Review: Anker TC930 Bluetooth Keyboard Cover for iPad Air
Clearly inspired by Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, Anker has released its TC930 Bluetooth Keyboard Cover for iPad Air ($80). The metal lid attaches with a spine like that of the original Smart Cover, magnetically latching on to the left edge of the tablet. Inside, it's plastic, including the keyboard which takes up the lower two-thirds. The cover holds the iPad in place for typing, although its lid-style design means there's no case compatibility.
At its thickest point, TC930 is just as thick as the iPad Air, meaning it doubles the size when used as a cover. From the front, it’s solid silver aluminum, with no markings, logos, or other materials. The edges are equally elegant, with the only interruptions being a micro-USB port and power slider at the bottom left corner. Taking a cue from Apple, the magnetic spine easily snaps onto the iPad’s edge. The spine itself is so similar that it’s either a perfect clone of the metal components Apple had been using for its first iPad Smart Cover, or it’s using leftover pieces the company dumped. Embedded magnets automatically turn the tablet’s screen on and off. Anker’s internal battery allows for six months of use, based on two hours of use per day. A micro-USB cable is included for when charging is necessary.
The single coolest feature of this keyboard cover, and what makes it more than just a direct copy of Logitech’s model, is the stand mechanism. Instead of just a ridge with a magnet inside, there’s also a support behind the tablet. Insert the iPad’s edge, and the stand automatically pops out, holding the iPad Air at 60 degrees. It lays flat when not in use, and closing the lid presses it down. We’re impressed with the totally smooth, almost invisible system. And because the support is there, the iPad can be used in portrait orientation as well as landscape.
As for the keys themselves, they’re almost identical to Logitech’s and the typing experience is just as pleasant, if not a little more so. The layout is just about the same, with five rows of keys — iOS-specific functions are combined with the numbers across the top, and Bluetooth pairing is mapped to Fn-C. Thankfully, the apostrophe and question mark keys are full-sized here, as opposed to half-width on Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. This means that there’s little to no chance of missing them when typing without looking. Overall, we found typing to be great. We were instantly able to touch-type, making no mistakes. The chiclet keys feel absolutely solid, travel a nice distance, and provide pleasant tactile feedback. It’s easily one of the best iPad Air keyboards we’ve used.
There’s only one drawback to Anker’s keyboard, and that’s case compatibility: there is none. Despite Apple’s original pitch of the iPad Smart Cover as a caseless protective and stand solution for recent iPads, many people — including us — don’t want to scratch, dent, or otherwise damage the tablets’ bodies; Apple eventually conceded as much by releasing the iPad, iPad Air, and iPad mini Smart Cases. Unfortunately, the TC930 Keyboard Cover’s magnetic stand system doesn’t allow cases to work, even if they’ve been otherwise designed to support attachment of Smart Cover-style magnetic rails to their left sides. In other words, if you want to protect the rest of your iPad Air, you’ll need to pull the case off to use it with this accessory’s stand.
At its $80 list price, TC930 easily beats Ultrathin Keyboard Cover at its own game. Even more impressive is the $36 price on Amazon, linked from Anker’s website – although our review, as always, is based on MSRP. With that in mind, this keyboard cover still earns our high recommendation. The lack of back protection is an issue for sure, but everything else is just about perfect. When it comes to keyboards, typing is key. We really enjoy typing on TC930. Its great design, magnetic capabilities, and pop-up stand only increase our admiration for this system.