There’s plenty of hyperbole in the consumer electronics space, so we frequently hear that devices or accessories are the “thinnest,” “best,” or another superlative; the prevalence of the terms makes them easy to brush off. Belkin’s Ultimate Keyboard Case ($100-$130) relies on one such word for its moniker, but here, it’s not just marketing spin: “ultimate” mightn’t be exactly right, but this accessory is definitely one of the best Bluetooth keyboard cases for the iPad. It starts with a lid that’s very similar to Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover and adds proper body protection, addressing our biggest concern with the earlier design.
The Ultimate Keyboard Case’s rear frame itself isn’t fancy, but it’s good. A hard plastic shell, it almost completely covers the the iPad’s metal body, and the border is just a little bit thicker around the right edge. The only openings are properly-sized holes for the headphone port, microphone, Sleep/Wake button, iSight camera, side switch and volume rocker, and Dock Connector or Lightning port. Rather than simply remaining exposed, the speaker is rerouted towards you with what the company calls “SoundFlow design.” All that’s missing relative to our favorite hard shells is button protection, which would’ve been a nice addition. The case is attached to the keyboard cover with a 7.5” tall strip of faux leather; you lift one edge of the case away from the leather and into a recess above the keyboard when you reposition Ultimate Keyboard Case in typing mode.
Magnets in the shell’s bezel and the cover create a strong hold, meaning the case won’t come open unless you want it to. Belkin’s auto-locking magnets unlock second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads. On the outside, the lid is a single piece of silver metal, which makes it looks a lot like Logitech’s design—quite nice on the eyes, with a substantial feel. Inside, the lid is glossy black plastic with a keyboard. Belkin incorporated a really cool feature we’ve never seen used before: the keyboard automatically wakes up and re-pairs when a magnetic nub along the iPad’s left edge is placed in any of the three recesses above the keyboard, allowing for multiple viewing angles and power saving. The battery is rated for 160 hours of constant use, and six months of standby time. It’s recharged with the included Micro-USB cable.
The most important factor of any keyboard case is the keyboard. if you can’t type easily without making errors, the accessory doesn’t have much value. Thankfully, Belkin got that part of the solution right too: Ultimate Keyboard Case’s typing surface is really quite good. Each of the main keys are about a half inch square, made from hard plastic, with a scissor-style mechanism and enough space to keep small and medium-sized hands from feeling cramped. Important keys, such as the apostrophe and delete, are right where they’re supposed to be, allowing touch typists to write without looking. There are also dedicated keys for switching the language of your keyboard, the @ symbol, and Siri. Instead of a dedicated row of iOS function keys, though, Belkin decided to add them as secondary functions to the number keys.