Keyboard cases for the Apple iPad have generally settled on two design routes: the traditional folio style, and the thin and light cover style. The latter has really caught on, with excellent examples, like our Editors’ Choice, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover and the Zagg ZAGGkeys PROplus—both of which combine sleek aluminum bodies with comfortable wireless keyboards. The former hasn’t gone away, but it also hasn’t progressed very far beyond adding extra features like solar charging in the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio. The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case ($99.99 list) is a bit of both, combining elements of a traditional folio and an aluminum shelled cover. It’s not as thin and light as the aforementioned covers, but it offers superior protection and more viewing angles in a relatively sleek and stylish package.
Design, Features, and Setup
The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case is compatible with the iPad 2, third-gen iPad, and fourth-gen iPad. I tested it with the iPad 2 and the fourth-gen iPad, and the case fit perfectly on each. Belkin offers the case in black for $99.99 or silver, which matches the aluminum keyboard, for $129.99.
There are two basic parts to the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case: a plastic shell that holds the iPad and an aluminum cover that houses a wireless keyboard. If you can imagine the Logitech Ultrathin fused with a regular folio case, you basically get the Belkin Ultimate. The two pieces are held together by a sturdy, suede-like flap that folds to prop the iPad up for typing. When closed, the case measures about 0.75-inch thick and weighs 17 ounces, making it a good deal thicker and heavier than the 0.31-inch-thick (0.68-inch thick if you include the iPad), 11.36-ounce Logitech Ultrathin. There are cutouts for all the ports, buttons, and camera, but Belkin also built in a channel that redirects the rear-facing speaker so it projects audio towards you. Belkin calls it SoundFlow, and while it doesn’t enhance audio quality, it did make it easier to hear audio when watching a movie or YouTube clip.
There are three strips of magnets above the keyboard that prop the iPad up at three different viewing angles, versus the single ridge and angle in the Logitech Ultrathin. Magnets along the edges of the case and keyboard base do double duty, helping to keep the case closed or stowing the keyboard flat behind the iPad when you don’t need it, like folding back the cover of a magazine. The keyboard also automatically turns off when folded back behind the iPad.
The keyboard connects via Bluetooth, and pairing is as easy as entering the iOS settings and finding the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard. The keyboard automatically shuts off when the case is closed, and there’s almost no delay in the connection when you open the case back up. There’s a micro USB port along the right edge for charging with the included cable, and Belkin claims that the Ultimate Keyboard case should last for up to 160 hours of use on a single charge.
Keyboard and Conclusions
You get a full-QWERTY keyboard with chiclet style keys. The layout is very similar to Logitech’s, but Belkin uses more angular, squared keys. While the sharper edges do help to define the keys well, I actually prefer the rounded design on the Logitech Ultrathin, as it gives it a subtle advantage in spacing between keys. In my side-by-side tests, the Belkin Ultimate felt a bit more cramped, though the keys did feel a bit sturdier than Logitech’s. Key travel is good, if a little shallow—you’ll find a more substantial keyboard on a bulkier case like the ClamCase Pro. Overall, though, I found it very easy to type quickly and accurately on the Belkin case. You can also comfortably and securely use the keyboard in your lap.
The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case does a nice job combining the sleek elements of thin-and-light covers like the Logitech Ultrathin, with the more substantial protection offered by traditional folio cases. The typing experience is very good, and the multiple viewing angles make it a bit more flexible. The ClamCase Pro offers even more versatility as a stand, with an infinitely adjustable hinge, but it’s also a good deal bulkier than both the Belkin and Logitech offerings. The Belkin Ultimate is a perfect choice for those who like the stylish looks of an aluminum cover-style keyboard, but don’t want to sacrifice full-body protection. After using the Logitech Ultrathin, however, the Belkin Ultimate still feels a bit too heavy by comparison, and for its seamless design and supreme portability, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover remains our Editors’ Choice.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc