When the iPad first came out a company called ClamCase announced they would be making a cover/keyboard combo that would essentially turn the iPad into a netbook or mini-laptop. We had some strong opinions about such attempts back then. One year and a few hands-on experiences with keyboard cases later, our opinions have softened somewhat. A week ago we got another reason to further refine our views, a generically-named product from Brando called the Wireless Keyboard. In fact, after using this keyboard we think we may have been COMPLETELY wrong in our original assessment of this entire product category.
This Brando wireless keyboard is one of the best integrations of a case with a keyboard we have used to date. While we still prefer to use our iPad in its “naked” form most of the time, this case is now the preferred unit (even over the ZaggMate) when we want to pair a physical keyboard to the tablet. There are a few good reasons for the preference and we’ll show readers what they are in this write-up.
Like other keyboard cases for the the iPad, this one has all of the appropriate openings for buttons, ports, and cameras. Unlike most other cases, this Brando unit is hinged at both the back and the spine. The unique mechanism enables the screen to pivot in a fashion not possible with folios-style cases. The halves are secured by a catch. Sliding the catch to the left releases the lid. When cover is lowered, the iPad automatically goes into sleep mode (a nice unexpected touch of iPad2 integration). Included is a silicone skin to protect the screen from the keyboard. It is a nice piece for Brando to include, but it did not appear to be all that necessary as the plastic keys will unlikely ever to scratch the screen.
Unlike other cases, the keyboard in this unit slides forward to reveal a row of stops. The stops allow the user to choose the most comfortable angle for themselves. Also, the screen may be positioned either horizontally or vertically. Like other Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad, this one has dedictated iPad-specific keys, charges via USB, and connects automatically once synced with the iPad.
However, a big reason why we like this Brando case over the ZaggMate and other folios is that the iPad can be used in touch-only mode and still be in the case. Unlike the ZaggMate, the iPad is held securely by the cover when used in this configuration. With the ZaggMate, the iPad is only resting on the hinge and is kept from sliding off by the lip. It CAN slide off if you happen to move in such a way to cause the iPad to tip (which can easily occur when reclining on the couch) from the ZaggMate’s stand. The one advantage the ZaggMate has over the Brando case is thinness as this will make the iPad more than twice as thick. For some, this added bulk will be a deal breaker. For others, it will be a non-issue.
With products like this Brando Wireless Keyboard, an iPad-powered laptop is nearly here. The current iPad w/ keyboard pairingis nowhere as powerful as the MacbookPro or even the Air, but that day is clearly not far off…maybe even directly from Apple! Now that we have seen the light, we look forward to that day.