In the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to be able to test out three different Bluetooth keyboards for my iPad. The first one was a snap on/off keyboard cover for the iPad, the second was a folding keyboard, and the this most recent one is the Ultimate Keyboard Case for the iPad by Belkin. (See the related links for my reviews of the other keyboards.) Being a case junkie, I have to say I looked forward to this one the most. But did it meet my expectations, or did it fall flat? Let’s see.
Installing the case onto my iPad was a breeze. It snaps on easily and stays firmly in place. Connecting the iPad to the keyboard was also easy. Just press the pair button (the same key as the plus sign) and it shows up in your iPad’s Bluetooth settings, ready to connect. The case utilizes the iPad’s auto-wake feature, so it will wake the iPad when you open and sleep the iPad when you close the case.
Once connected, you are ready to go. When you plan to use the keyboard, you simply open the case up like a laptop and place the iPad in one of the three viewing angles. Smart sensing magnets on the area of the case where it connects to the keyboard side keeps the iPad secure and also activates the keyboard to turn on and off. When the iPad is in a viewing angle, the keyboard turns on, and when it is changed away from the viewing angle to either the tablet mode or closed, the keyboard turns itself back off. I absolutely loved this feature, as it made the keyboard so easy to use and also keeps the battery from draining. Belkin claims that the battery will run for 160 hours before needing a charge and 6 months if it’s in standby mode. Since I have yet to run out of battery (and I’ve used it quite a bit), I can attest to the long life between charges. Included is the microUSB to USB cord for the times you do need to charge it up.
The size and feel of the keyboard reminded me of using a laptop with a few extra bonuses, such as a button for speech to text instead of a Windows key. It is about half an inch smaller than the keyboard on my 14″ laptop. I found no problems with accidentally pressing keys and the layout of the standard keyboard buttons mirrors that of my laptop, even down to the Fn button in the bottom left. The only button that seemed slightly off was the backspace button. It is half the size of a normal backspace key, but thankfully it was positioned to where my finger would naturally hit it.
All of the cutouts are perfectly lined up with the buttons and ports on the iPad and all of my standard headphones worked with the case on. Headphones with large plugs, however, will not fit.
When closed, the case looks very similar to a laptop; there’s even a groove to open it up like a laptop. It is sturdy and feels secure enough for daily use and travel. The aluminum top gives protection and keeps the keyboard case lightweight. It does get cool to the touch and if you set up the keyboard on bare skin, you get a bit of a surprise initially, but it warms up quickly and doesn’t detract from the case.
As an added bonus, this case features a “SoundFlow” design to enhance the audio quality of the iPad (shown above). This design redirects the sound towards you instead of away from you, so you get a much clearer sound.
As I mentioned above, there is a tablet mode on this case where the keyboard will turn off and the on-screen keyboard will be used. This is done by simply laying the iPad so the iPad’s back is on the keyboard or flipping the keyboard around back of the iPad (the first position keeps the keyboard safe, the second exposes the keyboard). I used this mode often, and I could switch back and forth between the tablet and keyboard mode quickly by lifting the iPad up into the desired viewing angle if I needed to send an email or text message and wanted to use the Belkin keyboard.
The only true flaw I found in this case is also a flaw in many other stand cases. When on an unsteady surface, such as my lap, the lowest two viewing angles were nearly impossible to use due to the iPad slipping out of its grooved magnetic surface with the smallest bump. The highest viewing angle was more stable, and the iPad didn’t fall out of the groove. The magnet was able to stay firmly in the groove when bumped around. When on my desk the case was flawless, as none of the angles made it slip, even with casual bumps of the keyboard and desk.
Overall, this keyboard case met and shattered my expectations for ease of use, style, and battery life. The smart sensing technology really makes this case stand out. No more do you have to turn your Bluetooth keyboard on and off to switch between the tablet keyboard and the keyboard case. You open the case, place it on the built-in stand, and you are ready to go. It can’t be much simpler than that. The SoundFlow design worked well while being barely noticeable on the case and did not detract from the style. The keyboard itself felt good under my fingers, and I had no problems with typing on it. It could use a number-lock key like a previous keyboard I reviewed, but that’s being nitpicky. I would definitely recommend the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard case to anyone who is in the market for a Bluetooth keyboard case for their iPad.