ClamCase Pro for iPad Air review: ​Turn your iPad Air into a MacBook Air lookalike...almost

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MSRP: $169.00

The Good The ClamCase Pro for iPad Air is lighter and thinner than last year's version; it bends back into different modes, while automatically deactivating the keyboard; it has a solid polycarbonate shell and a very good full keyboard.

The Bad It still feels heavy and bulky; it's expensive compared with other options; and the case's headphone-access hole doesn't work for all headphones.

The Bottom Line The ClamCase Pro for iPad Air is a bendable multifunction keyboard case that doubles as a clever desk stand. It's the best accessory for fulfilling your iPad-as-laptop fantasies, provided you can live with a few drawbacks.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

There are a lot of ways to add a good keyboard to your iPad. The ClamCase Pro might be one of the best at being the most versatile. Whether that justifies its lofty $169 price (UK and AU MSRP pricing not currently available, but it can be ordered online via various vendors), however, depends on how desperately you're trying to accomplish your iPad-as-near-laptop fantasies.

The original ClamCase Pro for the older, larger iPads added a solid aluminum keyboard with a complete MacBook Air vibe to a sturdy polycarbonate case. Open your iPad up, and you can type on it easily. From a distance, it even looks exactly like a MacBook.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The new version, for iPad Air, is even more compact. You push and click your iPad into the reinforced polycarbonate top shell, and lift a side edge to pop it out again. You don't need to remove your iPad again, if you don't want to: the ClamCase Pro's top half bends back and over so you can hold the iPad to read or do other tablety things on it. Or, you can even fold the keyboard back and turn the case into a adjustable-angle tablet stand. It can fold and flip just like the Lenovo Yoga and other bendable Windows 8 laptops. I tried the iPad Air version alongside an even smaller $129 ClamCase Pro for iPad Mini, and found both were really good. I actually liked the Mini version more because it's far rarer to find a good keyboard case for the Mini. The Air version, while also excellent, is one more good solution in a landscape full of alternatives.

ClamCase Pro for iPad Air and iPad Mini: slightly different sizes. Sarah Tew/CNET

The ClamCase has a clever auto-pairing and disconnecting keyboard: once initially paired via Bluetooth with your iPad, it disconnects automatically when the case is shut: or, when the keyboard's folded back beyond 180 degrees, in stand or tablet mode. You won't accidentally press any keys, even though they're exposed on the back. Holding the iPad Air inside the fold-back case for casual reading is a little weird: the heavy, thick nature of the case turns the Air into more of a two-hander. It's best in the bend-back stand mode, which is perfect for airline fold-down tables or limited desk space. It's not perfect, though; the iPad Air wobbled a bit when touched and tapped, and you'll have to make sure your desk/table is properly wiped down just in case liquids or junk touch the keyboard beneath.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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