In a field full of “good enough” products, iLuv has gone above and beyond with a genuinely nice keyboard case for iPad 2 users called iCK826 ($130, aka Professional Case with Bluetooth Keyboard). This case gets right what so many others have gotten either wrong or close-but-not-quite-perfect — while the faux leather and microsuede case with plastic keyboard combination is not perfect, it’s certainly one of the best typing accessories we’ve seen for either of Apple’s tablets.
The first thing that sticks out is the quality of the keyboard: simply put, it’s the best we’ve yet seen integrated into a case. Unlike most others, it’s not soft, squishy rubber with small keys; instead, they’re hard plastic and just a tad smaller than those on Apple’s wired and wireless models. Because they use scissor-type mechanisms, they’re as responsive as you’d expect from a good desktop keyboard—in our testing, keystrokes always registered properly, and we didn’t experience any accidental double-characters. We also liked the palm rest that makes up the bottom third or so of the keyboard, as the slight padding creates a comfortable surface for typing.
Typing feels very natural, since almost all of the keys are in the right place. We say almost because the backslash key has been moved next to the plus/equal sign button, there are unnecessary home and end keys, there’s an extra control key on the right side, and the right shift key is after the up arrow. The last is the most problematic because of how often that key is used; touch typists will initially be thrown off. We did like the iOS specific keys along the top row, though: Home, Spotlight, slideshow, keyboard, as well as track and volume controls are all there.
Also notable is the fact that the keyboard is fully removable, similar to what Wekreat has done with Type Rider. Instead of using magnets, iLuv holds the keyboard in place with Velcro on the four corners. It stays securely, but pulls right off for use in a different position or with a different device. We were also pretty impressed by how thin iLuv was able to make the keyboard without sacrificing quality. Along the lower right edge are a sync button, Micro USB adaptor for charging—the cable is included—and power slider. Battery life is estimated at five days of continuous usage or one month on standby.
iCK826’s case is also better than most of the other keyboard combinations we have tested—a faux leather folio-style with some neat touches. To hold it shut, iLuv uses a metal-clad closure that attaches to the front with Velcro. On most keyboard cases, such a flap would hang in front of the iPad 2 when the case is open, but iLuv designed it to rotate out of the way. We also really liked the built-in stand: it attaches to the back of the case via a snap, and when it’s folded out locks in place so that it doesn’t collapse. Both are very nice features that make the case more usable. Our biggest complaint is the thickness of the case—it does triple the iPad 2’s belly—but that’s common to all keyboard case accessories.
The level of protection is comparable to other leatherette frames. All of the ports and buttons are exposed except for the mic, which is oddly covered by a flap that holds the tablet in place. Despite our concerns that this would wreck audio quality, the mic coverage only modestly diminished sound performance; we were able to have FaceTime calls without a problem. The four corners are also open. We liked that the bezel is covered to a degree, with scoops for the front-facing camera and Home button so that they’re not obscured. All in all, this is not the most protective or best-designed case we’ve seen, but in line with the better keyboard cases out there.
In the end, we really like iCK826—the product, not the name. The very good keyboard and pretty good case make it one of the best options available for those looking for integrated typing and protective solutions. At the $130 MSRP, it struck us as simply too expensive, given that rivals are generally available at the $100 level—a price that we found hard enough to swallow for a single-device accessory as-was. We were conflicted, as iLuv’s version is certainly better than most of the keyboard cases we’ve previously tested, but the price premium placed iCK826 in an even less appealing position. There’s good news, though, since the street pricing for iCK826 averaged around $75—lower than most of the keyboards we’ve seen from other companies, and very easy to recommend at that price. All in all, a B+ rating is appropriate, as iCK826 offers a solid value for the best keyboard case we have seen.
Company and Price
Company: iLuv (a unit of jWIN)
Compatible: iPad 2