The ideal solution would be a keyboard built into an iPad case.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
Kensington iPad keyboard and case: Small, but it does well
October 30, 2011
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard
I've never been able to adjust to the on-screen keyboard of my iPad. It's OK for entering passwords and short stuff like that, but -- at least for me -- not suitable for writing. So I'm always looking for alternative external keyboards.
I normally use Apple's $69 Wireless Keyboard, which has a great layout and good feel and connects flawlessly through Bluetooth. (That's the short-range wireless method laptops and smart phones use.) . It's identical to Apple's regular keyboards in every other aspect.
But a separate external keyboard makes a klutzy arrangement. Propping up your iPad so you can see the screen is just one of the problems. Carrying two items and keeping both safe from bumps and scrapes is another one.
The ideal solution would be a keyboard built into an iPad case. That's what you get in the Kensington KeyFolio, which holds both the iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard in a fold-up case. It costs $60 to $80, depending on discounts, looks good in a chunky sort of way and gives you a keyboard that's always ready for action.
The KeyFolio case is nicely protective, much more so than Apple's cases for the iPad and iPad 2. It's made from thick fake cowhide and cleverly folds open to present the iPad and keyboard in laptop style. You can adjust the angle of the screen in a slotted holder from straight up to semi-reclining.
The keyboard is a plus-and-minus affair. Minuses first: It's smaller than normal and a bit mushy with its rubber-coated keys. The pluses: The keyboard is larger than the on-screen keyboard, has the standard Apple editing keys such as Command and Option in addition to dedicated keys for sound volume and so on, and is very quiet; I can bang on it without waking my parrot.
It also has a real Delete key. Apple's keyboards have a checkered past when we consider the Delete key. Apple's normal delete function is served by what the rest of the world calls a "Backspace" key, which deletes the character behind the cursor when you are writing or editing. But Kensington adds a real Delete key, too, which works like God intended (deleting the character in front of the cursor).
The keyboard includes a Home key that duplicates the function of the hardware Home button on the iPad. Pressing a key on the keyboard is MUCH easier than clicking a stiff button on the iPad itself, especially since Apple forces you to click that button a lot.
The keyboard is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery good for 90 hours of use, according to Kensington. Recharging is done by plugging a micro-USB cable supplied with the unit into any USB outlet or into the iPad's own charger.
The keyboard is molded, sewn, or held down by Hobbits -- it's hard to tell -- in the bottom of the case. A clever flippy hinge adjusts the angle of the screen, which can only be viewed in landscape mode. If you type on your iPad in portrait, or vertical, mode most of the time, invest in the Apple Keyboard Dock ($50 to $60), which has a keyboard identical to the Apple Wireless Keyboard except for the Dock keyboard's dedicated and extremely helpful iPad keys. The downside of the Keyboard Dock is that it works only in portrait mode.
The best external keyboard for the iPad remains the Apple Wireless Keyboard. It has good ergonomics and the same shape, size and layout as every other keyboard Apple makes. But the Kensington keyboard-and-case turns the iPad into a cool fold-up laptop, something the detached Bluetooth Keyboard simply can't do. It's nice to have a workable keyboard wherever you tote your iPad.