Hands-on with the iPad ClamCase keyboard/stand

We've been stopping by the trailer of our sister site Engadget quite often here at CES for the excellent company (and the excellent Wi-Fi), and while we were in there the other day, the good folks from ClamCase came by to show off their product. Engadget got their own look, but we were kindly handed one of our own to give it a good once-over from a more Apple-centric perspective.

The most intriguing thing about the ClamCase is how light it is. At just 1.8 pounds, even with a 1.6 pound Wi-Fi+3G iPad snapped in securely, the whole unit is only a little bit heavier than a 13-inch MacBook Air. It doesn't fold down quite as thinly, but it's still a pretty compact package that feels solid and well-made. The iPad does just snap in -- there's no release or switch, so you kind of have to "pop" the case open to get it out. But ClamCase told us that they tried a few different things, and in the end, the snap was what worked best and easiest.

The keyboard is a Bluetooth keyboard and the keys are tiny. The whole thing couldn't be made bigger than the iPad itself, so if you've got fat fingers, you might find more key presses than you meant to have. The scale takes a little getting used to as well -- reaching for the shift key will have your pinky falling right off of the case if you're used to a standard keyboard.

The real plus with the keyboard is the easy-access functionality. You can adjust the iPad's volume, brightness, and even sleep, wake, and send the device to the Home screen, all from the function keys on the keyboard. You can also cut, copy, and paste with one push of the button, and even pull up pictures and control music with a keypress. The function row on the keyboard is quick and helpful, even when you're not actually typing.

The case also serves as a stand -- it can flip completely around, so that the keyboard lays face down, instead holding your iPad up as a working angle. That somewhat defeats the purpose of having the ClamCase (there are plenty of stands that will hold an iPad in all kinds of angles), but it's good to know it's there.

The ClamCase is actually already in production, though current units have sold out, and the company is working on making more. It sells on the website for $149, currently discounted to $119, and the company told us that orders would be shipping within the next few weeks. Users who need a full keyboard will probably want to stick with a standard-sized Bluetooth keyboard, but if you're OK with the small keys, having a keyboard embedded right into your iPad's case seems like it would be handy.