So, you have a shiny iPad Air and you want to carry it about with you and use it for email, document creation, blogging on the move and other text-heavy tasks. Welcome to the world of modern computing.
To make this dream come true, what you need, of course, is a top-notch keyboard. Without one you’ll be tapping at the touchscreen of your iPad, and this isn’t as efficient as using an external keyboard. Also, the virtual keyboard sits on the screen obscuring much of the text you are working on.
However, your external keyboard has to be well made so that it is comfy to type on. Some dedicated keys for special functions wouldn’t go amiss, either. Ideally, it should double up as a case for your lovely tablet – but it shouldn’t be too chunky. It should cater for your working preferences too – folio cases don’t lend themselves to working in tall screen mode while keycovers can.
So with all that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some more of the best options out there in this second part of our iPad Air keyboard group test. If you missed the first instalment last week, you can read it here.
The Kensington KeyCover Plus for iPad Air is a relatively lightweight and minimal keyboard option because it is just a one-piece keyboard. Your iPad Air slots very firmly into this face down. It comes with a screen protector, but if you want to save the back of your iPad from scratches you’ll need to get hold of a thin film back protector. The iPad buttons and camera lens will be exposed whatever you do, though.
Raised corners help hold the iPad very securely in place. Removing it from the KeyCover is a two-handed job that requires a little bit of oomph. Better that than a KeyCover that pops off in your bag. The cover’s anodised back is scratch-resistant and has rubber feet so it shouldn’t slip around on a table.
Raised lips on the two short edges of the keyboard area help hold the iPad Air in place in transit, but they can interfere with typing comfort as your hands are pushed into the relatively small keyboard area. When you want to type, your iPad Air sits very securely in a long groove that lies behind the half-height function key row, but in front of the small power, pairing and battery life indicator lights. You’ve just the one viewing angle on offer here – it is quite upright but comfortable enough.
The keys themselves are relatively small and they don’t feel quite as comfy as those of Kensington’s folio-style cases. Still, typing at a reasonable speed is possible. The keyboard can be backlit with three light strengths. You can toggle through colours – dark blue, red, dark green, light blue, mauve, light green and white.
The Zagg Folio is an all-plastic iPad Air folio case that is relatively small to carry around and quite light, too. It doesn’t look as neat as some other cases that are available, but looks aren’t everything and the Zagg Folio is solid and provides the protection that an iPad Air deserves front and back. The iPad Air is a snug fit in its tray which has wraparound sides so that only the iPad’s buttons, headset slot, charge slot and back mic are exposed. The back camera has a hole it can shoot through, too.
The hinged design of the Zagg Folio makes the iPad Air look like a mini-laptop, and lets you set the screen viewing angle to suit you. It doesn’t go flat to the table, but there’s plenty of range. The really important part – the keyboard – is well made. The keys are responsive and depress a fair way – fast touch typing should not be a problem.
A separate full-sized number row and half-height function row are both welcome. Copy, paste, undo and redo keys are really useful, too, and the backlight is a really nice touch. It has a dedicated button to the right of the spacebar that toggles three brightness settings. You can pick a colour cycling through red, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, mauve and white.
The Wedge is a few years old now, but it remains a good example of a mini Bluetooth keyboard that’s usable with a range of different devices. Pairing with an iPad Air is not a problem. Bear in mind, though, that unlike all the other keyboards we’ve looked at in this group test, the Wedge is not iPad-specific. Indeed, where the others may feature iPad dedicated keys, the Wedge has Windows and Menu keys.
The Wedge comes with an odd looking, oversized, thick rubber keyboard cover – except that’s not a good description of its function. It will protect the keyboard, yes, but what looks like a peculiar designer depression all the way down its middle is in fact a hinge. You can fold the cover and it becomes a prop stand for your iPad Air. It’s not the most efficient device if your iPad edge is resting on a slippery surface, and it’s also less proficient at holding the iPad in tall mode than wide mode, but it does work.
The keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries which fit into a housing that doubles up as a stand so that the Wedge is propped at a comfy angle for typing. The keys themselves are relatively large and typing is quite comfortable – and it’s nice to see a relatively large Enter key. If you want a keyboard that can be used across a wide range of devices then the Wedge is a more than reasonable choice.