While I’ve gotten faster typing on the iPad’s keyboard it will most likely never feel completely comfortable. The lack of tactile feedback as my fingers strike the keys and the finger tenderness that comes from smashing the tips of them onto a hard glass surface are two of the reasons that it’s still likely that I’ll reach for a keyboard to enter any lengthy text on the iPad if I need to. That’s why I keep searching for the perfect iPad keyboard case. While I still haven’t found the one I keep finding examples that come very close to being indispensable. The ThinkGeek iPad Keyboard case is one of those and offers a comfortable, attractive option that, like Meg Ryan, is a relatively inoffensive option that will appeal to people looking for a dependable product that delivers an average experience in a dependable way.
The construction of the keyboard cases that I’ve reviewed and used has ranged widely from fairly adequate to hideous and flimsy, sometimes with no apparent correlation between quality and price. The ThinkGeek case is thankfully decently constructed and reasonably priced, with a nicely thought out layout and a comfortable size. The case is built out of a pleasant synthetic leather which looks and feels similar enough to regular cow hide to use as a ‘dress case’ for the iPad. I didn’t feel out of place using it while wearing a suit and tie but I probably wouldn’t bring it on a weekend to the beach or anything. The synthetic is nicely stitched and seamed, with little to complain about aside from a slight puckering when the case is folded around backwards, something that wouldn’t happen if it was real leather.
The iPad is slid in through a slot near the hinge and held in with a flap that will never let your iPad slide out through the top accidentally, although it is a bit tough to shove in while the iPad is in the case. It could have been a more elegant enclosure but it serves the purpose and once the iPad is in place it’s fairly seamless. There are cutouts provided for the home button and ambient light sensor although there is no camera hole as it is definitely an iPad 1 case, designed before the introduction of the iPad 2. That said, the iPad 2 still fits fairly decently and it would serve you if you had one of the newer models and couldn’t wait for a redesign. The interior of the iPad pocket is nicely lined in a felt that should prevent scratching from movement of the iPad while in the case and pulling in and out.
Both the main case hinge and the flap are double fold jobs that allow you to fold the case 180 degrees against itself, holding it like a folded portfolio, although the keyboard makes for a bit of an awkward grip on the back. You also need to turn off the keyboard if you’re doing this and want to prevent accidental keypresses. The keyboard is a bit different than your traditional chicklet keyboard and probably about 70% the size of a regular laptop keyboard although I found it to be fairly comfy to type on, if a tad cramped. The keys are covered in a seamless rubber shell which functions as a ’spill-resistant’ coating that would prevent most moisture and dust from above from getting into the keyboard electronics.
The keyboard is powered on by a comically small switch on the right side that is really a standard dip switch you might find in a keyfob remote to allow you to change frequencies. This could use some work although it is still usable. It’s located next to a standard micro USB charging port on the same side as a pair of indicator lights that designate the power and charge status. You also have a soft-touch connect button that will help you pair the keyboard. The pairing process didn’t give me any trouble and seemed about the same as any other keyboards that I’ve attached to the iPad.
The keyboard has a 90-hour charge life claim on ThinkGeek’s site and although I didn’t do any detailed battery testing I can tell you that it seemed to last for about a week of normal use before needing a juice up. Even now after laying dormant for about a week after finishing testing it’s still got a charge.
The keyboard module is integrated with a small bumper that holds the iPad up in a nice position for typing at about a 2.5 foot distance from the screen. I found the angle to be comfortable for typing although it’s a bit to steep for media viewing or movie watching at that distance. If you’re propping it up for watching from 5-6ft away or more then you’re probably good, otherwise it’s for typing only.
If you look at the world of iPad keyboard cases through the lens of the movie industry then the ThinkGeek iPad case is a romantic comedy with a familiar plot and known actors that will please middle america just fine. If you’re in the market for a blockbuster or an indie film then there are other cases you may consider that offer that huge wow factor or funky alternative construction but if you’re going for a solid, affordable option that you know won’t waste your time then the ThinkGeek case is probably worth the price of admission.
The ThinkGeek iPad Keyboard Case is available for $59 at ThinkGeek.