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Oct 13 2011

Adonit Writer Review

If you are looking for a review of the Writer Plus you can click here.

Hour after hour of rehearsal as a concert pianist makes you very sensitive to the tiny changes in pressure between computer keyboards. The repetitive practice of playing a D flat harmonic minor scale for hours at a time rather quickly trains the muscles in your fingers and hands to the microchanges that come from very small movements of key positions.

Of course, I was a total hack on the piano and could barely make my way through Round Midnight in the easy play version (it’s all black keys, if you are not a Monk fan). In fact, my main qualification for being an expert on keyboards is that I have bad handwriting. Really bad handwriting.

That would qualify as a brutal non sequitur to get to the Adonit Writer.

The Writer is the brainchild of two guys with exceptionally good hair.

Zach Zeliff and Kris Perpich are the brain trust of Adonit and are veterans of the Silicon Valley stalwarts, Apple and Microsoft. With the aid of Kickstarter they took the Writer to development with crowd funding of nearly $27,000.

The Writer is really all about loving your iPad oodles, until you have to enter a lot of text. The glass keyboard is good for a quickie text, an iChat to deny that you were ever in Las Vegas or even a two sentence email to explain why you have missed your deadline. Again.

But a whole blog entry on the physics of the slot machine? I don’t think so! We are talking carpal fingerprint syndrome and it can cripple a mobile blogger.

Enter, the Writer. A maelstrom combination of iPad improvement.

I have carried around a lot of keyboard solutions and, much like a camera, the best one is the one you have with you. The most satisfying solution I have used is definitely the Apple wireless keyboard. Unfortunately, it is seldom convenient to carry around and I never seem to have it in the case when I really need it.

Over the last couple of years, I have settled on a keyboard folio that I have been using. Good leather…marginal keyboard. But, like the aforementioned camera, it was there, so I got to use it.

When I got the opportunity to review the Writer I jumped on it! The Writer is a cover and keyboard combination made from primarily recyclable materials so it eases my conscience at bit as well. In fact, over 98% of the materials in the Writer are recyclable or recoverable making it a very green package indeed.

The Writer is a low profile, folio style case with a bluetooth keyboard built-in. The plastic frame seems a bit rickety without the iPad in place, but it is very rigid and solid once installed.

Actually, “installed” is not a fair term. It is very easy to pop the iPad in and out of the case at will so you can use it with the keyboard or take it out and use it unobstructed. This is one of the beauties of Adonit’s approach. Since the writer really forces you to use the iPad in landscape mode, it is good that this can be done quickly when you do want to use it in portrait mode. Words with Friends anyone?

The outside of the case seems to made of the same material as the original iPad Case. In fact they look strikingly similar at first glance. The thickness is the obvious tip-off on this, but it is surprising how thin the package is when you consider what you are adding.

The Writer case is slightly wider (because of the battery compartment) and thicker but really compares pretty favorably.

I have the iPad1 version because I cannot justify upgrading to the iPad2 for a crappy camera, thinner case and faster processor. OK, in reality I can’t get my wife to agree to let me upgrade, even though I DESPERATELY need that faster processor, but that is a story for another time.

The Writer for the original iPad uses an elastic band and a semicircular clasp to keep the case closed. It can be a bit hard to negotiate if you are in a hurry. If you are an iPad2 owner you will be pleased to know that Adonit has gone to a magnetic closure that also functions like the smart case to put the iPad2 to sleep. Tres cool!

The elastic half in and half out of the clasp for visibility purposes

The Writer runs on three AAA batteries. This is good from the standpoint of availability but it does add a bit of width to the package to create the tube to put the batteries into. While I cannot completely judge the lifespan of the batteries since I have only been using the writer for about a month, the batteries are still registering as happy! You can check the level of the batteries by pushing a button on the left side of the battery tube and an LED ring around the button will glow green, yellow or red to give you an indication of life in the cells.

The Writer is a six row keyboard that I would estimate to be about 80% of the width of a standard keyboard. The keys are slightly smaller than standard keys and are packed closer together to make the keyboard the width of the iPad in landscape mode. The keys are all a uniform size with a couple of small exceptions, notably the backslash and tilde keys. The keys are typically a half-inch in width and not the traditional 5/16th of an inch of a standard keyboard.

The top row features 15 (?!?) function keys plus a home key on the far left and a lock key on the far right. These are reversed from the pictures that I saw on Adonit’s website so do be aware of this. The function keys also serve some iPad specific functions. F1 launches the iPad search function, F2 puts it into photo frame mode and F3 will toggle the onscreen keyboard.

My first reaction to the F3 button was “huh?” but there are a couple of keys that are available on the onscreen keyboard (notably the currency symbols for the Euro, Yen and Pound Sterling) that you would have to know some very odd key modifiers to get to.

F7, F8 and F9 give you access to skip back, play/pause and skip forward on the iPod app. Beware that these function no matter what app is in the foreground so if you are at the library and Gwar is the next track on your playlist….well, you get the picture.

F13, F14 and F15 give you access to the mute, and volume up and down functions, which could be useful in the previously mentioned scenario!

The keyboard is definitely smaller than I would like, but the landscape width of the iPad is a hard restriction. The Writer has true scissor action keys so it feels very good mechanically. This is even true if you are typing quite hard. I also appreciate that there is an inverted T of arrow keys for moving the cursor around the screen.

The space bar is a bit compressed but this allows there to be control, option and command modifier keys on both sides. The only real challenges I had were the small shift key on the right side and the lock function key right above the delete key. After about an hour of typing I found that I didn’t have to think about avoiding those issues.

Here are a couple of comparative pics of the writer next to other keyboards.

One of the coolest things about the Writer is the way they have set up adjusting the angle on the keyboard and screen.

The bottom of the key board has a row of magnets inside of it that will attach themselves to a sympathetic plate that is built into the case. This allows a lot of variation on how you set the angle without fiddling with kickstands or odd straps or slots.

This magnet is fairly strong as you can see from this pic of the Writer stuck to the door frame of the hotel I was staying at recently. Don’t try this with the iPad installed!

I found myself using the Writer in three basic positions. With the screen nearly vertical it takes up the least amount of table top space. In this mode the front of the case functions as a sort of wrist rest and it is perfect for use on an airline tray table.

Maximum lean on the Writer puts the iPad at a roughly 45 degree angle. I found this to be the most comfortable position for extended typing. It does make the Writer take up about 10 inches of depth on a desk or table so you do have to allow some room to do so.

When the keyboard is centered over the plate in the case cover the magnets have the best hold and so it is the most stable. In this position you can actually use the writer in your lap comfortably. This is the only keyboard for the iPad that I have found that I could do so with and it may well make the Writer worth the price of admission if you are typing on the run.

The mechanics of the magnet system are a little difficult to explain so I made a quick video that I think makes it a little easier to understand.

Pros:
Great feeling keyboard action
Great Battery life management
Really solid all in one case/keyboard solution
Easy to put iPad in and out

Cons:
Case show dirt
Latch annoys me (ignore this if you own an iPad2)
Delete and lock keys a wee bit too close

I really like the Writer. It has finally convinced me that I can leave the laptop at home if I need to and be comfortable grinding out enough text to stay employed. The case gives a little protection to the iPad without adding a ton of weight or bulk.

At $79 the writer is a little bit more money than the cheap keyboard case combos and it is far higher quality. It is less money than something like the Zagg and it is far more flexible.

So. Got keyboard? No?
You should take a really close look at the Writer.

Adonit
The Writer for iPad1 $79
The Writer for iPad2 $99
mailto:help@adonit.net

2 comments

  1. Matthew

    I got a client of mine one of these for their iPad 2. I haven’t seen this client in a while, so I don’t know if they’re loving or hating it. Well, actually, if they hated it, I would’ve heard about it, so they must at least like it. Anyway, I really liked it when I was setting it up for them and trying it out. They previously had a kensington folio keyboard case that was quite a bit thicker, and didn’t work nearly as well.

    So, I am also a fan of this case. That being said, have you seen the solar-powered keyboard from logitech? I think that’s a great idea, because it’s a pain to keep track of yet another charging cable. But I don’t know about its price, and who knows how well they executed on the construction itself…

  2. Jeff Mac

    That and the new Logitech are on my list to evaluate but I haven’t gotten there yet. I am currently working on a review of the Cpeel keyboard case which makes the iPad look a lot like an MBA.

    Love the solar powered idea but you nailed it on the execution end. Kensington is hit and miss on this.

    I just love the balance of compromises that Adonit hit and I am looking forward to reviewing the new one…

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