iLuv iCK826 Bluetooth Keyboard Case For iPad 2

Before even the first iPad landed, back when Netbooks were still the thing to have, I remember remarking that a keyboard-case would be a great addition to Apple’s upcoming tablet. It’s not until now that I’ve actually got my hands on one and I find it, in all honesty, somewhat of a mix between a blessing and a curse.

I’m currently typing this review out on the bluetooth keyboard included with the iLuv iCK826 Professional Bluetooth Keyboard Case, slowly but surely adjusting to the closely spaced keys. At the moment my typing is slowed to a crawl, with sporadic moments of speed as my fingers begin to find their place. But it will no doubt improve significantly towards the end of this review.

But let’s ignore the bad for a moment, and look into the whole idea of attaching a keyboard to the iPad. I’m still fairly confident that, when you need to get some serious typing done, a Bluetooth keyboard is the only way to go. The lack of tactile feedback on the onscreen keyboard leads my fingers (or thumbs in this case) to the “n” key rather than the spacebar. This is a problem I don’t have on the iLuv Keyboard Case.

Furthermore, as I get used to the tight key spacing I find myself typing in burts of speed far in excess of anything I could achieve on the iPads display. And, even better, there’s no damned pseudo tactile feedback audio clicking; no matter what state my settings or volume might be in. Sounds aside, the tactile feel of a real keyboard, no matter how bad, certainly can’t be beaten by the unyielding and hard surface of the iPads glass screen.

As you might expect, punctuation is more accessible, including esteric symbols like ± and § which I can’t seem to find on the iPad soft keyboard at all. This is somewhat of a programmers dream because, unlike the terrible soft keyboard, I can easily spout out tags without thinking and $Program->In->PHP(); (sorry!) at a moments notice. Accomplishing these things without an external keyboard is effectively impossible, and many coding applications on the iPad (including WordPress) attempt to work around this with awkwardly placed shortcut buttons which don’t compare in the least to having those essential keys in their natural and muscle-memory-stored positions.

The virtues of having an always available, portable keyboard coupled with the iPad can’t be overstated, but the keyboard case solution is not without its shortcomings.

My first major gripe is the obvious one, and the statement on everyones lips when they see such an ungainly coupling of iPad and keyboard; “Why on earth don’t you just use a laptop?”

I was initially dismissive of these statements, but as soon as I stopped typing and reached for the, non existent, trackpad to reposition my cursor it became all too apparent. At the time, I burst into laughter.

The absurdity of the situation was palpable. I had taken a sleek, modern, gorgeous tablet PC and dressed it up like a laptop from the early 1990s. It looks absolutely rediculous, yet I find the addition of a keyboard extremely useful, even if those constant reachings for a non existent trackpad are somewhat frustrating. The iPad, in a keyboard case, isn’t even a thin pseudo laptop. It’s as thick as a bulky HP laptop, and looks positively absurd next to a MacBook Air- no word of a lie; it’s about twice as thick!

I foresee a certain amount of finger confusion possibly arrising from using this case. I’m now training my fingers to reach for the screen instead of the trackpad when my brain is in “laptop” mode. It’s alread happened once, I’ve reached for the screen on a MacBook Air and stopped myself just short of assaulting it with a finger smudge. Hopefully in time, like the mental switch between Windows and OSX keyboard perculiarities, I’ll find myself able to use the Air, or iPad/Keyboard combo without reaching for input devices which don’t exist.

Moving away from keyboard cases in general. I find the iLuv to be a good example of its ilk . It’s a solidly built leather case with understated stitching and a simple locking stand mechanism to keep it upright when using it on a desk. It’s most useful addition is that the keyboard part detaches (magnetically, I might add) easily from the case and can be used at a distance, either for a more comfortable typing position when its difficult to prop the iPad upright, or perhaps remotely if the iPad were connected to a TV. At a pinch you could also use the keyboard with any computer. The magnets which attach the keyboard are strong, and the keyboard itself is extremely light so there’s no chance of it slipping off.

It’s not difficult to use the keyboard remotely, without relying on screen taps. Using the arrow keys to relocate your cursor instead, it’s quite possible to accomplish a serious amount of writing and retrospective mistake correction in Pages, without ever having to jab the screen. Holding Shift and using the arrow keys will, as you might expect, highlight text. And shortcuts like CMD+C, CMD+P, CMD+Z, CMD+A and more do too.

On the downside, the iLuv keyboard is very compact, and there’s no gap between the keys making it somewhat tricky to get used to. Furthermore, and quite understandably, the keyboard isn’t backlit. I’ve been heavily spoilt by backlit keyboards on the MacBook Pro and Air, and find the lack of backlighting somewhat impedes my natural typing habits. However, sitting back, with the iPad and keyboard laid out upon my lap, and just letting my fingers find their way has proven to be a very effective typing position and as I adjust to the position of the keys it starts to feel positively productive.

The leather case is luxurious, and is pretty close to something you would expect for the retail price, with the keyboard included it works out quite reasonably. The keyboard itself is also comfortable clad in leather, giving a soft leather palm rest which is a stark contrast to the cold, sharp edges of MacBooks. It’s comfortable to use, although somewhat tricky to prop up in certain situations. The lack of spacing between between the iPad screen and the keyboard will leave you craning to see over your hands in a slouched-in-bed position. But this can be fixed by simply pulling the keyboard free from its magnetic fastenings and sitting it a little closer to yourself.

Having the keyboard so easily separable from the case holds many benefits besides comfort. For example it’s possible to charge the keyboard separately via its micro-USB port and still carry around your iPad in the remainder of the case.

The biggest downside to this stellar product is its smell. It’s got to be amongst the strongest smelling leather case I’ve ever laid nostrils upon, and it’s still almost nauseatingly bad after a couple of days use. The smell will fade with age, but it’s no enchanting new-Apple-product smell, that’s for sure. Otherwise, I’d definitely recommend this as an essential addition to the literary professionals iPad armada- I’m enjoying heat-free, silent review typing and an always-to-hand keyboard. Before, I simply used an Apple wireless bluetooth keyboard but never carried it around with me.

As for battery life, it’s touted at 5 hours continuous use and I’m not going to doubt it. There’s plenty of room for battery in there, and bluetooth keyboards aren’t hugely power hungry. It would be, however, far too easy to forget a weekly recharge.

Overall, the iLuv iPad Keyboard Case is a winner but when you pick it up you’ll find yourself frustrated by the feel of the keyboard until you get used to it. It would be nicer to have a little more spacing between the keys and accomplish something closer to the MacBook Air keyboard, but obviously it’s limited in width to that of the iPad. The iLuv keyboard case is, actually, a little wider than the iPad, but the keyboard doesn’t use the full available width- which incidentally would only be slightly shy of the MacBook Air keyboard.

And now, at the end of this review I can gleefully Command+A, Command+C and Command+P it into the WordPress app. Damn! I reached for the non-existent trackpad again.

You can get more information on the iCK826 iPad keyboard from i-Luv.