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Apr 15 2012

Case Logic IKBT-50 Bluetooth Keyboard Review

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I know you are tired of hearing about my maudlin fascination with keyboard devices. While have repeatedly blamed this addiction on my poor handwriting, I am currently seeing a therapist in regards to this. I know that makes you feel better! He assures me that this haptic need of mine is actually founded in some challenge in my potty training. I am not sure about that, but I am very concerned about the fact that OCD is not in alphabetical order. Sigh.

On a recent trip I made the champion gaffe of all time for me. I left for a trade show without a laptop and just the iPad. This I can handle, but because I was taking pictures of a keyboard I was reviewing in comparison to some I normally use, I ran off with no keyboard at all.

No physical keyboard. No Verbatim Bluetooth goodness, no iKeyboard minimalism, no Adonit love. Nothing. At. All.

I feel a little sick just thinking about it. So, I reported to the airport iTech store to pay my stupid tax.

My options were, to say the least, limited. In fact I had one, sole choice. The Case Logic IKBT-50.

It paired quickly with my iPad and actually features a little integrated stand that the iPad slots into for use while typing. It also worked well with my iPhone although strangely, I could use the keyboard to enter the unlock code on my phone but not on the iPad. Things that make you go “hmmm”. Then, magically the iPad decided it would take numeric input from the keyboard at the lock screen after I threatened it with immersion in water…go figure.

There is a metal bracket that clips onto the bottom of the keyboard and folds out to stabilize the keyboard so the weight of the keyboard does not flip the whole setup over.
Both the iPad and the iPhone worked in that stand, but not with a case with any kind of bulk to it.

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I nearly sacrificed a couple of thumbnails to this bracket trying to extract it from its holder and I really hope it loosens up a bit over time. The keyboard has a built Lithium Ion battery that is charged by a mini USB cable. Case Logic is kind enough to include one of their little retractable USB cables for charging this, which is good because nearly everything I currently own has gone to micro USB now.

The keyboard has 5 rows of keys plus a “bonus” row of tiny little function keys. Main letter keys are roughly 3/4 of an inch wide and 1/2 and inch tall and most of the rest of the keys are half inch by half inch and those tiny F keys half by a quarter. Definitely challenging if you are at all ham handed.

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Those function keys have quick keys for home, search, brightness, picture frame mode and onscreen keyboard switching as well as music player functions and volume control. Also, the upper right hand lock button will put the device into sleep mode. Given the small keys and its position right above the delete key it is very easy to put the device to sleep accidentally.

The tilde/odd accent key (~ and `) is also oddly placed immediately to the left of the space bar. Weird.

Action is not bad, but the keyboard is definitely cramped. With an iPad in landscape mode the keyboard is about an inch shorter. It seems to me like this product would have been well served to have been stretched an extra inch to give you just a touch more knuckle room on the keyboard.

The iPad also makes me a bit nervous in portrait mode in the stand. It works but it seems a bit rickety and I feel like it would be very easy for it to be knocked over.

Conclusions:

The IKBT-50 is functional and an improvement over the glass keyboard on the iPad. It does what it says it will in a small package and worked reliably for me while I used it.

Unfortunately, it is just too many compromises. A bit too small and cramped, with nothing really clever to recommend it. The stand section of the keyboard is oddly shaped and the bracket is very difficult to remove. I eventually ended up removing the stand completely because it made the keyboard easier to store.

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It is functional with iOS devices but falls short on the Android front. I have some final testing to do but my expectation Is it will work with my HTC View but fall flat when trying to pair it with an Evo 4G. I will confirm and update soon.

(Update: As I expected the keyboard worked perfectly with the HTC View/Flyer. The new Android update 3.2.1 the arrow keys on the keyboard work correctly no matter which orientation the tablet is in. The EVO 4G will still not pair with a BT keyboard.)

My recommendation is to pass on this one and look for something that chooses some more intelligent things to compromise on.

Back to the drawing board for me.

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