There's a new iPad keyboard in town: accessory manufacturer Kensington is now shipping the KeyCover Hard Shell Keyboard for iPad (US$79.99). A competitor to the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover ($99.99), the KeyCover provides the same functions of protecting the iPad screen and being a Bluetooth keyboard. Let's take a look at the new contender, and then you'll have a chance to win one from TUAW and Kensington.
Since it's made to cover the screen of your iPad, the KeyCover keyboard is almost exactly the same size as the Logitech Ultrathin, just a bit thicker. But there are some major differences in the way that the devices are constructed.
The Logitech Ultrathin is made out of hard polycarbonate with a shiny aluminum backplate. The KeyCover uses a dark anodized aluminum back, but this one is rather "square" and blocky compared to the nicely rounded back on the Ultrathin. The material used for the body of the KeyCover and the keys is a nice matte black soft finish plastic that doesn't reflect light.
While the controls for the Logitech unit are all on one side, the KeyCover places them right in front of you on top of the unit -- there's an off/on button as well as another to connect the keyboard to your iPad via Bluetooth.
The Ultrathin uses a Smart Cover-like magnetic hinge to attach to your iPad while in transit, and also has magnets that will turn your iPad on and off. The KeyCover has no such hinge, but does have magnets for automatic sleep and wake up. Behind the notch where the iPad sits, there's a small pop-up prop that's used to make sure your iPad is stable in the upright position.
The KeyCover also has four small rubberized feet, important for isolating the keyboard from surfaces and insuring that it stays in one place while typing. The KeyCover felt more solid while typing than the Logitech unit, which occasionally slid around on my desktop, and those feet keep it from getting the scratches that have appeared on the Logitech Ultrathin.
The Kensington KeyCover provides a separate row for function keys, rather than assigning those functions to the number row of the keyboard as on the Ultrathin. The Ultrathin also uses larger space bar, command, option, control, and fn keys, making it quite simple to hit the correct key when you need it. On the KeyCover, those keys are the same height as others on the keyboard.
Weight-wise, the KeyCover hits the scales at 10 ounces, 1.6 ounces lighter than the Logitech unit.
Let's face it -- a keyboard's a keyboard. But when you sit in front of one all day, every day like I do, you can quickly tell whether or not you're going to like typing on a new keyboard. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover has an excellent feel, and I was able to type quite quickly on it. Likewise, the keys of the KeyCover have a good feel and feedback, and I could type pretty quickly on it as well.
However, the design of the KeyCover has a raised lip on both sides of the keyboard and on the bottom corners as well. I like to rest my palms on a desktop while typing -- something that would probably drive my junior high typing teacher Miss Francis crazy -- and I found that my hands would occasionally come into contact with that raised lip. Your typing style may be different from mine, so if you keep your wrists off of the desktop while typing you'll be fine.
I personally found the KeyCover to be a pain -- almost literally -- to take off. It's easy to get the KeyCover and your iPad together, since you just flop the iPad face down onto the KeyCover. But pulling the two apart was a chore. The Logitech Ultrathin simply opens like a notebook and doesn't require as much physical effort to get off. One bright point to the difficulty of getting the KeyCover off is that your iPad screen should be protected even if you drop the iPad.
At one point while I was typing with the iPad in portrait orientation, the little prop that holds up the iPad "let go" and my iPad fell flat onto its back with a loud bang. This happened several time, all when I had the iPad in portrait mode. Needless to say, I would not recommend using the KeyCover with your iPad in portrait mode. The pop-up stand never failed when I was typing in landscape orientation, but definitely had issues with the extra moment arm provided by a vertical iPad.
While I still consider the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover to be the cream of the crop, the Kensington KeyCover is a close second. It would do a better job of protecting the screen of the iPad than the Logitech Ultrathin if dropped, and the lower price is definitely attractive.
- Lighter than its primary competitor by almost two ounces
- Function keys are in a separate row
- Matte finish of the KeyCover doesn't cause reflections
- Less expensive than the Logitech Ultrathin
- Raised "lip" around sides of keyboard can interfere with hand mobility while typing
- Pop-up stand that holds iPad collapsed when iPad was in portrait mode
Who is it for?
- The budget-minded iPad user who wants a sturdy cover that can also be used as a keyboard
As usual, we'll be giving away our review keyboard. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
- Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
- The entry must be made before February 24, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive a Kensington KeyCover Hard Shell Keyboard for iPad valued at $79.99
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.