Can an iPad really take the place of a laptop? For most people it depends on the kind of work they need to do, but one thing is certain: a physical keyboard would definitely help.
The CruxCase Crux360 helps your iPad do its best laptop impression. It's a case and Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard rolled into one, with a cleverly designed hinge that lets it pull triple duty as an iPad stand. But is it good enough to justify a $149 price tag? (Curiously, the iPad 1 version costs $1 less.)
On its own, the solid Crux360 weighs about 1.5 pounds--meaning it more than doubles the travel weight of an iPad 2. Of course, nearly any case is bound to add some weight, especially one packing a keyboard and battery.
Your iPad locks easily into the two-piece upper section, much like with other hard-shell cases. (Getting it out again is a major PIA.) Thankfully, the hinge is stiff enough--and the keyboard half sufficiently heavy--that the whole contraption doesn't topple over.
The "360" part of the name stems from the 360 degrees of rotation afforded by that hinge. Your iPad can sit upright at an angle comfortable for typing, or flip all the way around to a more traditional tablet position. Just make sure you turn the keyboard off while holding it that way, otherwise you'll invariably hit some keys by accident.
In between, the keyboard can face down while the iPad sits up for movies, photo slideshows, and the like. To that end, CruxCase placed four slightly protruding rubber feet on the keyboard face to keep it from sliding across flat surfaces. Smart.
Also smart: the Crux360 includes a whole row of special keys, including Home, search, copy, paste, and various playback controls. I especially like the one that instantly plays a slideshow of all your iPad photos. (Bonus: pressing it again takes you back to your previous activity.)
The keys themselves are definitely on the cramped side. Noisy, too. But the feel is good, with ample travel and good, stiff response. My only real complaint is with the Backspace key, which is confusingly labeled "delete" and is tiny compared with a typical Backspace.
Another curiosity: the Crux360 has one double-height Enter key (which is also labeled "return") and another, smaller Enter key right alongside it. Sure wish it had a dedicated Delete key instead--but it doesn't.
Other design missteps include a deeply sunken power button that's hard to press, a Bluetooth pairing button that doesn't look like a button at all, and roughly seven keys (three Command, two Control, and two Option) that appear to have no function. (This makes the absent Delete key all the more aggravating.)
Furthermore, my demo unit had a flaky USB connector: only by wiggling the bundled USB cord could I get the constant red light that indicates charging to turn on.
If you want your iPad to pull laptop duty, the Crux360 can definitely help. However, before you plunk down almost $150, be sure to check out the Logitech Keyboard Case for iPad 2--a similar QWERTY solution priced at $99. Granted, it doesn't offer quite the same level of protection as the Crux360, but it's definitely more affordable.