Monday 9 April 2012 — Category: iPad Workflows
I wanted a good keyboard for my iPad, because I’m using it as a laptop replacement. Although the iPad has a decent on-screen keyboard, it’s not very ideal for extensive text entry — like writing these blog articles, for example. In the first place, the on-screen keyboard eats up about half of the screen, which leaves a pretty small area for working with the text. Secondly, you are typing right on a large slab of glass, rather than individual keys, so accurate typing is more difficult. I've actually been surprised at how well I can type on the screen, but still, it’s not the best experience for large amounts of text entry.
There is a variety of different keyboards that can be used with an iPad, all of which connect via Bluetooth. Some keyboards, both folding and non-folding, are completely separate from the iPad, like the Logitech Tablet Keyboard. Other keyboards are incorporated into some sort of portfolio-type soft-case, like the Kensington KeyFolio Pro.
After considering all of the possibilities, I finally settled on a solution that would fit my needs. When I got my new iPad 3 last month, I also placed an order for the innovative ClamCase. After I decided to stick with my iPad 2 instead, I was concerned that the ClamCase I had ordered would not fit the iPad 2, but apparently the size of the iPad 2 and 3 are so similar that either one will fit in either case.
With the hard-shelled ClamCase, the iPad snaps securely into the lid, while the bottom half is a Bluetooth wireless keyboard. When you shut the case, it looks very much like a small laptop computer, with the iPad inside and well protected. In fact, this setup is very similar in size to my daughter’s Acer netbook.
Before diving in to the pros and cons of the ClamCase, let’s first take a look at some of the vital statistics:
After using the ClamCase for a couple of weeks, here are some aspects I would consider less than positive:
I do also have an Apple Wireless Keyboard, which I really like a lot. But when I tried using it with my iPad, it was just way too awkward to balance a separate keyboard on my lap, along with the iPad at a good viewing angle. Not to mention that this external keyboard is one-and-a-half inches wider than the iPad, which makes it less convenient to carry around with the iPad. I much prefer the compact, all-in-one solution of the ClamCase.
There’s no latch to keep the lid shut — some people seem to consider this a deficiency, while others think it’s a great feature. At first, I was expecting there to be a latch, and was disappointed not to find one. But after some use, I've found that the hinge on the case is quite stiff, which keeps it shut. You have to give the lid a pretty good pull to open it, and you need to use your other hand to hold down the lower part — you can’t open the case with just one hand. This functionality makes a latch unnecessary.
Text entry and editing is SO much better when you can use the standards editing shortcut keys, like CMD-C for copy, CMD-V for paste, CMD-A for select all, etc. Having the four standard arrow keys makes moving the cursor easier than touching the screen with your finger in just the right spot! There are also dedicated function keys for media playback and volume control.
In addition to the standard keys, there’s a dedicated function key that simulates the Home button on the iPad, and another that blanks the screen. The Bluetooth keyboard automatically goes to sleep when you close the case, and automatically wakes up once you open the case and start to type. However, I just tried to use the keyboard, and the battery seems to be dead. My iPad was out of the ClamCase, so perhaps when that’s the case, the keyboard does NOT turn off automatically? I’ll have to experiment with that further, but for right now I’m really surprised that the keyboard battery is empty.
Well, after less than an hour the battery on the ClamCase showed a full charge, but it still wasn’t working! Hmmmm ... that’s bad news. It appears the battery was not low after all, and the sleep function works properly — but it just seems dead. I took a look at the instructions, and it said that in such circumstances, you need to stick the end of a small paper clip into the small hole next to the USB charging port in order to reset the unit. I did that, and now it seems to be working again. Hmmmm ... strange!
I took my iPad / ClamCase combo to the photography seminar I attended two days ago. I used the ClamCase keyboard to take notes at both of George Lepp’s hour-and-a-half presentations. This enabled me to jot down many of the points he made — otherwise I would have forgotten a lot of what he shared. I will be posting these notes in a future article — hopefully tomorrow or the next day.
All in all, I think the ClamCase is a super — but expensive and not-perfect — product, and I’m looking forward to getting a lot of use out of it over the coming months, especially as I travel around Oregon on various photo outings. If you are considering a keyboard for your iPad, you should give the ClamCase a serious look.
UPDATE 10 September 2013: For my updated views on the ClamCase a year and a half later, be sure to read Logitech Wireless Illuminated Keyboard.
On July 30, 2015, Tim wrote:
I love the ClamCase! I use it for the iPad Air 2 and it is fabulous! I have it tied to my iPhone 6 so I can even type iMessages on my keyboard. It is a very responsive keyboard, sturdy, functional and I have few complaints. Here are a few minor ones: