Battle of the iPad Cases

As technology becomes more and more powerful, it’s becoming more important to protect your investment. However, while touchscreen tablets are getting more popular, they lack one major thing: a physical keyboard. With that said, ThinkGeek has come to the rescue yet again, selling iPad cases that come with Bluetooth keyboards built in, namely the ZAGGmate Aluminum iPad Keyboard Case, and the Bluetooth Keyboard Case for iPad.

I first came across these cases while window shopping. When it came apparent that I was going to purchase an iPad for my job, I took a look at them again. While still window shopping, I noticed some potential problems with both cases, but were my initial assumptions correct, or are these cases actually good?

Both of these products have some similarities. They both double as carrying cases for your iPad, and they have Bluetooth keyboards built in. The keyboards are charged by micro-USB, which is becoming more and more universal. They also have pretty insane battery life — about a week of constant use per charge. Also, in both cases your iPad can stand/be propped up. At the top of the keyboards, where the F-keys are, there are iPad function keys, like Home, Search, Play, Volume, etc.. With the keyboards being Bluetooth, they can be used with other devices, not just iPads. The cases actually came a couple days before I purchased my iPad, so for my initial testing, I used them with both my phone and my PS3, and both worked perfectly.

The similarities end there however. Now, let’s continue on to the differences. First the ZAGGmate Aluminum iPad Keyboard Case.

Please note that ThinkGeek was out of the ZAGGmate case for iPad 2, so my iPad is a little loose in the case, and I can’t comment on how well it works as a carrying case. It is made by ZAGG, a company best known for producing accessories, the invisibleSHIELD screen protectors, and such. The outside of the case is aluminum which helps protect your iPad from being damaged if dropped. The case features a pull-out back-stand for your iPad to rest against while you use the keyboard. The power switch for the keyboard is inside the case, just above the keyboard. The interior of the case around the keyboard is covered by rubber to help protect both the keyboard and the iPad. The keys themselves feel like ones that you would find on a laptop. The only real problem I have is that the arrow keys are arranged strangely — left and right are next to each other, next to right is down, and above down is up. This makes moving the cursor just as confusing as it sounds.

Like with much of the products that ThinkGeek sells, I’m unable to find a brand name or manufacturer for the Bluetooth Keyboard Case for iPad, which I’ll call “the BKC,” henceforth. The case is designed like a book, helping to protect your iPad, which slides into the front cover. The case itself is mostly leather, while the keyboard is covered in rubber, making it waterproof. The power button for the keyboard is located on the right-side of the case. Right above the keyboard, there is a lip that runs the length of the keyboard. To prop your iPad up in the BKC, you pull the iPad sleeve, which pivots, towards you and rest the bottom on the lip. When you’re done using your iPad, The BKC folds into a nice leather portfolio that looks like a notebook. I only have 2 issues with this case: 1) While propped up, the iPad doesn’t feel all that stable, like it can fall off the lip; and 2) the rubber covering on the keyboard makes it really awkward to type on. These were also my initial assumptions about this case.

Overall, my initial assumptions were indeed correct, but only in regards to the BKC. My initial assumption/concern about the ZAGGmate — that the keyboard was too close to the bottom — turned out to not be a concern, after all. Would I recommend these products? The short answer is yes, but the more lengthy answer is if you are only doing minimal-to-light typing on your iPad, get the BKC. If you’re doing extensive writing however, I would highly recommend the ZAGGmate, because it makes your iPad feel more like a laptop. So much so, that I’ve only gone on my actual computer, maybe 4 days since I got my iPad. Also, this review was typed up exclusively on my iPad using the ZAGGmate, while I mostly use the BKC as a keyboard for my PS3.

As of the writing of this review, the Bluetooth Keyboard Case for iPad, and the ZAGGmate Aluminum iPad Keyboard Case retail for $59.99 and $99.99 USD respectively on ThinkGeek. While the ZAGGmate case is more expensive, I think the overall convenience and functionality justifies spending that extra $40.

ThinkGeek specializes in geek products, such as mini USB monitors, roll-up keyboards, and humping-dog USB flash drives. In addition, they have a “Security & Spy Stuff” section that has stuff like video-watches and hidden flash drives. They even carry t-shirts and edible stuff like wasabi gumballs and energy drinks. They gave me these products for review, and I would like to sincerely thank them for doing so.

Andrew Monkelban

Andrew Monkelban is an avid gamer and writer, who has been featured in Second Skin, and on Wired's GameLife and The Escapist. He is also really into the Japanese entertainment scene. Even though he has Cerebral Palsy, he does not let it stop him from doing what he loves, although he's always on the look-out for technology that would help him with difficult tasks. He came to PopTen in the Summer of 2009, where he's now able to combine his passions.

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