A look at Belkin’s Keyboard Cases for the iPad Air

By , Nov 17, 2013

Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case iPad Air

A few days ago, two of Belkin’s flagship iPad accessories arrived at my office — the soft touch QODE Slim Style Keyboard Case, and the anodized aluminum coated QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case.

Both cases provide iPad owners with a physical Bluetooth enabled keyboard, which is handy for serious typists. While many are able to get by with tap typing on iOS’ software keyboard, there’s simply no arguing against the fact that a physical keyboard is superior in virtually every way.

So, which one is right for you?

With that in mind, either of these keyboards will be suitable for getting things done in a more efficient fashion. There are pluses and minuses when it comes to both, but if basic typing is they key, either will be better than the software keyboard.

The Slim Style model is probably a bit better as far as pure typing goes, because it features a full size keyboard with dedicated iOS shortcut keys that don’t need to be toggled using a function key. It also features more room for your hands and fingers to roam around its surface; this due to the recessed location of the keyboard itself.

There are other minor differences between the two keyboards, things like key labels and shortcut location, but the basic form and function is near identical. For instance, the key depth, key size, and build material of they actual keys share the same properties between both.

That’s largely where the similarities between the two end. While it’s true that both products are cases with embedded keyboards, they couldn’t be any more different in other aspects.

Slim Style Keyboard Case

The Belkin Slim Style Keyboard Case is the cheaper of the two, coming in at $79.99 on Amazon. It features soft touch material — an almost rubber like quality on the exterior of the case. Inside, you’re greeted with the same material on the area beneath the keyboard, and a suede-like material underneath the area designated to hold the iPad Air.

Inserting the iPad Air into the Slim Style Keyboard Case was a breeze. Two flaps, held in place by elastic connectors, secure the iPad Air in a snug sure-fitted fashion.

There are cutouts in all of the necessary places to accommodate the Air’s buttons, switches, speakers, microphones, etc. By the way, the iPad Air features two microphones, a new one on the back of the device, and each case makes sure to look out for both.

Belkin Keyboard Case 02 iPad Air

On the opposite side of the case lies a flap that can be used to stand it up using friction. Viewing angles will depend on how you adjust the flap to meet the surface below it. Unlike the Ultimate Keyboard Case, which features three set viewing angles, you can, in theory at least, have many more angles with the Slim Case.

Although slim is a part of this case’s name, it’s really anything but. When combined with the iPad Air, it’s on par with the thickness of my MacBook Air at its thickest point.

The Slim Case adds significantly more heft to the equation, which is to be expected since it features a keyboard and protects the front and rear of the iPad Air. In other words, don’t go into this expecting a miracle when it comes to added size and weight.

Included with either package is a USB charging cable, which connects directly to the case in order to charge the built in battery. The Slim Style Keyboard case can be switched on or off using a manual toggle switch located above the keyboard’s volume keys.

Belkin claims that the Slim Style Case’s battery lasts for 60 hours of use and 60 days of standby time. If you think that sounds good, just wait until I run the battery numbers of the Ultimate Keyboard Case by you.

Ultimate Keyboard Case

The Ultimate Keyboard Case is definitely the more “executive” device of the pair. Hence, its looks are much more polished and professional. It has a price, $129.99 on Amazon (pre-order), to match its executive looks as well.

The keyboard is essentially the same keyboard featured in the Slim Case, except that there are no dedicated iOS shortcut keys (they’re accessed via a function button). The lack of dedicated iOS shortcut keys is definitely something to consider, but I don’t think it hinders productivity to any great degree; just use the “fn” button.

Unlike the Slim Case, the Ultimate Case features a snap in design for holding the iPad Air. This results in a much more seamless merging of the two.

The Ultimate Case is very liberal in its use of magnets. It closes securely with magnets, and its viewing angles, three of them, are all established by strategic magnet placement.

Belkin Keyboard Case 01 iPad Air

Lacking a dedicated on/off button like its cousin, the Ultimate Keyboard Case takes that worry out of the equation. When you lock the device into one of the three predetermined viewing angles, the keyboard turns on automatically. When you close the case, the power is shut off.

According to Belkin’s documentation, the Ultimate Keyboard Case can last a whopping 6 months on a single charge. This is with an average use of two hours per day. Impressive stuff.

Which to buy?

If price is your main concern, then it goes without saying that the $79.99 Slim is quite a bit more reasonable than the $129.99 Ultimate Keyboard Case. The Slim is certainly suitable for every day usage, and it has a keyboard that is arguably superior to the one found in the Ultimate Case.

Belkin Keyboard Case 03 iPad Air

With that said, I still believe that of the two offerings, the Ultimate Keyboard Case is the one to reach for. It’s not a svelte package by any means, but it’s noticeably thinner than the Slim case; it also looks better.

Couple those things with its ridiculous battery life, magnetically dialed-in viewing angles, and secure closure, and it’s easy to see why the Ultimate Keyboard Case is the one that most will prefer.

If you own either case, or are in the process of considering the purchase of a keyboard case for your new iPad Air, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments down below.

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  • Maxim∑

    If only iOS supported a bluetooth mouse and had a file manager. I like iPad but I can seriously see these recent windows tablets gaining market share eventually

    • Rowan09

      This is where a jailbreak comes in and I can’t wait for IOS 7. Does the RT windows tablets come with a file manager? I thought it was only on the Surface Pro models.

      • Raashid

        Yes it comes with the same File/Windows Explorer as the Pro version.

    • Kurt

      A mouse is really needed if we are going to take the iPad serious as a content creation device. Mice are superior to your finger in many ways, so the option to have it is long over due.

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      iOS is all about cloud computing. Documents by Readdle is a great example of this and there are countless other solutions in the AppStore. I run my own WebDAV server from my own computer and an installation of ownCloud which allow me to store files and retrieve files from my computer anywhere.

      TLDR; I have now replaced Dropbox and only have the constraints of my PC’s storage and bandwidth limitations.

    • darcal

      Not for nothing, but if you desire a mouse and use of a file manager why not just go with a laptop? The beauty of iOS is it’s touch interface and ease of use.

  • http://tomuky.com/ Tom Davis

    Why did you compare thickness without an iPad in them?

    • http://bnjm.org/ Jeff Benjamin

      Because even without an iPad, the Slim is still thicker at its thickest point. Besides, I only had one iPad Air to test with.

      • CollegiateLad

        Hey Jeff,

        Congrats on adopting a minimalist lifestyle. I’m a minimalist, too. I’m always looking for areas in my life to downsize and declutter. Anyhow, for my iPad Air, I’m going with Twelvesouth’s Compass iPad stand and Logictech’s beautiful solar keyboard as my setup.

        I have a small office desk setup that is used specifically for work on my iPad. There, you’ll find only my iPad stand and keyboard – Nothing else so that I’m not distracted.

        When I’m not working I keep my iPad Air in a Smart Cover – Because everything else just seems uncivilized. lol

  • Chris sosa

    I love things like this, i was about to get a windows surface because i like the tablet and that i can use a keyboard for school but it will be much better with this for when i get a ipad.

  • SimonReidy

    Great video walkthrough Jeff. I really like the idea of magnets to make the iPad stand up securely on the Ultimate case. I’d actually like a thin folio case for my iPad Air without a keyboard, that used magnets like that to stand up securely.

  • Joshua Sargent

    Can we get some photos/video of the cases being used in portrait view? How you would hold the iPad when not using the keyboard. Is it comfortable?

  • Kurt

    If you are going to use the iPad in a laptop fashion, we need a mouse. A mouse is more precise and more comfortable for some many tasks. Using your finger(s) is superior in other ways too. Wish Apple would implement the use of mice.

  • abdullah575

    You can’t be blind with it!

  • iosPixel

    “physical keyboard is superior in virtually every way.”

    I like what you did there.

  • veda99

    belkin or logitech keyboard? logitech looks nicer tho!!

  • Adam Nellessen

    great review jeff

  • http://www.kinhluan.com Kinhluan.com

    When iPad Air is placed into slot not only does the keyboard activate but the ipad is awakened as well. Some iPad owners buy a few cases and then choose the one they like best.