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Top 9 keyboards for the iPad Air hands on (Jan. 2015)

Finding a good keyboard case for the iPad Air can turn Apple's tablet into a great solution for work. After testing dozens of them, I've found these to be the best of the lot.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 19 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Top 9 keyboards for the iPad Air — hands on (Jan. 2015)

Take an iPad Air and mix it with a good keyboard and you have a powerful work companion. The flexibility of having a tablet and occasionally using a keyboard is very useful.

Due to the healthy ecosystem churning out accessories for the iPad, there are literally dozens of keyboards to choose from. This collection represents the best of the bunch, determined through hours of hands-on usage. These keyboards weren’t picked because they look good; to make this list they are proven solutions for both work and play.

All of the keyboards listed have good keyboards that handle rapid touch typing. They all pair with the iPad Air over Bluetooth and have rechargeable batteries. Battery life ranges from three months to two years on a single charge.

The keyboards are presented in the order of the author's preference from most favorite to least. That ranking is highly objective, and each individual will probably rank them differently. Rest assured that making this list means all of them are quite good and can get the job done.

All of the keyboards are shown in working configuration, and links to the review on ZDNet for each are included.

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ZAGG Slim Book

ZAGG has been making good keyboards for iPads since they first hit the market. They have used this accumulated experience to make the Slim Book. From the backlit keys, to the detachable tablet, this keyboard case meets all of my needs, both work and play.

This keyboard case is the most versatile of them all. It can be used in four different configurations:

Laptop mode -- When closed, the Slim Book is no bigger than other keyboard cases for the iPad Air. Opening the lid forms a device that looks and functions like a MacBook.

Tablet mode -- Pulling up on the iPad to remove it from the keyboard leaves you with a tablet in a case covering the back. It adds little weight to the iPad and provides a secure grip while using the tablet.

Viewing mode -- Removing the iPad from the keyboard, flipping it around and attaching it backwards positions the screen for functions like watching video. It turns the keyboard unit into an adjustable stand.

Book mode -- Pushing the iPad down over the keyboard while in viewing mode forms book mode. This is for using the iPad as a tablet while remaining attached to the keyboard.

The battery life of the Slim Book is two years on a charge.

Special feature: Detachable iPad case

You can buy the Slim Book from ZAGG and major retailers.

See the review of the ZAGG Slim Book on ZDNet.

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ZAGG Slim Book

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Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro

With a good backlit keyboard to start things off, the QODE Ultimate Pro is a solid case. It is very thin and light, while offering protection for the expensive iPad Air.

The Belkin is one of the few keyboard cases that allow detaching the iPad Air for use as a tablet. This supports leaving the keyboard behind when just the iPad Air is needed.

With the iPad Air detached from the keyboard, it can be rotated to portrait orientation. Most keyboard cases don’t support using with the iPad Air in portrait.

Special feature: iPad can be used in portrait orientation

Buy the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro from Amazon.

See the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro review on ZDNet.

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Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro

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ClamCase Pro

This case turns the iPad Air into a close approximation of a laptop. Pop the iPad Air into the lid and it looks like a white MacBook. It features a great keyboard and a hinge that allow adjusting the screen to the perfect viewing angle.

That hinge swivels a full 360 degrees for rotating the iPad Air back under the keyboard. This allows using the iPad as a tablet with the keyboard under the screen.

Special feature: Looks and functions like a real laptop.

Find the ClamCase Pro on the company's store.

See the full review on ZDNet.

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ClamCase Pro

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Logitech Type +

This portfolio looks great and provides good protection for the iPad Air. It is designed slightly wider than the iPad Air which allows spreading the keyboard to make it bigger.

Rapid touch typing is possible given the key spacing and a layout that mimics that of a full laptop.

The portfolio case is designed to allow lowering the iPad Air down over the keyboard for using it as a tablet while in the case.

Special feature: Setting the iPad Air on the magnetic strip for typing turns the keyboard on.

Find the Logitech Type + at the company's web site.

Don't miss the review on ZDNet.

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Logitech Type +

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Kensington KeyFolio Thin X3

The KeyFolio is a folio style case that has a nice keyboard inside. It is very thin and light while offering good protection for the iPad Air.

This case is a solid solution for those needing a keyboard with the addition of a unique feature. The KeyFolio can be used to charge smartphones using the keyboard’s battery. This is a nice feature for business travelers.

Special feature: Can plug phones into the keyboard for charging

Buy the KeyFolio Thin X3 from Kensington.

See the review on ZDNet.

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Kensington KeyFolio Thin X3

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ZAGGkeys Folio

This folio style keyboard case is a long-time favorite. Designed to be thin and light, the special hinge that attaches the iPad Air to the keyboard is adjustable, allowing use like a laptop. The construction is good quality and provides decent protection for the iPad Air.

The keys on the Folio are bigger than those on most keyboards and make fast typing a breeze. They are backlit, with seven colors you can toggle through to get the one you want. Each color can be used at one of three brightness levels.

Special feature: Backlit keyboard

Buy the ZAGGkeys Folio from the company.

Full review on ZDNet.

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ZAGGkeys Folio

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Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

This may have been the first third-party keyboard for the iPad, and it has evolved over time. It is a keyboard that attaches to the iPad Air via magnets for transport. It protects the screen but not the back of the tablet.

Detaching the iPad Air from the Ultrathin, you set it in a slot above the keyboard for typing. The keyboard is well laid-out and is comfortable for long typing sessions.

This is probably the thinnest and lightest keyboard solution for the iPad.

Special feature: Magnets in the slot for the iPad Air hold it securely

Find the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover on Amazon.

Full review on ZDNet.

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Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

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Logitech Keys-To-Go

Those wanting a keyboard for any iOS device that will only be used occasionally may find this standalone keyboard the perfect fit. Weighing only a few ounces, The Keys-To-Go is barely thicker than the cover of a paperback book.

The entire keyboard is covered with fabric that is water resistant. While the keys are sealed in this material, they are mechanical and give good tactile feedback when pressed.

This is a great solution to put in the slimmest pocket in the bag or brief case just in case it is needed.

Special feature: Dust and spill resistent

Find the Logitech Keys-To-Go at Logitech.

See the full review on ZDNet.

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Logitech Keys-To-Go

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Anker TC930 Ultra-Thin Keyboard Cover

This keyboard is not in the same league as the others in this collection but it has an outstanding feature that some will find to be just the ticket. The Anker TC930 keyboard is really, really cheap.

The Anker is a cover style keyboard, functionally similar to the Logitech Ultrathin. It's made of pure plastic yet has shown to be durable in testing. It has a small kickstand to provide stability when typing.

Special feature: Dirt cheap (<$40)

Buy the Anker TC930 on Amazon.

See the review on ZDNet.

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Anker TC930 Ultra-Thin Keyboard Cover

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