Snap review: Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air

I would say that this is the best Christmas present I had this year but for how I bought it myself and anyway, yesterday I was given a Doctor Who TARDIS chocolate mould. Oh, yes. I think that one is going to actually slow down my productivity for the year but in a good way. The keyboard should – no, it will – do the opposite.

It’s an iPad case with a keyboard built in. That sounds a bit like a Microsoft Surface and there were two very good things about the Surface: its name and its keyboard. I think. Certainly its name, I loved that name when they used it for the giant pool-table sized touch computers. The idea of a built-in keyboard may be better than the ones that can come with the Surface, but the idea is good.

It’s good but it’s not essential. I remember writing the first thousand words of The Blank Screen (UK edition) on my original iPad and typing directly onto the glass. Over the years, I wrote very many thousands of words on that glass but there did come a point when I decided to try an external Bluetooth keyboard. It meant carrying two things around but it did also mean that my typing went back up to nearer its normal speed and I enjoy typing, I’m good at typing and I feel I can only write when I’m kneading the keys. No matter how good the iPad’s onscreen keyboard is, I miss the feel of real keys and I am demonstrably faster with them.

I was a bit torn, though. Even when I’d decided I was going to get such a keyboard and I set aside a budget for it, my research couldn’t get me closer than two possibilities. I was equally sure that a Logitech one (the Ultrathin keyboard case) and Apple’s own Wireless Keyboard were right. The Apple one isn’t made for the iPad, it’s the same one you get with a new Mac unless you specify that you want a wired one so maybe it was a bit heavier than the Logitech, maybe not as handy in some ways, but I knew the typing action on it and I liked that a lot.

But the Logitech did have iPad keys like a home button to save you having to reach up to the screen. And it was also cheaper. Given my complete certainty that either would be right, I bought the cheaper one.

And I was right.

But I was so right that after Angela had seen how I’d done a whole New York and Florida trip, working away with only the iPad and that case instead of a laptop, she wanted one. And I saw my chance. I gave her the Logitech and I bought the Apple one.

And I was right again.

I did miss the iPad-specific keys and the Logitech one came in a case that doubled as a stand for the iPad where the Apple one didn’t but, man, the typing feel was great.

Here’s how attached we both got to our keyboards. When Angela was considering a bag and it was just a smidgeon too small to fit her Logitech keyboard in, I offered to swap. It was hard. I didn’t want to. But it made sense. Nuts to sense, she thought, she didn’t want to give up her keyboard for mine.

And that’s where we were until I bought my iPad Air. I still have my external Apple Wireless keyboard and she still has her Logitech one. But our original iPads both had cases that you can’t get any more (they are the original Apple heavy rubber ones) and this means I was carting my iPad around bare. Angela made me a gorgeous kind of pillow for it, an envelope-like padded fabric piece that I can slip the iPad Air in and out of as I need. But the old cases also had the advantage that they could stand the iPad up at an angle for you to see properly as you typed and I didn’t have that.

The iPad Air is a weird thing: on the one hand it is extremely strong and clearly very tough yet on the other, you’re afraid of breaking it. I’ve gone without cases on things before and actually I don’t like cases if I can avoid them, but I knew with the work this was going to be used for and the sheer number of hours it would be worked on everywhere I went, I had to buy a case.

I could’ve bought any case and kept on using my Apple Wireless keyboard for those times that I wanted to do a lot of writing. But in the same way that I had a burn on to try the Apple Wireless keyboard after having had the Logitech one, I wanted a case that included a keyboard.

I wanted a case that I could use to protect the iPad Air, that I could also type on a proper keyboard but which didn’t require me to take the case on and off all the time. I reckon I read and write about equally on the iPad so having to take a keyboard out of the way half the time would be as inconvenient as having to put one on the other half of the time.

That was my rationale and the start for my research. I came within a pixel of buying a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air but fortunately the Apple Store stocks them so I was able to try one out. The keys on the keyboard are great, I’d be happy with those. But the thing is wrapped in a kind of rough rubber which feels rugged but also just feels icky to me. Getting it out constantly, holding it half the day, I didn’t want that. And it had a little flappy tab for holding your stylus. I will never have a stylus for my iPad. So that would just flap at me all the time.

It’s funny but whatever you think you’ve narrowed your search down to, there are always videos and reviews that say you’re right. Every review said this Logitech one was the keyboard case to beat – until I felt one and knew I didn’t want it. Then every review I read said actually, no, there’s this even more expensive Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air that was infinitely better.

I bought it.

I don’t know about infinitely better, but it’s very good and within seconds of snapping it around my iPad, I was sold. I very much like the fact that I can hold my iPad as I always did and read or watch anything, that I can do this while forgetting that it has a keyboard. And of course I then very, very much like that I can start typing away on the keys when I want to. Yes: everything you’ve read in this post has been written on that keyboard.

I don’t like the arrangement of the apostrophe, colon/semi-colon and enter keys: they’re taking me some while to get used to but otherwise, the feel is a lot like the Apple Wireless keyboard one – not as great but still good – and the speed difference it makes is marvellous.

It is Christmas and I’ve been very bad staying off OmniFocus, my To Do manager, and just bunging in tasks that I don’t then get around to doing or sorting as I normally do. So much so that my Forecast of things I had to do was showing 35 things I should’ve done. Listen, I have done about 25 of them, I’ve just not been ticking them off as done in OmniFocus. More distressingly, I’ve let the inbox build up until it had 31 tasks in. These are all the tasks that you think of as you’re racing around and you chuck in to OmniFocus to sort out later. That means doing them or figuring out when you will or just lobbing them in to projects: this one is to do with getting new work, that one’s for a Writers’ Guild event you’re producing and so on. Things you need to do that maybe you can’t do today but you need to make a note. Fine. That’s the whole point of the inbox in OmniFocus. But you’re supposed to keep that inbox clear because you’re supposed to work through your tasks and stop them clogging up the inbox, stop them clogging up your mind. And I had 31 tasks in there.

The trouble with 31 is that you look at them and think, tsch. Later. I’ll sort them out later. And you don’t, of course, so they build up more and it’s even harder to face them.

I faced them.

With my Belkin keyboard.

Somehow being able to tap on an Inbox task as I always do but then rapidly type that this one belongs in the Writers’ Guild project, that one is for the shopping list, that one needs some more information so let me just type a thousand words into that box, it all flew and I cleared that inbox in minutes.

A clear inbox is a happy mind.

And a good keyboard is a happy writer. At least, it is for me. I need to knead the keys and the ability to do it is a motive to do it. So it may be that this is the first thing I’ve written on this new keyboard, it may be that I’m still getting used to the apostrophe key and how I keep tapping Enter instead, but already I know that this is a boon and I know that I made the right choice.

That’s a good feeling. I should make more right choices. I think I like it.

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