By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Keyboard cases for the iPad or for any of the new tablets in general are often thought of as expensive and somewhat silly accessories mostly because they're so poorly designed. A lot of these cobble together a keyboard with some sort of leatherette case in a bulky cocktail of fail that's cumbersome and often frustrating to use.
Adding a keyboard case to a tablet also makes it seem more like the device that tablets are apparently designed to obsolete, the netbook. ClamCase for the iPad 2 (also available for the original iPad) has rewritten the rules of what a keyboard case for the iPad should be.
A stunning and solid product, the ClamCase for the iPad 2, US $149 but you need to jump through hoops to get it since they don't ship to Canada, converts the white or black iPad 2 from an accomplished tablet to an accomplished touch-enabled notebook. We got ours through Amazon.com and had it shipped to a US address.
With a unique articulated hinge that allows the iPad to be used in multiple positions as well as a pretty decent QWERTY keyboard complete with 14 hotkeys, 90 hours of use on a single charge and responsive and easy to set up Bluetooth connectivity, this device is ideal for any iPad user that needs to do a lot of typing.
Pop the iPad 2 into the top part of the case and once the devices are paired (have both devices in pairing mode and key in a specifed code on the keyboard) it will act just like a notebook. The ClamCase even uses the iPad's magnets to put itself to sleep once the screen is shut.
Using applications like Pages with the keyboard works really well since you now have access to the entire iPad screen since your don't need the software keyboard. This will become even more important once Microsoft decides to release MS Word for the iPad.
Typing on the ClamCase is very similar to typing on some of the more recent notebooks with the scissor type recessed keyboard. The keyboard feels a little lightweight in terms of feedback but aside from that it is perfectly usable and touch typists will able to write on it at a reasonably fast pace.
Of all the existing keyboard and case combos in the market, ClamCase seems to be the most integrated solution and approximates the Apple design and style to the extent that it makes the iPad look like a micro-MacBook. It does look very much like the 12-inch PowerBook G4.
It is easy to forget your are using an iPad but this soon changes once you realize there is no trackpad and that you can (and need to) interact with the screen via multi-touch to get certain things done, like navigate Safari or go back and forth in your browsing history.
The screen half of the case is also heavier since it has to hold the whole iPad which means that if you aren't careful, you can easily topple it over. There are all quirks that are outweighed by the benefits. Users who would like to use the iPad to write now have a solid solution that feels more natural than typing on the screen.
The matte plastic case feels durable and solid although it adds another 1.7 pounds to the iPad 2, which now puts it in league with many notebooks in the market.
We're also not sure how well the white polycarbonate with gray accents will last since most devices that are white usually turn yellow with age. At least they didn't use a glossy plastic finish which could have made the ClamCase look cheap.
The ClamCase for the iPad 2 delivers on most of the promises it has made. It is a case that offers all around protection, a QWERTY keyboard that, while a little light to the touch, frees up 40 per cent of the iPad's screen and makes touch typing possible and even fun. It would have been better if the keyboard was of higher quality and if it was backlit.
We were disheartened to realize that, when shut, the ClamCase does not close completely nor does it align perfectly between top and bottom case which is disappointing for a $150 accessory that seems, on the surface, to have been so well designed. There are some quality assurance issues that definitely need to be worked out here.
While not for everyone, the ClamCase for iPad 2 is a sound investment for iPad 2 toting writers who need to put in a lot of hours typing and need versatile protection as well. Canadians interested in the ClamCase will need to look to getting them across the border (they don't ship to Canada yet).
Rating: 3 out of 5