iPad Gear: Hands-on Apple's accessories

iPad Gear: Hands-on Apple's accessories

Summary: Honey, you need to accessorize! We purchased all of the official iPad accessories from Apple and put them to the test


Special Report: Apple iPad

Honey, you need to accessorize! We purchased all of the official iPad accessories from Apple and put them to the test (click on the photo to enlarge)

What good is a boy without his toys? The iPad is a great device, but it's pretty bare-bones without some essential accessories. We made a shopping trip to the sales tax-free nirvana of Southern New Hampshire last week and purchased all the iPad accessories we could find. Here's the lowdown.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

The Official Apple iPad Case

The official iPad case is one of the few accessories I didn't buy in retail, I ordered it in advance when placing my online order with Apple in February, along with the 6' power cord and additional charger.

At $39.00 I expected Apple's accessory case to be somewhat overpriced for what essentially amounts to a piece of foam rubber, but I wasn't going to risk using the device without some kind of protective case. Indeed, the case seems to do an adequate job of protecting the screen and cushioning the unit, as well as providing some friction when holding the device.

However, I cannot recommend this case to anyone, and frankly I'm extremely disappointed in the Apple product designers for not testing it adequately and noticing it has some major flaws.

One of the reasons why I chose this case was that I assumed Apple knew how to make a good case for its own device, and at the time when I ordered it few were available from 3rd-parties. Several weeks after launch, there are now many cases available and you have your choice of premium vendors.

Unfortunately I suspect that many iPad buyers will walk into a retail store and pick this case up because it has an Apple logo on it, and was an easy choice.

The biggest problem with this case, as you'll see in the video, is that the material very quickly collects dust and other particulates -- what I would refer to as a schmutz magnet.

This is such a significant issue that it's basically a deal breaker. The case requires very, very frequent cleaning.

You basically need to suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in order to keep the case looking unblemished, and cleaning it more than once a day is impractical.

I've gotten to the point where I've been giving it a spritz of Windex or industrial kitchen degreaser (both excellent products for cleaning the iPad case and the iPad screen, I find also Fabuloso works well and makes your iPad fruity fresh) every three days or so.

That's not enough to keep it pristine looking on a day to day basis, but enough to stave off mass accumulation of crud.

My suggestion is to go elsewhere for iPad cases. Move along. As soon as I find a better option that fully encloses the iPad and is more protective, I'm throwing this case straight in the garbage.

The Apple Wireless Keyboard

Of the iPad accessories I purchased, the Apple Wireless Keyboard ($69.00 retail, $60-$65 street) was my favorite, even though it wasn't actually designed for the iPad in the first place.

Indeed, Apple does sell a Dock/Keyboard combo specifically made for iPad ($69.00) but it restricts you to using your iPad and typing in portrait mode, and it has to be physically connected to your unit.

There are times where I'd rather just dock the iPad to charge it and perhaps not travel with the keyboard, so I went for a standard dock ($29.00) and the Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard, which was originally made for the Mac, but is fully compatible with iPad.

The wireless keyboard, which is made out of brushed aluminum and plastic, comes with two standard AA batteries pre-installed, and can also take rechargeable AA batteries.

Pairing the keyboard with the iPad was easy -- I simply went into the Settings app, enabled Bluetooth, and the iPad found it right away and prompted me to enter a pairing code on the keyboard. In seconds, the keyboard was functioning. It works with all iPad applications that can take text input.

A few of the Mac-specific keys on the wireless keyboard don't work, such as the Expose and Dashboard keys, but that's to be expected as the iPad doesn't multitask or have a Dashboard equivalent yet. It would be nice if there was a way in software to re-map these functions, but as of yet you can't. Other controls, such as volume and brightness level and the iTunes controls work just fine.

The keys are flat but not quite chicklet style. Certainly not as nice as a full buckling spring keyboard but definitely not completely clicky or mushy, it has a decent amount of tactile feedback to it. For a very small, portable keyboard it does the job more than adequately.

The Apple Wireless Keyboard is a nice product and I'd recommend it heartily to anyone looking for a physical keyboard input solution for their iPad.

Dock Connector to VGA Adapter

The Dock to VGA connector is the iPad accessory which had the most amount of promise but failed miserably.

When I saw Steve Jobs demo the iPad during the product announcement, I actually thought this product was going to allow me to do the same thing, which is to project the entire screen contents onto a monitor or a HDTV with a VGA connector. Having bought the product without reading any reviews, I thought that this was exactly what this accessory did. It doesn't.

The VGA to Dock connector currently only supports slide show output from Keynote and Photos, videos from YouTube, as well as videos in iTunes.

However, there are additional restrictions when playing videos with iTunes, as virtually all the video content you can download and pay for is HDCP restricted, thus requiring a native HDMI or DVI-D connection.

Since the VGA adapter output is Analog, you'll get a nasty error message whenever you try to play this sort of content. Hopefully we'll see an DVI/HDMI version of the Dock Connector at some point, as I'd love to be able to buy movies and play them on a larger screen.

Right now, I'd only recommend using iTunes with the VGA adapter if you have lots of home movies or self-authored content that you've uploaded to the device.

Currently the VGA adapter doesn't support any 3rd party applications, such as Netflix. Here's hoping that more developers will take advantage of this accessory and allow us to bring more iPad output to bigger screens.

Which iPad accessories are your favorites? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPad, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • ipad case

    looks horrible. agreed.
  • Gee why not get a netbook?

    Seriously, do you really need all that crap to get it near being a real computer?

    Still it's a lifestyle choice - isn't it? ;-)
    • No.

      No it isn't a "lifestyle choice", and it isn't a Netbook either.

      A Netbook is a cheap (though increasingly not THAT cheap) laptop
      with a small screen, cramped keyboard, poor battery life, slow
      processor. It one advantage is that it is small and light. That's it.
      Maybe you need a computer like that (and yes there plenty of use
      cases) but most people would be better served by a laptop.

      The iPad isn't that.

      The iPad was not designed to replace a laptop, Apple are perfectly
      clear on this - you still need a computer.

      Right so what's the iPad actually for then? Mostly; content delivery.
      Watching a film, reading a book, listening to music, surfing the Web or
      even playing a game, all things the iPad is good at. If these don't
      sound like work, then you're getting the idea. While you might find an
      iPad useful for work, that isn't its reason for being. Sure you can use
      iWork on it, yes it'll do email and I'm sure there will be lots of "serious"
      applications - that isn't the primary focus.

      Is there crossover between a Netbook and an iPad? Sure, lots of
      Netbooks get used for the things Apple designed that iPad for
      (Netbooks just aren't very good at those things) but there are use
      cases where either a Netbook makes more sense (not may but they do
      exist) or a laptop is far better.
      • Content delivery.

        I stopped living with my parents years ago. I get to chose what content I want to watch now. Why should I buy an iPad and have Apple act like my parents again and dictate what content I can an cannot watch.

        Get a grip man, you're utterly deluded.
  • OMGosh - did I just read a comment stating the iPad is a great device?

    Yet maybe the Apple accessories are 'not so great',
    hmm? BTW .. nice videos! (I've been a - Whovian - for
    quite sometime now and the video clip of the 11th
    Doctor's first episode which we can't view in the States
    until April 17th was a bit of a treat. Thanks for that once
    again, Jason.)

    Oh .. just returned from a golf vacation today and I just
    had a chance to open three shipped iPad accessories of my
    own: The slammed iPad case, the iPad power adapter and
    the iPad dock (nice to have a duplicate dock located on
    different home levels). My camera connector clip, as we all
    know, still has not shipped but rumor has it that this will
    allow some USB connectivity. (See following link)


    Still waiting for my 3G model due to ship in early May.

    Oh .. just curious .. are you still happy with the decision to
    avoid the 3G version?
    • 3G

      Don't need it. My android device can wireless tether over wifi.
      • That brings up a good point...

        It's so sad that you have to buy non-Apple phones to do Wi-Fi tethering of your Apple iPad or laptop. It certainly makes Apple look stupid for chaining themselves to a technological boat anchor like AT&T. Just pile that on the heap of poor decisions they've made, like leaving out an iChat camera.

        And, come on Apple, when are we going to get a worthy desktop client for these cool personal devices? Seriously, iTunes sucks for personal data and file management on personal devices. It's like trying to use a hammer as a wrench. Try explaining to a long-time Palm user who is considering an iPhone that they will need to run their mp3 player software in order to update their contacts and watch their expression.
        • Wrong...

          While an iPhone out of the box cannot tether, a simple jailbreak allows you to see the tether option, and turn it on. I know because I have been using it. Its very fast, I can download at about 150 kb/s, and do it all wirelessly. Only Apple, which you rightly stated, is holding back this feature. But the iPhone hardware, software, and the network all support 3G tether, so if you want a Palm experience buy one. The iPhone is not for everyone, so I dont know why it is so popular. The interface is the dealbreaker. Every other phone ive used is the biggest hassle to set options, and navigate through the features. Android is promising, but really looks SO similiar to the iPhone OS, I can't give it much credit. In fact I know of no phone that did it as well as Apple, until AFTER the iPhone, when you had time to copy and get better components. Nothing new was done, Palm and Android became your i-Alternatives. Same basic structure, different flavor, on top of parts that came after the original iPhone.
          • No Jailbreaking

            why don't we go ahead and just ignore any answer
            with the term "jailbreak" in it.

            If people wanted to have to work on their phones,
            they wouldn't have bought an iPhone.
          • Feel free to ignore if you want to

            But I found his jailbreak situation, interesting enough...
            ubiquitous one
          • I couldn't agree more

            I don't want to have to HACK my device to USE my devices CAPABILITIES!! If it was capable in the first place why isn't it turned on APPLE???? Just say NO to Jailbreaking! Then say no to Apple.
          • tether FYI

            Apple tethers in other counties and with other Carriers. Its ATT thats holding it back... not Apple.
          • AT&T has a policy against that

            Tethering is against their policy. They want you
            to pay for an extra plan. I've inquired
            extensively about it assuming the AT&T people I've
            talked to were stupid. Why can't I use the plan I
            paid for again? Basicly it boils down to, they
            don't want you using the bandwidth. Of course, it
            probably costs too much to try and track so I
            don't think there are any reprocusions.
          • Didn't Apple have a part in that contract?

            I'm pretty sure they did; so they knowingly anchored themself to the cromagnums at at&t!
      • Tether to iPad?

        How are you going to tether your android device to the iPad? I'd like to tether my Motorola Droid to the iPad but can't figure out a way. I have PDANet on the Droid, but the rest of the pieces are still missing, I think. If you have a way, I'm all ears.
  • RE: iPad Gear: Hands-on Apple's accessories

    i would have loved this product, but when the basics are missing, a usb interface, a card-slot. those two simple need just does not justify a purchase of this sleek device, might i say
    • Accessories?

      You know you can get them right?

      Sure you wanted them either (1) in the box or (2) on the device. Well
      sure, it would have been nice if Apple had stuffed the iPad box with
      goodies such as these - but life isn't like that, and they would probably
      have charged more...

      However it is worth noting, USB isn't actually very useful without drivers.
      The Apple USB is for connecting cameras - I don't think you can use it for
      anything else... it would need drivers (then the iPad would be a different
      kind of device).
      • Only camera?


        Only cameras would connect to the iPad?

        How many devices in your home right now contain
        video or audio information?
    • usb... not needed

      this is and will be the best device in its class. The others will fail for so many reasons
      • Your insane

        "for so many reasons"