iPad Air keyboards: Kensington v Belkin

iPad Air keyboards: Kensington v Belkin

Summary: Document editing and creation on a slate tablet will usually require an add-on keyboard. We examine a pair of leading contenders for Apple's iPad Air.

TOPICS: iPad, Hardware, Reviews

If you own a tablet and want to do more than consume content, then you're going to need to buy an add-on keyboard. Tapping away at your tablet's on-screen keyboard is fine for emails and short notes, but real productivity requires two things: a keyboard on which you can type quickly; and the ability to see your tablet's full screen while entering text.

Adding a keyboard can transform your thin, light and portable tablet into something significantly bulkier and heavier. Selecting the right keyboard is therefore vital. My top two choices for the iPad Air come from Kensington and Belkin.

Kensington KeyFolio Pro

Images: Kensington

The £99.99 KeyFolio Pro is one of the bulkiest options thanks to its substantial housing for your iPad Air, thick padded shell and solid keyboard. But although the KeyFolio Pro will add weight and girth to your iPad Air, there are significant plus points.

The case affords excellent protection, to the point where I'd feel comfortable simply tossing the iPad into a backpack without a second thought (once it's in the case, obviously). The stand has a little flexibility in screen angle where some other cases are more rigid. Much more importantly, the keyboard itself is both well made and detachable — it's held in place by magnets, and is easily removed.

This means you can put some distance between the keyboard and the iPad, so you don't have to hunch over your work; a detachable keyboard is also helpful if you're working in a group situation, allowing you to put the screen where everyone can see it, while retaining easy access to the keyboard.

The keyboard's build quality is excellent too: keys feel robust, click nicely under the fingers, and there’s a full range of function keys above the number row. I find touch typing is no problem.

Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case

Images: Belkin

The £99.99 QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case takes a different tack in terms of design. The solid shell wraps around your iPad Air, holding it neatly in position and ensuring the sides are fully protected. This is another keyboard case that inspires confidence that the iPad will absorb plenty of knocks in transit.


The keyboard feels a little more cramped than Kensington's unit, and it lacks separate number and function key rows. However, the isolated keys feel responsive and solid, and you might find a use for the dedicated Siri button.

I found touch typing more of a challenge on the Belkin keyboard than I did with the KeyFolio Pro, but there's not much in it; on the plus side, the QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case is a little slimmer and lighter than Kensington's KeyFolio Pro.

Topics: iPad, Hardware, Reviews

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  • Bulky

    iPad keyboards are always bulky, ugly, and look like a strap-ons. Bluetooth sucks battery too. Only Microsoft Surface keyboards are done right.
    Sean Foley
  • Psst!

    Ipads are yesterdays news! Get with the times or get left behind!
  • iPad Keyboard?

    I'll never understand iPad keyboard needs. If you really need a keyboard with a tablet, why not use a laptop? It baffles me.
    • Totally Correct !!

      Better yet, why not a good Netbook !!
    • Severe lack of imagination

      Simple. Reading books, blogs, work documents and keeping up with the news as well as watching videos or listening to audio is more comfortable and convenient on my iPad mini than on a laptop. Likewise, composing shortish emails or messages. So I use the iPad without a keyboard for everything most of the time. Sometimes I want to create significant content outside my office or home--take notes in a meeting, for example. Much nicer to carry the iPad and keyboard than a much heavier laptop. My several-pound laptop with a large screen is fine to take between the office and home but less so for carrying elsewhere. A smaller ultrabook is insufficient when I really need screen real estate and completely unnecessary when I don't because the iPad gives me everything I need--which is considerably more than I get from an ultrabook. Why would I want to mess with any kind of laptop when I'm reading a book on the train or bus or reading a newspaper on an airplane? Have you ever tried reading a book in bed on an ultrabook? I do it all the time with my mini.
  • Kensington Keyboard

    I bought my wife her iPad3 two years ago, and a week later my own iPad. I sold the latter last November after finding it did not meet my needs. Even with Ms Office available now, I would not be tempted.

    I bought my wife a Kensington case/keyboard two years ago, but she stopped using the KB, preferred the screen version. So I took the KB and still use it today with my Windows notebook or Galaxy Note models.

    I have Galaxy Note 2 (smartphone), 10.1 (to replace my iPad, and 8.0

    Of the allter two, I get most use from the Note 8.0 because it can take handwriting and the case I have has a small BT keyboard. On flights in cattle class, having a keyboard is still useful.

    The Note 8.0 in its case is easier to carry around, it even slips into my cargo/combat slacks' pockets. Having the keyboard helps me, I do not really like tapping the screen, however it does mean I don't have to lug a laptop everywhere.
    AN O'Nymous
  • Only children can use today's keyboards

    Adult humans are not made to type on today's 8inch wide keyboards. 8 inches from pinky to pinky that is. We must angle our elbows and cant our wrists into unnatural positions. Our bodies are at least 14 inches wide so our keyboards should be spread at least a portion of that. Why has no one solved this?

    • Keyboard size

      I carry a ZAGG iPad Air cover keyboard with my iPad mini because it fits both me and the mini well--the Air and the mini being essentially the same thickness. I can't type well on the mini-sized keyboards but the ZAGG Air keyboard is fine for me. That's another advantage of a tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. You aren't limited to a keyboard that's the same size as the screen the way you are with small laptops. Carry the keyboard you like and put your tablet on a stand and you have the best of both worlds when you want to use a keyboard.
  • they're OK, but...

    I have an iPad Air and the best I keyboard I have seen is the ZAGG Folio. The iPad slips into the top cover and is protected on all sides (I tend to drop things sometimes). It opens up like a little laptop and the keyboard has PROPER KEYS... not those rubbery nodules that never work. The best feature though that the others don't have is the backlit keyboard... comes in handy quite more often than I would have thought
    Rick Deckard