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May 28 2012

Cpeel iPad Keyboard Case Review

Do you have an iPad but are suffering from MacBook Air envy? Cpeel is aiming this straight at you!

I saw this MacBook looking case as an article on one of the Mac news website and was immediately intrigued. A keyboard and an extended battery all in a package that looked truly cool. How sexy is that.

So, I plunked down my credit card for one of my very own. As usual, I did this on a Thursday evening and drummed my fingers impatiently.

Cpeel is a German wholesaler for a Chinese company that is primarily known for selling skins to turn an iPod touch into a phone device but they are apparently taking on some other products for distribution.

Although the iPad Notebook Case showed as “In Stock” on their website, it took them 11 days to ship my order. After two email nags I finally got a ship notification. I did not receive any tracking information and after a bit of rummaging through their site, I finally discovered that they could not track anything after it left Germany anyway and I was counseled to wait two weeks and contact them at that point if I had not received it.

For someone used to the over-the-top customer service of Amazon and their ilk, this was not exactly an auspicious beginning but I settled in for a long springtime nap…because I had no other option.

Eleven days later, the US Mail knocked on my door and asked me to sign for my package. Elapsed time from Germany to my door; 22 days.

I was home doing honey-dos but I took a brief minute to tear into the package and open it up so I could charge it up and play with it for a moment.

My initial impression was disappointment. I had gotten it in my head somewhere that this case was aluminum, but it is plastic, plastic, plastic. Did I mention that it was plastic? The whole thing feels a bit rickety and the keyboard portion of the case sags to each side with a discernible curve.

Let’s just say I am not interested in doing a drop test on this case. Ever.
Especially since there is this warning on the bottom of the case.

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The keyboard paired quickly with the iPad and it is a good deal less rickety with the iPad installed. There are cutouts for the sync port, power switch, headphones and the volume rocker. There is also a cutout for the Apple logo to show through and a random one at the top center that seems to serve no purpose. The speaker has vents in the case and there is a cutout for the camera so you can be even more awkward than normal trying to take picture with the iPad.

No clue what this cutout is for...

The show through logo on the bag will typically be 90 degrees off because you will normally have the iPad case in landscape orientation. Annoying, but not necessarily a killer.

The case has three switches on the top right above the keyboard for turning the keyboard on and off, a Bluetooth pairing button and a switch to turn the battery output on and off.

When you open the case the iPad flips back to about a 35 degree angle. This is the end of the hinges throw and it does not have enough tension to hold the iPad at any other angle, so this is your only option. This case does not really give you a great option for using the iPad in tablet orientation but it is pretty quick to pop it in and out.

Although I have seen other reports on line, the case that was shipped to me did have magnets built into the case to work like the Smart Case in turning the iPad off when you shut the lid. The BT keyboard also seems to sleep pretty well and doesn’t start functioning until you tap the keys a couple of times. If you are only using the internal battery for the keyboard it should last a LONG time between charges.

It works pretty well for typing on a flat service and can be used in your lap if you are careful.

The function keys give you a home button, search, brightness controls, a button for photo display mode, and a button to turn the onscreen keyboard on and off. Function key 6 has a button that looks like a world on it that seems to do nothing at all!

Then there are 6 buttons for audio control and a button that has an eject symbol on it that actually turns the iPad off. I do like that this is not on the far right as I have had troubles with turning the iPad off with other keyboards when I went to hit the backspace key.

The keyboard is about 80% of the size of an actual Mac laptop keyboard and the action is decent if a bit “clackety”. The whole package does lull you into thinking you are working on a laptop. I found myself trying to drag my thumb across the nonexistent touchpad when the screen started to dim! I also got lots of double takes when people realized it was not a laptop, so that part of it was quite effective.

The battery function was pretty effective and the docs (limited though they be) indicate that it has enough output to charge an iPad. This is true but the output is not hot enough to charge an iPad3 while the display is on. Your mileage may vary. If you are looking to top off a phone while using the iPad or topping off the iPad while it is resting you should be good. Please beware that there is only the one battery in the case so if you exhaust it charging something the keyboard is now non-functional!

Also, the charging port is a mini-USB port. Although a cable is included, I had JUST gotten all of my devices switched over to micro USB. So 2008, and now I have to carry another cable around. Grrr.

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Conclusions:

At $85 plus $15 shipping this case is at the $100 mark. If you are looking for the cosmetic impact it could woo you.

For me, there are better choices as the cosmetics are about the only thing that it does get done. The keyboard is all right, there is very little protection, the battery makes the case too heavy given that it is not very capable at charging the iPad.

For around $100 I think you are better off with something like the Adonit keyboard that I reviewed here.

Restless Tech recommends a pass on the Cpeel keyboard. This one is going on eBay.

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