Keyboards and iPads are a useful but sometimes awkward combination. The Apple iPad is not a device that cries out for an accessory: its minimalist chic and versatile touch screen nearly demand a lack of clutter. While writers on the go can, technically, type on an iPad's virtual onscreen keyboard, it's obviously not ideal. But neither is the decision to clutter up a thin, light device with big, bulky external keyboards. The $129.99 iLuv iCK826 Professional Case with Detachable Bluetooth Keyboard will likely polarize iPad case minimalists and those who prefer to think of the iPad as a productivity tool. Bulky and awkward, the iCK826 nearly defeats the purpose of having a slim iPad.
iLuv's all-in-one Bluetooth keyboard case for the iPad is a leather folio-style case that unfolds to reveal a full keyboard on the inside lid, much like other keyboard cases we've seen before. Is it "professional"? Well, it's thick, and it's made of black leather through and through. It makes an iPad feel like an old-school business accessory, if that's what you're looking for. It also adds quite a bit of thickness due to the added keyboard.
However, the iLuv case's keyboard, as advertised, does detach. It adheres to the inside cover via four Velcro pads. The keyboard is lightweight and has its own lithium ion battery. An included Micro-USB cable recharges the keyboard and plugs into any standard USB-equipped laptop or charger. Once the keyboard is charged, a small sync button initiates pairing with the iPad, which works like any other Bluetooth keyboard pairing process. The decision to use Velcro pads as a fastener, while perhaps inevitable, makes the case feel a bit of cheap. We would have preferred a more Apple-like solution, like magnets.
iLuv's case has a fold-down stand reminiscent of a picture frame that props the case open, and snaps into the back when not in use. It keeps the stand securely upright, but won't adjust to multiple angles. Also, the iCK826 requires that the iPad be stripped of the Smart Cover or any other back covers before it can be slotted into the stitched leather sleeve. Some people might be turned off by the case's lack of flexibility, or its inability to work in portrait mode. Logitech's Keyboard Case for the iPad 2 can work in either orientation, but doesn't provide the same level of protection. It's also far slimmer.
The iCK826's keyboard is cramped, unfortunately. That's partly the result of fitting into the dimensions of an iPad case: essentially, any iPad keyboard case becomes roughly the size of a 10-inch Netbook keyboard, which shrinks keys below the standard keyboard size. Other standalone keyboards like the Logitech Tablet Keyboard are far fuller and more comfortable. Typing on the iLuv keyboard is more of a hunt-and-peck experience, and the flattened, compressed keys are hard to differentiate by touch. Very tiny Delete and Shift keys on the right-hand side make errors more likely. We found ourselves backtracking more often than not. On the other hand, at least iLuv's keyboard has a set of iOS-specific controls, including volume, play/track skipping, and a picture gallery shortcut button. The leather palm rest beneath offers some comfort, but it's not necessary--in fact, when separated from its case, the Bluetooth keyboard seemed as though it might be more comfortable to use if it didn't have that thick leather strip. However, seeing as how the palm rest is actually higher than the keyboard, its real purpose seems to be to keep the keys from touching the iPad's screen when it's installed in the case.
iLuv's keyboard case is thick and thorough, but it's not our choice for comfort or flexibility. Sometimes, simplicity is better.