Saturday, August 20, 2011

Initial Review of Belkin iPad2 Keyboard Folio

Having had an iPad for a few months now, I've started to use it to take notes, but have become frustrated by the screen keyboard when typing, so I decided to buy an external keyboard. But I wanted to keep it looking nice and new, too.

At first, I had the Apple Smart cover, but that does nothing to protect the rest of the machine's body, so I ended up buying a Timbuk2 quilted cover (at such a good sale price, as Homer has said, "I couldn't afford *not* to buy it!"). I can be clumsy in general, so this seemed a wise investment and has served me well in terms of protection.

However, I needed to do something about that keyboard.

Really, I don't want to lug around a whole lot of extra stuff, so a wrap-around case that incorporated a keyboard really seemed like the best option. I'd looked at a couple, talked to some people and read some reviews, but each seemed to have its problems. Zagg looks fabulous, but I can't flip the whole thing behind the iPad if i'm just reading.

Plus, as a writer who takes way too many notes, I'm a sucker for a decent keyboard.

So when on August 5, Belkin announced its iPad2 Keyboard Folio, I knew I had to give this a shot. Couldn't find anywhere to buy it online immediately, but found it at a local Target.

Although I'm curious that there were no real reviews--only product announcements. Maybe there's a reason for that?

The Good
After an exercise in origami, I ended up abandoning the wordless graphic directions, and just wrestled the iPad into the case, paired up the iPad with the easy Settings directions in the booklet, and went to town.

First off, the keyboard feel is really superb. The TruType keyboard rocks. It really is comfortable to type, and although I don't have man hands, I have long fingers and some keyboards feel too cramped for me. Not this one.

I touch-type around 100 WPM, and get immensely frustrated by keyboards that can't keep up. But these keys have just enough give, there's no clicking, they're not too wobbly or mushy. Overall, it makes typing longer entries on the iPad easy.

It's editing where I'm stymied.

The Bad
OK, the Belkin's Quick Install Guide is really just that: the absolute bare-minimum basics when it comes to this device, some Bluetooth info, legal mumbo-jumbo, and service, safety and warranty blurbs. A loose little piece of paper added to the guide tells you that the Command key activates alternate keys, including Delete.

As a daily PC user who types to get the ideas out fast enough, the Delete key is an important tool--no, the most important tool--in my editing arsenal. I type and correct on the fly, using Delete as needed. Only now I have no Delete.

Although the little loose paper of additional instructions says Command activates Delete, maybe it technically does, but not in the way I'd expect. If I used Macs all day, it might be a non-issue for me. But using Command + Backspace/Delete deletes to the beginning of the line, not just the following character as a PC's delete button does.

Surprise! (Grr...)

I just keep Command+Z at the ready for these situations.

Also, the Belkin iPad2 Keyboard Folio would be really good if they'd incorporated Apple Smart Cover technology into the cover. That would have made it at least a bit more functional.

The absence of a magnetized cover also means that the cover just flaps open at will. I keep wishing for a Moleskine-type band to keep the cover closed, but I guess it would get int the way of the cover when it's opened up and positioned to type.

The Ugly
OK, I have to say it, this case is just plain ugly. Ugly, industrial grey pseudo-suede. But I get that they need to make a limited number of colors to appeal to the broadest number of people.

But I would have preferred black. And you can't really tell from the photos on the packaging that it's not black.

So that was something of a disappointment.

More Later
This has been just a few days with this keyboard, so I'll see how things go. I need to use it more to figure out how to use the function keys and do more research online to see if what I've experienced is just inexperienced-user syndrome, or if they're real deficiencies.

For now, I'm keeping my iPad2 enveloped in the Belkin Keyboard Folio.

But it's got me wondering if another product might take these small annoyances into account. Stay tuned.