iPad 2 Keyboard Shootout: Finding the best keyboard

iPad 2 Keyboard Shootout: Finding the best keyboard

I'm a big fan of my iPad, and I've found that I can take it to meetings instead of a laptop.  But typing is still a pain and really slows me down.  Even though I'm pretty good at touch typing on the iPad, it's still way more difficult than on a computer and forces me to take my laptop with me more often than I'd like.  So I set about finding an alternative.

My requirements may be different than yours.  I wanted something that maintains the iPad's slim profile as much as possible, has some element of style to it, and most importantly, allows me to type well -- ideally as well as I can on my 15" Macbook Pro laptop.  Additional "nice to haves" were the ability to keep my Apple iPad magnetic screen cover and a good set of function keys on the keyboard.  One intriguing keyboard that I didn't test is the TouchFire keyboard concept on Kickstarter, which is a flexible keyboard that interfaces directly with the iPad's on-screen keyboard.  When it comes out, I'll give it a shot as well.

I tested five bluetooth iPad keyboards and found one I really liked:  The Logitech Keboard Case for the iPad 2.  The keyboard is actually one made by ZAGG, with Logitech branding the device.  I time-tested all five bluetooth keyboards against the iPad's on-screen keyboard and against the Macbook Pro, by typing a block of text on each device and timing how long it took.  The text doesn't make total sense, but I wanted something that required numbers, special characters, and copy/pasting.

First, here's a video of the setup process:

The Winner: Logitech Keyboard Case for iPad2 by ZAGG

This keyboard totally rocks.  For me, it's head & shoulders above the other keyboards for several key reasons.  Most importantly, the keyboard performed faster than the Macbook Pro keyboard, with my test text coming in at 45 seconds vs. 56 seconds.  In fact, it was the fastest keyboard of all the ones I tested.  Here's the Amazon link for it.

The Logitech Case w/ my iPad nestled in

But importantly (to me, at least), I can keep my Apple magnetic keyboard cover on the iPad.  The Logitech case isn't meant to allow the Apple cover to stay on, but it works.  It's a bit of a hack -- to accommodate the cover, I have to put the iPad in upside down.  That doesn't matter, except that the charge and headphone ports no longer accommodate the iPad.  But as you can see in the video, since it's so simple to remove the iPad from the keyboard case, it's no big deal -- and in fact since the cover makes the iPad stick out a tiny bit more from the case, you could still use both with the iPad in the case if you were so inclined.

The iPad fits with the Apple Cover (backwards -- but it works!)

Being able to keep the Apple cover on the iPad gives me the flexibility to take the case with me when I want it, or leave it when I know I don't want it.  There's no level of commitment -- not even a "snapping" of the iPad in & out of the case.  This is liberating, although there is a downside:  By keeping the Apple cover on, the iPad doesn't fit as snugly into the case, so it'll fall out easily if dropped.  Because of this, you don't get the level of protection with this case as you do with others that are more secure.  For me the trade off is easy though -- if I were carrying the iPad around without the keyboard case, it would be even more vulnerable, so I'm not losing any protection with this case as compared to having no case.  Although I'm not gaining any protection either, I love the flexibility of this solution.

This Logitech case is also one of the few (the ZAGGfolio is the other) that has cut, copy & paste buttons -- something I find to be invaluable in an iPad keyboard.  The keys are well spaced out and have a very good tactile feel to them.  Overall, this case is a clear winner to me -- so much so that I've already called it my own by putting the Socialize icon sticker on it, as well as the optional low-profile clear rubber feet, as you can see in the video and pictures.

Here's a video of both the on-screen test time and the Logitech keyboard:

Second Place: The ZAGGfolio

The ZAGGfolio Keyboard comes in second place.

The ZAGGfolio is the exact same keyboard as the Logitech Keyboard Case (winner, above), but with a cover that requires a bit more commitment.  The iPad has to be slid into it.  On the plus side, it does provide more protection to the iPad, although it's also bulkier.  This keyboard gets second place because it uses the same fantastic ZAGG keyboard as the winner, with a time result of 51 seconds, also beating my 56 second time on the Macbook Pro.  (The iPad's built-in keyboard, by comparison, took 1 minute, 58 seconds to type out the same text).  Here's the Amazon link.

Here's a video of the keyboard in action:

Third Place: Logitech Fold-Up Keyboard

The Transformer-style keyboard in action

This keyboard has an ingenious slide-around design that causes the keyboard to expand into a full-size keyboard.  If it weren't so bulky, it would've nailed a top spot in the keyboard shootout.  However, due to the mechanics needed to support the slide-around keyboard design, when the iPad is clipped in, it feels as hefty as a laptop, negating the inherent benefits of the iPad.  It's too bad because overall, I like the concept and the keyboard itself is great, nabbing a time of 48 seconds in my time tests (second fastest, and faster than the Macbook Pro time of 56 seconds).  Here's the Amazon link.

Here's a video of the Logitech Fold-Up Keyboard in Action:

Fourth Place: Adonit Writer for iPad 2

Great design, poor functionality

I really wanted to like this keyboard.  INC Magazine named it as the top iPad keyboard.  And I can see why -- it's beautifully constructed and comes in a very Apple-esque high quality packaged box.  You can tell the designers and engineers put a lot of love into its design.  And for people with smaller hands, it might be perfect.  The build quality was easily tops of the group, but the keyboard spacing made it impossible for me to use effectively.  Although the ZAGG keyboards have the same width as the Adonit, the key tactile response couldn't be more night & day.  The Adonit keyboard returned the slowest time, at 1 minute, 46 seconds (the iPad's on-screen keyboard wasn't far behind at 1:58).  With that kind of poor performance, I'd rather just use the on-screen keyoboard than lug around a secondary keyboard.  So big style points for the Adonit keyboard, but very low functionality score.  Here's the Amazon link.  Here's a video:

Last Place: No-Name Brand Cheap Bluetooth Keyboard

This one really sucked

This keyboard is so no-name that not only does it not have a brand, it doesn't even have a proper name.  The box says "Mobile Bluetooth Keyboard" but then it has some text that's been marked through with a permanent black marker.  It probably said something like "for the iPad" but since it's not being sold for the iPad2, they marked it out.  No matter -- it's so much cheaper than all the other keyboards, and it looks good with its aluminum-style finish (can't tell if it's truly aluminum or not -- some people maintain that it's plastic) that if it worked, I'd be all about using it.

In practice though, it was terrible.  The design was poor and the tactile response was just awful.  Not recommended.  It clocked in a dismal time of 1 minute, 37 seconds.  Here's the Amazon link (although really, save your money).  Here's a video:

Here's a gallery of pics:

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