iPad keyboard cases are nothing new; I’ve reviewed more than a few of them for various publications over the years. Belkin’s decision to name its latest keyboard case the “Ultimate” piqued my curiosity, if only for the perceived arrogance. Call something the “Ultimate” around me, and you’d better be pretty darned sure it’s at least very good.
On the plus side
The basics of the Ultimate Keyboard case are much like those of any keyboard case. There’s a folio-style case part, into which you shove an iPad 2 or third or fourth generation iPad. There’s a keyboard part, powered by a battery that Belkin suggests can last up to 160 hours of typing. The keyboard part pairs to the iPad via Bluetooth, the same as just about any other keyboard case you might come across.
So far, so good, and the Belkin Ultimate doesn’t fall at any of the basic tests. I’m typing this review up on it while balancing it on my lap, which is (for me) a key criteria for any productivity tool for mobile devices. Sure, they may work well on a desk, but if you’ve got a desk, the chances are good you can slap a full laptop down in place instead — this is one of the things that bothers me about the Microsoft Surface kickstand, because it’s not terribly lap-friendly for typing. The Belkin Ultimate passes that test pretty well.
Typing is the key thing you want out of a keyboard case, and the Ultimate’s chiclet-style keyboard is quite responsive. As with most iPad keyboards there’s both a learning curve and an application interface curve to overcome; while it features some function keys they won’t work in absolutely every application, meaning that sometimes you’ve got to reach a finger over to the screen to finalise a given bit of work. It’s a personal preference thing, as well, but I do wish the delete key was a little bit larger.
On the minus side
The review sample of the Ultimate Keyboard case I’ve tested with is just that — a review sample. It’s been through a few other tests before it came to me, and one downside of that is that the external case has a few scratches and dings on it — which you can just about see on the video above. I didn’t put them there, but they do make the iPad look distinctly shabby, which is something of a concern for long-term work.
The use of a magnetic latch to provide different screen angles works well, but I’m not entirely sold on its utility if you’re using an iPad in bed. No, stop thinking what you’re thinking, and go wash your mind out with soap. The issue I found was that while it supports lap-based typing quite well, if you’re browsing in bed the angles and keyboard don’t work very well. You’re either too far from the screen, or it’s wobbling because it’s long. You can fold the entire screen down over the keyboard to alleviate this problem, but then you lose the stand aspect — and at that point, you may as well just have a regular case instead.
Belkin’s RRP for the Ultimate Keyboard case is $139.95, putting it well in the upper tier of iPad keyboard case solutions.
The Ultimate Keyboard case, is, indeed, a very good keyboard solution for iPad users needing a bit more work flexibility, but it’s not exactly a cheap proposition. There are plenty of other, less pricey keyboard options out there. If you can score an Ultimate case at a bargain price it’s well worth buying, but at this price point it’s just a little bit too rich for my tastes.