I know of a large number of attorneys and non-attorneys who use an iPad instead of a laptop when traveling. Because it is nice to use an external keyboard with the iPad when you don't have access to a computer with a real keyboard, people have frequently asked me about cases (such as the original Kensington KeyFolio that came out last year) that hold both the iPad and a keyboard, transforming the iPad into something that looks sort of like a netbook. Thus, when Kensington offered to send me a free review sample of its new KeyFolio Pro which was announced in late June of 2011, I was eager to try out the product. For many people this will be a great iPad accessory, but for me I found the keyboard a little too small.
The KeyFolio Pro is an iPad case. The iPad slips into one side of the KeyFolio Pro. It is secured by a simple tab that doesn't have velcro or a snap of any kind but does a great job of holding the iPad in place. When you close the case, the iPad is essentially protected on all sides. (The iPad's four corners are technically exposed, but they are recessed from the corner of the KeyFolio so if something bumps the corner your iPad will probably be fine.)
The closed KeyFolio is 8" wide, 10.25" long and about an inch thick. So in other words, it is about the size of a typical high school yearbook. My iPad 2 weighs 21.0 oz. by itself; when in the KeyFolio Pro they together weigh 41.4 oz., so you are essentially doubling the weight. As a case, I really like the KeyFolio Pro. It feels very nice in the hands, includes a hole in the back for the camera so you can take a picture without removing the iPad 2, and is very sturdy. Note that the case does not lock in any way to stay closed, so if you drop the case it could open up and damage the glass on the iPad 2. But you can walk around with the KeyFolio in your hands and know that your iPad or iPad 2 has more protection than it would have without any protection at all or with just the Apple Smart Cover.
Of course, the reason to get this case is not just to cover the iPad but also to use the built-in keyboard. The keyboard works like the Apple Wireless Keyboard in that it pairs with the iPad via Bluetooth. The keys are study, perhaps just a slight bit more mushy than the Apple Wireless Keyboard, but they work well. The keyboard includes at the top the following keys which are also present on the Apple Wireless Keyboard:
- Decrease Volume
- Increase Volume
- Show/hide keyboard
The only special keys on the Apple Wireless Keyboard missing from the KeyFolio Pro are the increase and decrease brightness buttons. The KeyFolio Pro also includes additional dedicated keys that perform the following functions:
- Home: just like pressing the Home button on the iPad, but you don't have to lift your fingers from the keyboard — very handy.
- Slideshow: instantly launch a slideshow, no matter what you are doing on the iPad. Normally you have to first go to the iPad's lock screen to then see the button to launch a slideshow.
- Search: a button that instantly brings you to the iPad search screen, which normally you have to access by pressing the Home button twice or swiping to the right from the first Home screen.
- Lock: instantly turn off the iPad screen, just like pressing the Sleep/Wake button on the side of the iPad.
- .com: instantly type ".com"
- Control key: the Apple Wireless Keyboard has a single control key on the left; the KeyFolio Pro has one on the left and one on the right
Note that many of these keys — the Lock key for sure, but also the Home, Slideshow and Search keys — provide a privacy feature of some sort. If someone approaches your iPad and you want to instantly hide what is on the screen, you can press the Lock key to instantly make the screen turn black or those other keys to change what is on the screen.
There are a few other keys on the KeyFolio Pro that, to my knowledge, don't do anything with the iPad 2. They are labled "Pause Break" "PrtSc SysRq" and "insert." There is also a "delete" button at the top right that does the same thing as the backspace key just below it. The KeyFolio Pro also has a special button at the top of the keyboard called "connect" that you use to pair the keyboard with the iPad via Bluetooth. There are some lights at the top right of the keyboard that indicate things like power on, caps lock on, when the keyboard is ready to be paired via Bluetooth and when the keyboard is charging.
There is an on/off switch on the right side of the keyboard making it easy to save power. The keyboard charges via USB and Kensington advertises 90 hours of working time and 45 days of standby time. I did charge the keyboard every once in a while over the last few weeks, but I never had it run out of power so I wasn't able to confirm the 90 hours (although I don't doubt it).
One special feature of the KeyFolio Pro is somewhat hidden in the part that holds the iPad — that part spins. Thus, you can use the iPad in the landscape mode (the mode you would expect for a case like this) but you can also twist clockwise to put the iPad in a portrait mode.
If I were to stop now, this would be a fairly glowing review of the KeyFolio Pro ... but I have one problem with this keyboard. The keys are too small for me. The Apple Wireless Keyboard has keys that are each 5/8" wide and which have about 1/8" between each key. The KeyFolio Pro keys are 9/16" wide and have just under 1/8" between each key. From one edge of the Q to the other edge of the P on the Apple Wireless Keyboard is about 7 3/8"; on the KeyFolio Pro that same span is about 6 3/4". Those differences sound small — we are talking about only around 1/16" per key —but they sure do make a difference for my fingers. The Apple Wireless Keyboard feels like a full-size keyboard because it is a full-size keyboard; it is the same keyboard that comes with many Macs. But whenever I type on the KeyFolio Pro, I feel like I am squishing my fingers together.
I recognize, however, that the problem here could just be me. I have larger hands, and in the past I've also found some compact netbooks too small for me to type on comfortably. Thus, I loaned the KeyFolio Pro to one of my colleagues who was seriously considering purchasing something just like this for her iPad and who has smaller fingers. (Is it sexist to say "typical female-sized fingers"? Maybe it is, so I won't.) She used the KeyFolio for a week and told me that she had no problem with the key size at all. She did have some other complaints, though. First, she didn't like the extra weight, which made her iPad feel more like a notebook computer, which defeated the purpose of the iPad for her. Second, she missed the Apple Smart Cover feature of putting the iPad to sleep automatically when covered; with the KeyFolio Pro you must first press that Lock key on the keyboard or press the Sleep/Wake button on the iPad and then close it. She also had some complaints that apply to any external keyboard, including the Apple model such as (1) the frequent need to reestablish a Bluetooth connection to the iPad before using the keyboard and (2) the need to frequently switch between touching the screen and using the keyboard. Thus, after a week of using the KeyFolio Pro, she decided that it wasn't worth it to her to purchase a device like this.
For me, however, if it wasn't for the keyboard being too small for my hands, I think that this would be a fabulous accessory for taking the iPad to meetings, court, or anyplace else when you want to give the iPad some protection (which of course adds weight, but that will be true no matter what kind of case you use) and you want to have an external keyboard. Indeed, an all-in-one option can be a nice advantage over carrying both the iPad and then also a keyboard.
So if you have larger hands like me, I cannot recommend the KeyFolio Pro. But if not, I would give this one a close look. It is a nicely designed, second-generation product gives you a simple way to protect your iPad while you also carry around and use an external keyboard, and it is quick and easy to remove the iPad from the KeyFolio Pro when you are not using it. The retail price is $99, but you can get it for only $62 on Amazon — $7 cheaper than the $69 Apple Wireless Keyboard, which is just a keyboard and doesn't also include a case.