Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Tech review: keyboards for the iPad

Want a laptop that’s cheaper and just as fast and lightweight as an ultrabook or Macbook Air? Try an iPad with a keyboard

By David Chen  /  Staff reporter

Opt’s KeePad case turns your Apple Wireless Keyboard and an iPad into a mobile computer kit.

Photo courtesy of Opt

When the iPad first came out, it was pooh-poohed as an oversized version of the iPod touch, a mere fancy underpowered toy for tech enthusiasts and Apple fans.

But here we are, several years later, and the world’s most popular tablet computer is shaping up to be a decent replacement for a laptop. Though not as powerful as a desktop or laptop, the iPad often feels just as fast because it runs efficiently, letting you use only one app at a time. And hard drive storage is less of an obstacle these days, with cloud computing services like Dropbox or Sugarsync and Apple’s own iCloud storing our data online.

I have been coming around to the idea that most of the stuff I do on a laptop or a PC — surfing the Web, writing for the Taipei Times, using Facebook, organizing photos — can be done on an iPad. Safari and YouTube have got Web browsing and videos covered. For word processing, I ditched Microsoft Word long ago for a writer-friendly text editor (Writeroom and iAWriter are both decent apps to try). Facebook’s app does a decent job, and the iPad’s own Photos app has rudimentary editing capabilities. (Heck, now you can even get Adobe Photoshop for iOS and Android).

Of course, for an iPad to replace your laptop, you’ll need one thing: a real, physical keyboard. No matter how cool touch screens are, and despite the great leaps that have been made in voice recognition technology (with programs like Siri and Dragon Dictation), nothing beats the clackety-clack of a physical keyboard when it comes to comfort, accuracy and speed.

There are plenty of keyboard options available for iPad users, whether you’re a casual typist who just can’t get used to tapping on glass, or if you’re an office road warrior looking for a more lightweight and flexible computing option.

Here’s a look at some of the better keyboard accessories for iPad currently available in Taiwan. All products reviewed here connect to the iPad wirelessly using a Bluetooth connection.

STAND-ALONE KEYBOARDS

I discovered that the best solution for turning my iPad into a work computer was already laying around the house. At home, we use the Apple Wireless Keyboard (NT$2,390) with a Mac desktop computer, and it works like a charm with the iPad.

Apple’s keyboard is a natural choice for iPad typists. It has standard-size keys and good ergonomics. The smooth chiclet buttons, which are similar to the ones on Apple’s Macbook laptops, have the right feel: they’re not too squishy and have a smooth, satisfying click.

But if you’re going to use the Apple Wireless Keyboard with an iPad, a case and stand are a must. I found Opt’s KeePad (NT$1,080) to be a great solution. This cleverly designed faux-leather case, tailored especially for Apple’s keyboard, folds out with an attached stand sewn inside on which you can prop up your iPad. The KeePad holds the iPad steadily in either landscape (with the screen longer from left to right) or portrait views, and it was easy to adjust the viewing angle.

The KeePad case feels sturdy and well built, but it’s light enough not to be a burden in your backpack or bag. Combined with the Apple Keyboard and iPad 2, it weighs around 1.1kg, the same weight of the 11-inch Macbook Air.

Now, you might think carrying a separate keyboard case sounds like a hassle compared to the all-in-one form factor of a laptop. But this can also be a boon for travelers: you can use the iPad as a tablet on the bus or plane, and then as a laptop when you get to your hotel.

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