There are a lot of keyboard cases available for the iPad Air, and we've reviewed most of them at one point or another. That's why I was so surprised with the New Trent Airbender Pro -- it's a rugged iPad case, swivel stand, and keyboard case in one package. Check out my review of this versatile bargain-priced keyboard case, and then enter our giveaway.
- Price: US$79.95
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.0 x 1.1 inches (24.89 x 17.78 x 2.8 cm)
- Weight: 1 lb, 9 oz (0.71 kg)
- Materials: Polycarbonate thermoplastic, silicone wrap
- Power input: Micro USB 5V at 0.5 to 1 A
- Battery: Lithium ion polymer
Probably my only gripe about the design of the Airbender Pro is that it takes the incredibly thin iPad Air and wraps it in a bulky case. Of course, bulk is needed for protection, and if you look at how New Trent protects your device in the display portion of the case, you get the feeling that you could drop this thing all day without damaging your iPad Air.
The protection comes in two layers -- a silicone shell surrounding a polycarbonate hard case. There's also a screen protector that covers the Air's display, doors over the Lightning port, mute/orientation lock and earphone jack, and covers on the power/sleep switch and home button. There are openings for the microphones and speakers on your iPad Air, so the case isn't exactly waterproof but it does offer more protection than any other keyboard case. A silicone tab keeps the case securely closed in transit, and there's a plastic window over the iPad camera.
Like the other members of the Airbender family, the Airbender Pro uses a hinged "arm" with a 360-degree swivel on one end to hold the iPad in place while you're using the keyboard. What makes this so useful is that it is possible to type on an iPad Air with the screen in portrait orientation, something that's rare among iPad keyboard cases.
The keyboard is truly a full-function keyboard. It has all of the keys that you'd find on an Apple Wireless Keyboard in exactly the same places, along with a top row of iOS function keys that include screen brightness adjustment, cut, copy and paste, and music controls.
At the top of the keyboard are three LEDs indicating caps lock, charging, and Bluetooth pairing, as well as buttons for connecting the keyboard to a paired device and another switch for turning the keyboard off.
When it comes to keyboard cases, my primary consideration is just how good the keyboard is for doing everyday work. The Airbender Pro is tops in that area, with a keyboard that is amazingly usable. It has a good feel to it, the keys are (although smaller than those on the Apple Wireless Keyboard) well-spaced and good sized, and it's possible to touch-type at full speed on this keyboard. I love the fact that New Trent decided to include a caps lock light, as I've had a tendency on other keyboards to accidentally hit the caps lock key and then get infuriated when I type a line of text that's capitalized.
The "arm and pivot" mechanism of the Airbender Pro works very well in terms of keeping the iPad Air oriented the way you want it. What's really nice about this setup is that even if you don't want to use the keyboard, you still have a nice iPad stand since you can flip the screen over to the opposite side of the keyboard. It also pivots into portrait mode, which is perfect for hands-free reading of ebooks.
The arm can be separated from the keyboard and used as a separate stand if you want your iPad Air to sit away from you. I actually found this to work better for typing, as in certain orientations the iPad unbalanced the assembly and it tipped backwards.
The Airbender Pro really does provide a lot of protection to your iPad Air; I can see this as the perfect in-kitchen iPad case, as it can swivel to orient recipes to a comfortable viewing angle and the screen protector will keep splashes and spills from messing up your device.
As noted at the beginning of this review, the Airbender Pro does make your skinny iPad Air look fat, but if you're more concerned about being able to type comfortably and protecting your investment at the same time, you might not be too worried about the extra inches.
Installing the Airbender Pro onto your iPad Air takes a bit of doing; you need to separate the keyboard from the case, then remove the silicone exterior from the two-piece polycarbonate case. Once that's done, you pry open a number of clips, slide the iPad in place, and then reverse the process. It's not something you want to do every day...
With every iteration of their keyboard cases, New Trent seems to be getting rid of annoyances and adding features. The Airbender Pro is an amazingly affordable iPad Air keyboard case that offers protection, flexibility, and efficient typing, even if it does skimp a bit on style. If the company could find a way to make the Airbender Pro a bit more svelte and would offer more color or exterior finish options, it would probably be the perfect iPad Air keyboard case.
Rating: 3-1/2 stars out of 4 stars possible
Do you need the combination of protection and convenience provided by the New Trent Airbender Pro? One TUAW reader is going to win this case. 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 March 2, 2014 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive a New Trent Airbender Pro keyboard case for iPad Air valued at $79.95
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.