it survived our bumpy train journey. The attractive silver aluminium backing matches the iPad, and all-round build quality is great.
The keyboard is the best on test by a mile, offering the kind of quality normally reserved for high-end laptops. The keys have a firm, positive action and a matte finish that feels pleasant under the finger. They’re backlit, too, and the intensity and hue of the light can be adjusted. Finally, the whole thing doubles as a case that snaps magnetically onto the iPad’s front, creating a slim, hardened shell – although we’d prefer it if the case snapped more reassuringly into place.
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover
Price: £76 inc VAT from Amazon
Logitech’s previous Ultrathin case gave us a heart attack every time we used it on the train: the iPad had an unnerving habit of jumping out of the slot. The firm has sensibly magnetised the slot on the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, which has eliminated the iPad’s lemming-like tendencies. The keyboard is spacious; our only gripes are the half-sized left Shift key and the rattly sound during typing. Dedicated shortcut keys for cut, paste and selecting chunks of text are perfect when you’re regularly dealing with long documents, too.
As its name suggests, the Ultrathin is much slimmer than most of the rival cases here, and it uses the same magnetic hinge mechanism as Apple’s Smart Covers. The iPad-like aluminium cover is lighter than its rivals, too, but the shiny base means the keyboard slides around when you’re typing on smooth surfaces, especially if you’re a heavy-handed typist.