Ask any road warrior for a list of essential gear aimed at maximising productivity while on the go, and a tablet of some sort is bound to be on that list. Not everyone will agree though — some say that tablets are pretentious and you can’t really accomplish much with them anyway; those people prefer an Ultrabook in its place. Mainly, it’s the fact that tablets can’t do everything laptops are capable of — but you know what? That gap is closing in. However, I’m sure almost everyone will definitely agree that typing on a tablet’s on-screen keyboard is a huge pain.
To remedy that, the market is currently flooded with various tablet keyboard cases. Some are quite innovative, others are meh. So how does the ClamCase Pro iPad Keyboard Case fair? We’ll first take you on a walkthrough of the ClamCase Pro; then, you guessed it, offer it up in a giveaway!
Introducing the ClamCase Pro
The $169 ClamCase Pro is actually the company’s second attempt at an iPad keyboard case. The first version, known simply as the ClamCase didn’t fair well due to its cramped keyboard which was nearly impossible to type on. Despite that, it’s still available from the company’s website for $149.
The ClamCase Pro addresses the whole typing issue; not only that, the keyboard section of the case is now enveloped in aluminium. At first glance, the case and iPad ensemble is slightly reminiscent of a MacBook Air. The keyboard connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, and is compatible with the iPad 2, 3 and 4.
If you’re looking to spend less than $169 for an iPad keyboard case, and that’s completely acceptable, you might want to consider the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio which is $40 less than the ClamCase Pro at $129. It features a full QWERTY keyboard and is solar-powered for perpetual preparedness. It’s also cleverly designed to adapt multiple positions for typing and media consumption.
If that’s not up your alley, then you might be interested in Belkin’s upcoming Ultimate Keyboard Case — a thin and lightweight keyboard case which folds flat to allow you to hold the iPad like a tablet. In this arrangement, the keyboard actually faces the back of the iPad — a clever design that’s not only prettier, but also minimises accidental keystrokes. The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case will be available in May for $99.
Who’s it for?
Granted, a keyboard case with over 60 buttons and an additional battery needed to power it will ultimately add bulk to the ensemble; and is therefore not for everyone, especially if you don’t intend to do much typing. Using the ClamCase Pro is invariably a trade-off between portability and typing speed.
But if the iPad is your go-to device for work and play, then you’ll enjoy the ClamCase Pro. One particular group of people I can think of who will be able to appreciate the ClamCase Pro are students who prefer tablets over laptops. The ClamCase Pro will make note-taking in class much easier, and they’ll still get to play Angry Birds during breaks.
The ClamCase Pro is essentially a two-piece case attached by a hinge in the middle. It’s basically made of plastic, but the keyboard is graced with an aluminium surface. At 680 grams, the case weighs quite a bit; and as you might have guessed, most of the weight is attributed to the keyboard. However, it also acts as a counterweight for the iPad so it doesn’t topple over.
You’ll find the usual suspects on the iPad side of the case: camera, dock connector, and speaker cut-outs; volume rocker, the works. It’s also probably a good idea to mention that the ClamCase Pro supports the auto sleep/wake feature on the iPad, so shutting the case would automatically put the iPad to sleep.
The case opens and close as a laptop would. There’s no fancy swirl or twist mechanisms here. It’s a simple hinge, and the case goes from fully shut to quarter-way open, which is ideal for typing; then swings back and acts as a stand for your iPad; and finally, all the way back so that the keyboard and the iPad are now back to back for tablet operation.
When in tablet mode, however, the keyboard is completely exposed and must be disabled to prevent accidentally pressing on the keys. It’s also pretty uncomfortable, not to mention tiring, to hold single-handedly since it’s both heavier and thicker with the case on. And if I’m honest, I don’t enjoy holding it with the keyboard against my fingers — it’s just uncomfortable.
Things start to look better in typing mode. It seems as though it’s calling out for some work to be done. The case features a full QWERTY keyboard with several dedicated keys which perform specific functions i.e. check battery level on the ClamCase Pro, simulate the iPad’s Home button, invoke Spotlight, increase/decrease volume, start a photo slideshow, play/pause, etc. There are even buttons to help make Cut, Copy and Paste operations a one-touch affair.
I can also appreciate the weight distribution better with the iPad in the case. There’s no doubt about it, it’s heavy; but the whole ensemble feels very stable in the typing position. However, the hinge is slightly too “sticky” for my liking, in the sense that it requires quite a bit of force to get it moving. But I guess it plays a role in helping the iPad stay in a particular position.
Setting up the ClamCase Pro
The keyboard connects to the iPad via Bluetooth. In fact, if you didn’t already know, that’s the only Bluetooth function that the iPad can perform. Anyways, setting up is rather easy: turn the keyboard on and switch it into Discovery mode. Enable Bluetooth on the iPad and pair the devices together. Bingo bango.
Typing with the ClamCase Pro
Now, let’s take a look at the core function of the ClamCase Pro — typing. As soon as my fingers hit the keyboard, I’m stricken by the familiar feeling of physical keys, which is kind of satisfying. Then, I start to realise how small the keys are. They measure (w) 13 x (h) 14 mm whilst the keys on an Apple keyboard are 15 x 15 mm. If my calculations are correct, the keys on the ClamCase Pro are 20% smaller. Nevertheless, it’s still very usable albeit a little cramped. I can’t imagine how the first rendition was like to use.
Naturally, typing speed improved while using the ClamCase Pro. More importantly, punctuation keys are more easily accessible, because they’re where you’d expect to find them on a regular keyboard. In fact, the ClamCase Pro keyboard also includes Control, Option and Command buttons — and they too, perform exactly as you’d expect they would on a desktop. They keys are a little springy and much narrower than I’m used to but overall, it’s a major improvement compared to typing on the screen. And before you ask, no they’re not backlit.
There is however, one problem with using the ClamCase Pro — my finger keeps reaching for the trackpad except, there isn’t one! I have to persistently remind myself that I’m typing on my iPad and I need to reach for the screen instead.
Power and charging
The ClamCase Pro boasts a respectable 100 hours of uninterrupted use before requiring a recharge. A full recharge would take merely 120 minutes and the device is able to hold that charge for 6 months. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to personally put these claims to the test but during the entire period I was reviewing the ClamCase Pro, I never had to recharge the keyboard case once.
The case can be recharged using the supplied micro USB cable. For the road warrior, this may mean an additional cable to bring along but the battery in the ClamCase Pro is so efficient that charging it just before a trip should suffice. Well technically, it should survive a 10-day trip quite easily even if you’re chugging away at the keyboard 8 hours a day.
Should you buy the ClamCase Pro iPad Keyboard Case?
Personally, I don’t do much typing on my iPad but I do see the value of a keyboard case. Typing on physical keys is less awkward and generally more efficient time-wise. But the question here is, should you buy the ClamCase Pro? My main concern is the steep $169 price tag, and I can’t be certain that paying that amount of money is justifiable. For me, a better choice would be the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio, save myself $40, and never bother with charging it. But it could just be that I’m a nut for anything solar.
The ClamCase Pro is a good idea, but the overall added chunk puts me off. The keyboard position in tablet mode isn’t ideal. I’d wait to see how the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case turns out.
How do I win the ClamCase Pro iPad Keyboard Case?
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, May 3rd. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.
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