Tuesday, June 14, 2011

iPad Keyboard Dock Review: The Good and The Bad.

If you've read my short review of the ASUS Transformer then you know its standout feature is the symbiotic keyboard dock for it.  I'm in the process of writing an Asus/Acer/Apple tablet showdown. To be fair I need to point out that the iPad 2 also has a keyboard dock designed and produced specifically for it. Click on any of the following pictures to enlarge them.
Apple's Keyboard Dock for the iPad and iPad2
This keyboard is well built. Surrounding the large keys is nicely finished aluminum. The tablet support is a hefty extension of the plastic bottom.  That support receives your iPad dock port, meaning it will only mount vertically (portrait) in use.
Dock with iPad in Portrait.
Beside the normal QWERTY layout of keys, there is a top row of iPad-specific function keys.  They include Home, Search, dim (the backlight), brighten, Picture Frame Mode, On-screen keyboard, (blank), Prev, Play/Pause, Next, Mute, Vol-, Vol-, and Lock (sleep).
Rear Tablet Support. Fixed Angle. Doesn't detach.
The rear tablet support does its job well, but is the unfortunate downside of an otherwise great keyboard.  Why?  It doesn't come off or fold down.  This keyboard will stay on your desk as that lump of a rear support makes it impossible to slip into a case with your model-thin iPad.
Line-Out and Dock Passthrough.
A redeeming feature is the Line-Out jack on the back. Using an 1/8" stereo miniplug to RCA L/R cable (left) you can pipe the audio from your iPad directly to your Home Stereo's Aux line-in jacks.

Conclusion:  This keyboard dock is easy to use and well built. The one fixed angle of tilt is reasonable, but having a little range in angle to deal with glare and reflection would be better.  They (Apple) should have spent a little more time to get it folding flat, as this dock won't be going easily with you in its current form.

If you have a lot of typing to do on your iPad, and don't mind the iPad in portrait view, this is a good solution. For more versatility in positioning you can consider any of the great cases and bluetooth keyboards out there for the iPad.  I bought my Keyboard Dock  at Target for $69.99 (+ tax).


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