With all of the Bluetooth keyboards that have appeared over the years for the iPad, there was one that really stuck out in my mind as the best overall and that was the ClamCase Pro. When it came to letting me type quickly on an iPad, have flexibility in how I viewed the iPad screen, and overall build quality, ClamCase did an amazing job. It took a while for the ClamCase Pro to show up in a version for the iPad Air, but it is now available to order for US$169 directly from the manufacturer. How does it stack up to the original? Read on.
- Dimensions: 9.74 x 7.30 x 0.75 inches (247.40 x 185.42 x 19.05 mm)
- Weight: 1.2 pounds (0.54 kg)
- Materials: White polycarbonate, aluminum
- Hinge range: 360°
- Battery life: 6 month standby time, 100 hours use time, recharge in 120 minutes, battery life indicator
- Special function keys: Home, search, on-screen keyboard, media controls, lock, cut, copy, paste, volume controls, caps lock, Siri, battery, Bluetooth
Design-wise, the ClamCase Pro hasn't changed much from the previous version that worked with the iPad 2, 3 and 4. It's still made of white polycarbonate, has an aluminum base portion for solidity, and a unique hinge design that makes it simple to hold the iPad screen at any angle. Want to fold the keyboard out of the way for gaming? Not a problem. Want the screen at less than a 90° angle for "tummy typing" in a cramped seat somewhere? That works too.
There are four small rubber feet on the bottom of the ClamCase Pro to ensure that your iPad doesn't go sliding across a table while you're typing. There's only one switch on the device; an on-off switch if you wish to shut the keyboard off for longterm storage. Other than that, the keyboard wakes up when you open the ClamCase Pro, and goes to sleep when you close it. Yes, this is a feature that many iPad keyboards provide, but I've found that the ClamCase Pro wakes and sleeps every time, while it's a hit-or-miss proposition for most of the other keyboards.
The ClamCase Pro has a small opening for the Lightning port, speaker grilles on the bottom, an opening for the mute/orientation lock switch, holes for microphones and earphones, and pass-through switches for volume and wake/sleep.
About my only gripe with the ClamCase Pro is that it's rather plain-Jane, but Apple's recent "Stickers" ad has given me a solution for that -- just cover the outside with colorful stickers.
People who buy the ClamCase Pro for iPad Air are probably getting it for the protection that it provides for your tablet. Of all of the many iPad keyboard cases I've reviewed, I think the ClamCase Pro does the best job of keeping your iPad safe.
Installing your iPad Air into the case is a cinch. It slips into the polycarbonate shell of the "back" easily, but is then held securely. My previous ClamCase Pro was dropped several times and even had some dings in it, but my iPad was spared from damage. I have confidence that the new ClamCase Pro will provide the same protection for the iPad Air.
I've always felt that the ClamCase Pro provided me with the most "laptop-like" typing experience of any iPad keyboard, and the iPad Air version is no different. In fact, ABC News tested the maximum typing speed on various keyboard cases for iPad and found the ClamCase to allow typing at 76 words per minute (WPM), 3 WPM more than a Zagg keyboard and 5 WPM more than a Logitech keyboard.
Above the top of the keyboard is just one tiny LED that is used for a lot of purposes: it tells you when you're connected via Bluetooth, it flashes to give you the battery level when you press the battery function key, and it turns on when you press the caps lock key.
The keyboard layout is very standard -- a good thing, since some iPad keyboards do crazy things like cram multiple keys onto one key, change the width or placement of keys, and more. With this keyboard, my fingers always know where to go. If you're used to typing on an Apple Wireless Keyboard, your hands will feel at home here.
What doesn't the ClamCase Pro have? No backlighting (which I've found fairly useless anyway since I rarely look at the keyboard). That's about it -- every other function you might want is built into this keyboard case.
My only complaint -- and it's a minor one -- is that the price of the ClamCase Pro for iPad Air is more than just about any other keyboard on the market. At $169, the only keyboard case that comes even close is the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio at $149.99. Is the ClamCase Pro worth the extra money? If you want protection and the best keyboard feel in the market, the answer is yes.
My personal opinion is that the feel of the ClamCase Pro keyboard case for iPad Air is actually improved over the original ClamCase Pro. As a longtime fan of the Apple Wireless Keyboard, I have to say that I actually prefer the ClamCase Pro keyboard now -- that's saying a lot. It's pretty much the perfect keyboard case for the iPad Air at this point. I'm not even going to deduct a half-star for the premium price tag. The ClamCase Pro for iPad Air is that good.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible