Hands on with the Kensington KeyFolio Pro for the iPad Air

Summary:When it comes to keyboards for the iPad Air, there is thin and light and soft and luxurious. This keyboard is for those preferring the latter.

Make a protective case for the iPad Air, cover it with soft, sheepskin leather, and add a keyboard to the mix. That's what Kensington did with the KeyFolio Pro for the iPad Air, wth mostly good results.

Kensington KeyFolio Pro typing mode
Kensington KeyFolio Pro typing mode Image: James Kendrick/ ZDNet

Open the portfolio case, which feels buttery soft like sheepskin should, and discover the holder for the iPad Air on one side and the Bluetooth keyboard on the other. Pairing the KeyFolio Pro is standard operating procedure for the iPad Air.

Above the six rows of keys there are three LED indicators. Caps Lock, Bluetooth and Power. To the right of these is the power toggle, a button that is hard to hit as it is recessed into the unit. The mcroUSB jack is used to charge the KeyFolio, located on the right side of the keyboard.

The iPad Air slides into the holder and is held securely by a magnetic flap that tucks behind the tablet. There are cutouts for controls and ports on the iPad Air, so it's possble to operate the tablet and charge it while in the case.

To use the keyboard, the iPad Air is propped in one of three viewing angles and is held by magnets. These aren't particularly strong magnets so the whole assembly feels a bit wobbly. I experienced no problems using it, however.

Kensington KeyFolio Pro keyboard
Kensington KeyFolio Pro keyboard Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Unlike most cases, the keyboard on the KeyFolio Pro is held in the case by strong magnets and can be removed for use outside the case. The iPad Air can be propped up and the keyboard used away from the tablet. Replacing the keyboard must be done with care to line it up with the edges of the case or it will stick out when closed.

The removable keyboard design means the KeyFolio Pro can be used without the keyboard for times when it’s not necessary. It’s much lighter without it as the keyboard is fairly heavy.

It is possible to use the iPad Air as a tablet while in the case by folding the keyboard side under the tablet. The keys are exposed when used this way so it’s necessary to power the keyboard off to prevent unintended key presses. This keeps reminding the user of the poor design of the hard-to-hit power button.

kensington-keyfolio-pro-open
Kensington KeyFolio Pro open (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The KeyFolio closes up like a book, but due to the construction of the iPad holder part there is no Smart Cover feature. You must remember to lock the iPad screen before closing the cover as it doesn't shut down by itself. There is a small flap that magnetically holds the folio closed for transport, with a loop for a stylus (not included) underneath.

The case is about an inch thick when closed, so you’ll need plenty of room in the bag to carry it around. It’s soft and comfortable to carry alone in the hand.

Using the KeyFolio Pro is a mixed bag. The top row of iPad control keys is a nice touch, although the heavily used Cut, Copy, and Paste keys are missing. They are represented by the dual-key combinations Fn-X, Fn-C, and Fn-V. These work fine but are not as convenient as dedicated keys.

Using the KeyFolio Pro has proven frustrating due to inconsistent performance. Typing quickly results in a lot of missing letters, and some duplicates. It's as if the Bluetooth connection has a lag in transferring typed characters. The review unit may have keys that aren’t registering properly when hit, which would also result in dropped keys. It is a regular occurrence, and I’ve reached out to Kensington for their input. I’ll update this review when I hear back from them.

UPDATE: Kensington sent a replacement unit due to the keystroke dropping issue detailed at the time of publication. The second unit has no issues as earlier reported. The reviewer's rating is being adjusted as the original review unit is apparently defective.

The KeyFolio Pro is available from major retailers and from Kensington for $79.99 and there's a model with a backlit keyboard (KeyFolio Pro Plus) for $99.99.

Pros:

  • Totally protects the iPad Air
  • Luxurious look and feel
  • Removable keyboard

Cons:

  • Drops keystrokes frequently (defective unit, replacement has no issue)
  • Thick and heavy
  • Doesn’t turn iPad off when closed

Reviewer’s rating: 7 out of 10

See related:

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Reviews, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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