03 Jun Product review: Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case
I was recently invited to test a product on behalf of MyTrendyPhone.co.uk. One thing I thought I would find useful was an iPad case with a keyboard. I was sent a Universal Tablet Bluetooth Keyboard and Leather Case:
Please note: I’ve include my own photos throughout but they’re taken in not much daylight on my phone camera, so you may be better off checking out the product photography on the product page.
The reason I wanted one of these was for travelling. As a researcher and workshop facilitator, I spend quite a bit of time travelling and need to be able to work from wherever I am. My trusty iPad goes pretty much everywhere with me (it’s my main requirement when looking for bags – that’s another thing I could really do with!). I use it to check email, keep up-to-date with news and social media, make notes, write blog posts (in fact I started writing this blog post on it whilst on a bus), write and deliver presentations… I’d be here forever if I listed everything, there’s not much I do that I can’t do on my iPad. I actually don’t mind typing on the touchscreen – I even choose to transcribe interviews on the iPad rather than desktop – but I’ve kept wondering if it would be better to try an external keyboard. One big advantage is that the keyboard takes up quite a bit of the screen so it can make it more difficult at times to both type and format. I’ve been testing this case by taking it to events with me, and below is my review of the product.
There’s a few options for external keyboards. My wireless keyboard for my main computer actually works as a keyboard for the iPad, though it’s not so convenient to carry around a full sized additional keyboard. There are some which fit into an iPad case, and there are some which are fixed into a case. The one I tried was attached to the case by a magnet, so you could use it in the case or you could remove it. I liked the flexibility here – it means you can adapt it to your situation and the space available, and of course you could just take the keyboard with you if you didn’t want to take the full case (e.g. if you have a smaller case).
The case I tried apparently fits any tablet from 9″to 10.1″. This means it doesn’t necessarily fit snugly as it’s not tailored to your specific tablet, but if you have more than one or are likely to buy a different model in future that’s an advantage. The tablet is attached using plastic corners – they’re on elastic bands so you can expand to fit your tablet. It’s relatively secure once it’s in, but it’s not the easiest of fastenings to use.
Another thing which had always intrigued me was whether it’s more natural to have the screen at a higher angle when typing. My default is for me to type on the screen with it at a slight incline using the smart case, like this:
This of course is totally different to the way you would usually look at the screen of a desktop or laptop computer. You can stand the iPad upright, though I don’t tend to do this when I have a lot of typing to do as the iPad isn’t very stable in this position. With a keyboard and case you can usually have the iPad at a higher angle, more like a laptop. The case I was sent has just one viewing angle, which was fine when using on a desk, but too low when using on the train – there’s not enough room on the pull down table to have it at this angle. I also found it was a little flimsy to be honest, the stand seemed like just a piece of cardboard in the case so not very strong. I think I’d prefer to try a sturdier one with more viewing angle options.
The case I tested was for landscape use only, you can also get cases which you can use in portrait though I don’t think I’d use that often so it wasn’t a big issue for me – nice option to have though I guess.
So how does your iPad know there’s a keyboard that you want to use with it? Usually they connect via Bluetooth, and it found the pairing process very simple. I turned on Bluetooth on my iPad and on the keyboard, and then typed in the passcode to pair them together. You only need to do this once – after that they pair automatically (or they did with this one anyway). I had no problems at all with pairing or getting the keyboard to communicate with the iPad. As Bluetooth is the way the keyboard communicates with the iPad, you need to leave Bluetooth on both devices in order for them to work. Here lies my big problem and the reason I’m currently travelling without the case. Bluetooth uses battery power, quite a lot of battery power in fact. So much battery power that in one train journey to Cambridge I arrived with less than 30% of battery left (admittedly the journey takes around 4hrs, but my iPad has always lasted a full day of use in the past) and never had any problems with battery life. This made for a very dull return journey as I couldn’t use my iPad at all – it had 3% battery by the time my workshop had finished (I used it to present from).
I thought it was worth mentioning that I was a little disappointed with the quality of the case – I didn’t pay to test this but am judging it on what the cost should be. The packaging had quite a few errors on it (small spelling and grammatical errors, but this is always a bit of a red flag in terms of quality for me) and the case itself was a little flimsy – it didn’t hold itself in position very well. It’s also quite bulky, which in a sense is understandable considering it includes a keyboard (maybe I’m expecting the moon on a stick?!), but I know you can get much more compact ones. It doesn’t fit in my usual bag so I would have to carry a larger bag if I wanted to carry the iPad in the case.
As I was finishing editing this blog post to be published (I drafted it a few weeks ago) I put my iPad in the case to take some additional photos, and one of the corners snapped so the iPad is now wonky and not secure. I’ve been storing the case in its original packaging (with foam protector for the inside) and have only taken the iPad in and out of the case about five times so really don’t expect this to happen in such a short space of time.
I have to say I’m afraid I wouldn’t recommend this case (even before the corner snapped). I don’t know if I would recommend any case unless you have a reliable power supply or an external battery (I love my Innergie PocketCell but I don’t tend to carry an iPad connector with me and it gets pretty warm when I have used it to charge my iPad). I’m intrigued by the more slimline cases though as the bulkiness was another key issue for me, so I think if I was buying I’d probably save up to get a more robust case from a reputable brand. Belkin sell a variety of cases such as the Fastfit Keyboard Case or the Ultimate Keyboard Case so I think I’d recommend looking at some of the higher quality ones if you’re interested in a keyboard case for your tablet, and I’d recommend investing in a decent external battery if you want to be able to use the iPad when not connected to a power source.
Do you have a case with a keyboard for your tablet? What would you recommend?