I haven't been a real fan of most keyboard cases for iPad for three main reasons -- the keyboards are usually tiny, they use "chiclet" keys, and they're stuck in one place and can't be moved around. Accessory manufacturer Qmadix has just introduced the Qmadix Portfolio with Removable Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad 2 ($149.99) that promises to change all of that. How does it live up to the promise? Read on for my complete look at this new contender.
Update: Note that the color of the leather is actually black, not brown as shown in the photo at the top of the page. I apologize for the bad color balance on the photo.
Compared to most of the portfolio cases that we've tested over the years, the Qmadix Portfolio has a feel of quality around it. The leather exterior is smooth and beautiful, and the stitching is close and tight.
As for the keyboard, the keys are closer together than on the $69 Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, but it's a real keyboard with a good feel to it. It's also made with Apple fans in mind -- unlike most of the iPad keyboard cases we see that are repackaged Windows BT keyboards, complete with a Windows button to bring up the Start Menu. Not with this keyboard, which actually has the Apple command key properly marked and in the correct place.
The keyboard comes encased in a leather holder that attaches to the main case with magnets. The keyboard is inset a bit, so the leather acts as a nice wrist pad that is actually quite comfortable while typing.The case also has a magnetic latch to keep the cover closed for travel. There's a four-foot micro-USB to USB charging cable to keep the keyboard battery juiced up. According to Qmadix, the battery takes anywhere from four to six hours to fully charge, but will last for up to 30 days depending on usage.
Using the Portfolio Keyboard
The keyboard is uniquely suited for use with the iPad. The function keys we're used to on the top row of our keyboards have been replaced with iPad-specific function keys. Here's what they do:
• Take you back to the iPad Home Screen
• Enable the Search function of the iPad
• Take you to the photo slideshow
• Display or hide the virtual keyboard
• Take a screenshot
• Go to the previous song or track
• Play / Pause
• Go to the next song or track
• Mute the iPad
• Raise the volume
• Lower the volume
• Turn off the iPad (lock screen)
• Switch the font on the virtual keyboard
I was able to get all of the function keys to work except one. I couldn't figure out what apps the last button was meant to work with. Remember, you'll still need to tap on your iPad screen for certain commands, but the function keys can keep you from having to do too much tapping. There is at least one other keyboard with these same function keys -- the Logitech Keyboard Case for iPad 2 by Zagg.
How's the feel of the keyboard? I liked the tactile feedback of the keys, but found that they were a little too close together for my style of typing. That's a common issue with most portfolio keyboard cases, since they're trying to keep the size of the portfolio down to the size of the iPad. I'd frankly rather see someone make a nice case that would hold a keyboard the same size as the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard -- heck, just make a nice portfolio that would hold an iPad and an Appel Bluetooth Keyboard. That being said, I was able to get used to the Qmadix keyboard very quickly.
The Bottom Line
So who is the Portfolio for? With the price tag, it's most likely going to appeal to executives or those who are willing to pay a bit more for the quality and convenience. Those who are looking for a cheaper alternative can find many other Bluetooth keyboards, not the least of which would be the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. The Kensington Folio Keyboard ($100), ClamCase ($149), the CaseGoods TypeCase ($149), and Logitech Keyboard by Zagg ($100) all use a similar design, but with fixed keyboards. Heck, if you have the Apple Camera Kit, you could probably pick up a flexible Monoprice USB keyboard for $7 and use it, but I don't think you'd be happy with the chiclet keyboard.
The Qmadix Portfolio feels great to type on and the iPad-specific function buttons are well-implemented. The case itself is quite stylish and looks like it would stand up to a lot of use, and it's nice to know that the keyboard can be moved to a comfortable spot for any typist. Of all the portfolio keyboard cases on the market right now, the Qmadix Portfolio is the best of the bunch.