Category Archives: iPad

iPad Air 2 Clamshell Keyboards

Nearly three years ago I wrote about the Clamcase Pro for iPad 2 which basically turns your iPad 2 into a small laptop. As the iPad 2 became “slower” – meaning that newer version of iOS and various apps were becoming too much for it to handle, I eventually bought an iPad Air 2. My iPad 2 lives on as a remote for Netflix, Plex and YouTube.

Of course my first instinct was to look into buying the iPad Air 2 version of the Clamcase Pro. That turned out to be a problem because I live in Canada. Incipio sell this keyboard through Amazon.ca, but at the time it wasn’t even listed. When it finally did get listed, it was in the neighbourhood of C$350. A far cry for the C$160 or so I had paid for my first keyboard! Hence started the search for another keyboard.

After reading a number of reviews, I decided to go for the ZAGG Slim Book Ultrathin Case. One thing I really liked about it was that the half that holds the iPad is detachable, which made it very easy to remove the iPad to use in portrait mode while still keeping a layer of protection. That is also its weak point: the plastic hinges tend to break after a while. I chose to ignore the reviews on Amazon, especially since some claimed the problem had been fixed. After just a few months, one of the hinges broke. I contacted ZAGG and got a replacement for free (though I had to pay for return shipping to the U.S.) To their credit, it was pretty much a no-questions-asked replacement process and they ship a new keyboard even before you send yours in (you have 60 days to return it, after which time they will charge you the full MSRP). Get the new keyboard and all is good… For about two months. I noticed that the same hinge was beginning to weaken and would more than likely break soon. So much for the problem being fixed. Note that I am very careful with these things, so it’s not the result of abuse or carelessness.

So I decided to look for something else, and that wasn’t easy. I looked again for the iPad Air 2 version of the Clamcase Pro and no luck on the Canadian side – it was still insanely priced. I eventually came across the Cooper Kai Skel (I think that’s the name anyway). This one is closer to the Clamcase Pro in that the half is not detachable like the ZAGG: If you want to use the iPad without the keyboard, you have to take it out of its casing. This one was cheaper than the other two, so I decided to give it a try. It’s not as refined as the other two offerings: The instructions manual is in broken English and the keys took some kind of getting used to (though it didn’t take long to get used to them and not give it a second thought). It works, and includes some copy/paste keys that were available on the Clamcase Pro, but not the ZAGG (did I ever miss those while using the ZAGG…) Also the function for switching keyboards (I type in English and French) actually works on it, unlike the ZAGG which brought me to the iPad Search screen when I used that key…

The ZAGG keyboard had two nice advantages over the other two: The detachable half and a sort of buffer when you started typing while the keyboard had to reconnect. With the other two, you have to start over while the ZAGG keeps the characters in a buffer and sends them to the iPad once the Bluetooth connection has been re-established. Nice! It’s really too bad about the plastic hinges.

In the meantime, the Clamcase Pro for iPad Air 2 has come and gone on Amazon Canada, but is available at a decent price on Amazon USA. Don’t know what’s up with that.

So far the  Cooper Kai Skel has been quite satisfactory. No signs of any parts about to break and the keyboard responds as it should. It’s a good, more affordable alternative. I never got a chance to try the Clamcase Pro for iPad Air 2 , so I don’t know if it’s better or worse than the iPad 2 model.

Lots of fun… 😉

So long, laptop… Hello iPad and ClamCase Pro

Last year I wrote about converting my HP laptop to Linux Mint, after running Windows Vista and Windows 7 over the years.  A few weeks ago the battery started showing signs of its age.  Since I wasn’t doing anything on the laptop that I can’t do on my iPad, I figured this would be a good time to downsize the gadgetry a little bit.

There was a problem, however: Typing more than a couple of sentences with an onscreen keyboard is a bitch.  Hell, even typing an alphanumeric password is annoying because you have to switch the keyboard mode, often several times (I use weird passwords).

A few months ago, I happened to notice an iPad keyboard, the ClamCase Pro, that looked Clamcase Propretty cool and was getting good reviews.  So I hit the tech web sites again, looking for more recent reviews, and I didn’t see much in terms of negative comments – most of them seemed to be related to a problem located between the keyboard and the chair, while some others were of the “well, duh!” category – such as the keyboard roughly doubling the weight of the iPad. Most of the keyboard’s weight is actually a counterweight so that the iPad won’t tip over when it’s inclined.  Note that I did run into a review where the reviewer mentioned that you cannot use it comfortably on your lap because it will tip over.  I don’t know what that person’s situation was, but I’m typing this with the ClamCase Pro on my lap, with the iPad at a rather steep angle, and it doesn’t even feel like it wants to tip over.

Unlike many keyboards I’ve seen, the ClamCase Pro has a palmrest, which makes it more comfortable for prolonged use.  The keys are very responsive, and I got used to the layout very quickly.  It’s roughly like a standard Mac keyboard, with a few different keys. You can put the iPad in “tablet mode” by folding the keyboard all the way to the back (it’s also recommended to turn off the physical keyboard when you do that, to avoid pressing keys accidentally while holding it).  It does make it kind of heavy to use for reading, however.  Then again, if you’re going to read for a prolonged period, you can always take the iPad out of the enclosure.

After testing this setup for a few days, I determined that this would do just fine as a replacement for my laptop.  Note that I’m not saying that a tablet can replace a laptop (and definitely not a desktop computer): I just wasn’t doing a whole lot with my laptop.  I’d say the only annoyance is that some web sites just don’t work all that great on mobile browsers – yet.

I donated my laptop to a local technology charity named CompuCorps.  I bought the laptop back in 2007 and didn’t expect to get much for it, so I’d rather have it go to someone who needs it.  I’ll get a tax receipt for the donation, so that’s cool. 🙂

So, if you’re looking for a good physical keyboard for your iPad (2, 3, 4), the ClamCase Pro is a solid choice – and as a bonus, it looks pretty slick, not unlike a netbook or Chromebook.  The manufacturer also just released a new version of the keyboard for the thinner iPad Air, which doesn’t seem to be widely available (at the time of writing).