ClamCase Pro review: Turn your iPad into a versatile laptop

ClamCase Pro review: Turn your iPad into a versatile laptop

Summary: There are many keyboards available for the iPad and I may have tried them all. The revamped ClamCase Pro is the best of the lot for heavy text entry.

TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Reviews
ClamCase Pro box

Every time I write about using a keyboard with my iPad I get consistent responses. Usually the responses run along the lines of "you can't do real work with an iPad" and "if you have to use a keyboard with them the entire tablet genre is useless".

See related:

I know better, as I use my iPad with one keyboard or another all the time. It's not for everyone, but if you do a lot of writing a good keyboard is a great accessory for the iPad.

The ClamCase Pro is a special keyboard and case for all iPads released after the first generation. It functions as a stand for the iPad in a form that turns the tablet into a laptop.

The case is light for such a protective case with an integrated keyboard. When closed, the unit (with iPad) is smaller than a MacBook Air and only slightly thicker. The weight of the ClamCase Pro with iPad onboard is just under three pounds.

Ready for work 600

The case is a clamshell with a good keyboard on the bottom and a polycarbonate shell for the iPad on top. The rigid hinge allows putting the iPad screen at any angle for comfortable viewing.

The keyboard charges with an included USB-to-microUSB cable and is completely charged in two hours. It should be possible to get many hours of typing on a single charge, although I haven't had it long enough to quantify exactly how long.

Keyboard closeup 600

The keyboard sleeps when unused for a short period and there is an on/off switch to totally power it down. When in standby, hitting any key turns it back on. The lid has Smart Cover technology incorporated so closing the "laptop" turns the iPad off and opening it turns it on.

Like most iPad keyboards, the ClamCase Pro has a top row consisting of special control keys. These include Home, Search, Copy, Paste, Screen Lock, and media controls. The keys are small and the keyboard is not quite as big as those on a larger laptop, but the key travel is superb and provides good tactile feedback. I can type faster and more accurately on this keyboard than on any iPad keyboard I have tried.

The keyboard base looks a bit strange due to the missing trackpad. I'm not aware of any iPad keyboard that includes a trackpad, and it's likely the tablet doesn't support one. It's not a big deal since it's easy to just use the iPad's touchscreen. The missing trackpad is a good thing since it provides a great wrist rest for comfortable typing.

Super thin closed 600
Thin when closed

The clamshell folds closed like a laptop, and the iPad is completely protected when closed. I wouldn't try dropping it to test it, but it seems protected to me.

In addition to the laptop configuration, the ClamCase Pro has a hinge that folds the keyboard under the iPad screen. The iPad can be used as a tablet in this configuration, albeit it's a bit heavier than the iPad alone. The keys of the keyboard are exposed on the back of the iPad in tablet mode which feels strange to hold. You have to power the keyboard off to prevent inadvertent key presses in tablet mode due to the exposed keys. It's easy to pop the iPad out of the case for true tablet use so that's not a big deal.

Tablet mode 600
Keyboard folded under iPad for use as a tablet

The hinge that is used to move the iPad screen for use as a laptop can be stopped at any angle between completely closed and wide open for use as a tablet described above. That makes using it as a comfortable media player very simple and would be ideal for watching movies on a plane.

In the short time I've been using the ClamCase Pro with my iPad I am very pleased with its build quality and usability. I have a feeling one of these may be on my to-buy list very soon. The case is available from ClamCase online for $169 and comes in silver/white.

Side view 600
Media mode 300
Configured for watching media

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Reviews

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  • This makes no sense at all.

    Let's say you want a tablet with a keyboard, so that you can get work done / edit documents without needing a separate laptop.

    - A 64gb ipad plus this case costs $700 plus $170 = $870.
    - A 64gb SurfaceRT plus a type keyboard (the full one not the touch-only one) costs $500 + $110 = $610

    In addition to being massively cheaper, the combined surface plus keyboard cover weighs less, has an actual trackpad (so you don't have to touch the screen all the time) and runs Office (which is still the best document production suite there is). Who in their right minds thinks an iPad-plus-clunky-keyboard-combo with no trackpad is the better purchase?!
    • Not straightforward

      Comparing the cost to go out and buy it all is not the way most people do it. This is a good investment for those already owning an iPad. Those who like other benefits of an iPad can augment that with this keyboard. That's what these types of accessories are for.
      • @JamesKendrick

        I can see what you mean, but I'm not so sure that "most people" go out and spend upwards of $600 on a tablet and *then* decide what their use case is.

        If you need a tablet that you can do work on, and you don't yet own a tablet, buy something that can actually be used for work (I gave the Surface RT as an example, but equally the Envy X2 can be had on Amazon for less than $750, and there are plenty of others which are better integrated, cheaper and more functional than the iPad-plus-keyboard combo). If you already bought an iPad and *now* you realise you might want to use it for work, well, learn from that and plan better next time.
        • "most people"

          Actually, I think that's exactly the case - "most people" acquire a product (just about ANY product) with one 'use case' in mind then, on using the product and learning its capabilities, expand their use case to include additional functionality - which may result in additional accessories.
          An iPod dock, for example, is NOT necessary to enjoy an iPod - but it may be something someone wants to extend the devices capabilities to meet their evolving needs.
          The sterile precision of the 'use case', planned cost, price-to-price comparisons only work for those tuned in to that sort of buying behaviour. "most people", however, do not clinically assess - they purchase on want (especially in the 'gadget' arena) and develop from there.
      • What's not straight forward are these keyboard kludges for iPads

        Until iOS supports cursor based peripherals, using the current crop of keyboards is like having one had tied behind your back. And at $170, it makes even less sense.
        • Not just that!

          I message requires you to tap the screen to send your message, it is a pain!
      • Feel sorry for those trapped on the inferior platform

        "This is a good investment for those already owning an iPad."

        If there is one thing we've learned from James' purchase of ipad + keyboard, then ipad mini + keyboard, then Chromebook, then macbook pro, then a backpack to carry it all in, it is that those trapped on an inferior platform could throw a LOT of very good money after bad that would have been better spent on the right device to start with like, for example, the Surface RT.

        Dear ZDNet readers, take a look at James' record. It isn't good. Don't throw good money after bad like James has done. If a platform is so bad that you have to buy keyboards and other devices and then a backpack to carry them all in, leave that platform. It isn't good for you. Don't be a James.
        • For work, get a real computer

          Anyone who needs to do real work, should by you “real computer”. This would mean a MacBook Pro with a larger screen, or at least a MacBook Air if extreme portability was a necessity. A MacBook Air can even run some flavor of Windows if needed. I run Windows 7 in a VM on my MacBook Pro, whenever I need to use certain Windows only programs. Tablets were designed for entertainment. Adding an expensive keyboard as an afterthought is the height of foolishness.
          • Umm

            Chrome books are very capable of doing real work within a defined role.
    • I take it you don't like Surface RT tablets for the same reason?

      Microsoft markets the device for use exactly the same way the blog author is using his iPad.
      • Woops. I spoke too soon.

        You actually DO like the Surface RT, which is essentially the same thing. Except that it also NEEDS a trackpad. Interesting.
        • Surface RT is a better implementation

          Do you believe that all screens are the same? All touchpads are the same? All OSs are the same?


          Exactly. The Surface RT is the table + keyboard done RIGHT. For one, it is a 3rd lighter than this ipad monstrosity. Plus, you get the benefit of a trackpad for when using a trackpad makes sense like, for example, when you remote desktop into another computer. This is one of the use cases for the ipad that people are constantly complaining about. It sucks trying to remotely access desktops with the ipad. No such problem for the Surface RT.

          That's the difference. The ipad + keyboard is a tweener device, neither a good tablet nor a good laptop.

          The Surface RT is a good tablet AND a good laptop.
          • Better option still is one of the ASUS Transformer tablets

            ASUS's implementation of this hybrid setup is the best and the most refined. And they offer a number of different price points too. The keyboard dock is superior to the Surface one mainly due to the extra battery.
          • I investigated ASUS Transformer a couple months ago

            I might have ended up with one had I known more about it before the Surface RT came out. I don't own one so I can't recommend it but wow, it looks like a truly fantastic device. Far far better than any ipad + keyboard combination.

            Kudos to ASUS.
    • Thanks for clearing up any potential...

      confusion we might have had regarding your race-not that anyone should give a damn.
    • @This makes no sense at all.

      Clearly your critical thinking skills were not present when you typed up this little ditty.

      - ios is more stable than Windows

      - 64 gigs on a SRT is not near 64

      - 64 gigs on an iPad is pretty close to 64

      - Bill Cosby's sweaters would rather piss on a SRT than use one

      - Office is confusing to a lot of people who might prefer pages for its simplicity

      - You are absolutely correct in that your post title "This makes no sense at all" does just that

      - Bill Cosby is going to shove a pudding pop up your ass if you don't start writing smarter

      In conclusion, your wrong, Bill Cosby is the man, and pudding pops are better when not in someones ass.

      Have a beautiful day! :)
      Yukon Cornylius
    • You're missing the point.

      What you've overlooked is that someone who wants an iPad probably wouldn't be caught dead with a Surface.
  • Basically...

    It allows the iPad to physically emulate an Acer Iconia, without the Iconias versatility... ;-)
  • Probably the best option for iPads, but still clumsy.

    I do like the design of the clamshell case, especially compared to the other offerings for ipad keyboards. However, it just doesn't offer much for what it adds.

    The ability to type on a keyboard is a real benefit, but at what cost? The added weight and girth makes this new ipad+keyboard combination effectively the same as carrying an ultrabook or MacBook air and all that it adds is a better typing experience.

    There is no extra battery, no direct connection between the keyboard and tablet, no extra computing power compared to a real laptop, no extra support for external devices or full powered programs.

    Things like this really highlight the limitations in the designs of tablets with mobile operating systems. Similar price, similar form factor and far less functionality.
  • Just for those interested outside of Apple............

    The same same can be applied to a number of android tablets (those shipped as tablet only), and work equally as well, if not better.

    The Samsung ranges are well stoked with options for reasonable prices, and you have the option of using a bluetooth mouse as well.

    It may well be useful option to those who would do a lot of writing on the tablet, I have the option for a very light travel companion, but do also find the majority of the time I require a keyboard, I'll also need windows x86 applications as well.