Belkin Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air review: Ultimate iPad Air keyboard case, indeed
Three different tilt angles and a magnetically autopairing design set Belkin's Air accessory a step above the rest.
The first keyboard case I received for the iPad Air has turned out to be the best, even against competition from Logitech. The reason? Keyboard feel, versatility, and price.
The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case was a great accessory for the last-gen iPad, and the new iPad Air version, the Belkin Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air (what a mouthful), has taken the opportunity to slim down and refine last year's design while keeping the same cost of $129.99. It's less expensive than the Logitech Fabricskin Keyboard Folio ($149.99), but more expensive than the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover ($99.99). This is a case that bonds a very good keyboard to a plastic back cover, and creates a slim package that travels easily and unfolds quickly.
Why "ultimate"? The previous Belkin case earned the name with a smart autoconnecting keyboard that magnetically docked with the iPad, and had three different adjustable angles -- something rarely seen on any other keyboard case. It performed well, too.
The three adjustable angles are back again, and they give this case a stand-out edge over the competition. Once the iPad Air is snapped into the case, the edge of the plastic magnetically snaps to one of the three positions marked with lines above the keyboard. It's a huge plus for lap and desk scenarios and cramped desks; that subtle difference in angle makes all the difference in my lap.
Typing is very enjoyable, with keys that feel good and are a nice size. A few outer keys are shifted or combined; the colon/semicolon is in a different place than usual, for instance. But on the whole, it's better than the Fabricskin from Logitech, which combines Caps Lock and the A key, or Tab and Q. I wrote this whole review on the keyboard, and found my error rate far lower and my typing speed much quicker than on the Fabricskin. Response time is excellent, too; I didn't experience any significant lag or stuttering.
The Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case charges via Micro-USB and comes with a cable in the box. A full charge should last over a month, which I couldn't vet out in my limited several-week use window. But I can tell you I haven't needed to recharge yet, and I didn't even charge the keyboard out of the box.
The case folds back on itself to a semiraised "tablet mode," useful for when you just want to read or watch movies. The 0.92-pound case adds thickness and nearly doubles the weight of the iPad Air, but it's fine as a case when seated on a train or a plane flight, and the keyboard keys don't get accidentally pressed when folded up: that clever auto-on magnetic pairing system deactivates the keys the moment the case is undocked.
The one drawback: the rear plastic snap-on shell feels a little cheap and possibly breakable. That's why I still lean toward the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, because there are fewer fragile parts. But, if you want full case protection and a great keyboard, this premium Belkin case is the ultimate, indeed.