QODE Thin Type for iPad Air – First impressions

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I’m a big fan of my iPad and take it with me most places in its free and unfettered form. However, on those occasions when I want to hunker down and get an extend piece of prose out into the world, I do like to whip out a Bluetooth keyboard and really dig in. So imagine my delight when Belkin announced the release of the new QODE Thin Type for iPad Air, one of the thinnest keyboards on the market. All the magic of typing, without ruining the Air’s sleek form factor. Too good to be true? I went to the internet to check.

ZDNet told me everything I wanted to hear, almost straight away:

The typing experience on the Thin Type is really good. The chiclet keys are as good as those found on most laptops. This is due to the spacing and tactile feel of the keys. Fast touch typing is easily supported by this keyboard.

I love a good chiclet keyboard and still mourn the theft of my Macbook Air on a near daily basis. To be able to get a laptop level typing experience on a tablet is the sort of thing I dream about.

However CNET, if not exactly shattering, my dreams, at least injected a tiny dose of reality.

Typing was comfy, but I had a few more typing errors than on Logitech’s stellar keyboard. Maybe I wasn’t pressing down hard enough on the keys. So, it’s a very good but not great typing experience.

iLounge returned to this “almost but not quite” theme.

As for the keys themselves, they’re very close to great, with a small layout issue being the only real negative factor. Although the letter keys are somewhat small at 0.52” tall by 0.56” wide—others are shorter and narrower—we found them to be very comfortable to type on. There’s a slightly textured finish that feels pleasant to the touch, and the keys have a tactility similar to that of Apple’s keyboards. They travel further than the thickness of the keyboard would have you think, and click pleasantly.

This sounds like something I could happily live with.The Unofficial Apple Weblog TUAW, expands on Belkin’s keyboard offering.

Belkin put a completely separate row of keys onto the top of the QODE for iPad special functions — those keys aren’t shared with with the number row as on the Logitech Ultrathin so there’s no need to hold down the Fn key to get them to work.

belkin-qode

Take that Ultrathin! The QODE is powered by a rechargeable battery that Belkin claim will keep you going for 79 hours. However, it too comes with some downsides. According to Gotta Be Mobile

One of the unique features about this particular keyboard cover is the large bump along the back edge that houses the battery. This means that the keyboard has a slight rake to it from front to back when in typing position. While the battery bump provides for extra battery life, it also makes the thinness of the keyboard seem less thin than the measurements indicate.

So there is a little bulk, maybe even a little more bulk than I’d like. But is it worth it for the additional battery power? According to iLounge, there are some clever things at work to keep the battery chugging along.

The keyboard cover uses a number of techniques to help save its own battery life, and the iPad Air’s battery life, as well. Embedded magnets lock the tablet when Qode Thin Type is being used as a lid — a standard but appreciated feature. When you switch to typing mode, the iPad gets inserted into the ridge, and can be positioned in either landscape or portrait orientation. A small button gets depressed when you do so, signalling the keyboard to wake from sleep and reconnect, and turning on the iPad’s screen, if it’s off. Pull the tablet away, and the keyboard goes into a resting mode. We found the system to work consistently well.

And according to Gotta Be Mobile this all pays off.

That extra battery is built to last. According to Belkin it will keep going for up to “79 hours of active typing time” and up to six months on standby. Most external keyboards do quite well on a charge, but I’ve never seen a claim of up to 79 hours before. Suffice it to say I have spent some time typing on the keyboard, but not that much. A micro USB cable is included for those times you do need to charge it up. The battery bump also provides for a nice hand grip when you are carrying the cover closed on the iPad Air.

So what’s the general feeling? It’s clear that the QODE is far from a perfect keyboard. But what in life is truly perfect? Lotus Biscuit Spread and not much else. But is it good enough.

CNET seem to think so.

I wrote this whole review on it, and I have warm feelings about the Thin Type. I want to take it with me everywhere… the Thin Type, overall, is a winner based on design alone. Consider it strongly if you want a premium iPad Air keyboard. It might not trounce Logitech’s, but it’s awfully

And I’ll let TUAW get the last word:

The Belkin QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air has plenty of competition out there, particularly from Logitech’s similar Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. The QODE, despite some odd key placement, is a worthy competitor to the last generation of the Logitech Ultrathin. The slightly larger keys and precise key response almost make up for combining other keys in non-standard ways, and the solidity of the construction is a plus. Knowing for sure that the keyboard is really shut off when the iPad Air is removed from it?

The Belkin QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air (F5L155) is out now for £89.99/€99.99

Belkin launches Orla Kiely cases for iPhone and iPad

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iPhone and iPad owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cases for their Apple devices — from Lego to leather, there are a wealth of options to choose from, with new ones appearing with each passing week. The latest to arrive are several Belkin cases put together in collaboration with fashion designer Orla Kiely. The snugly fitting cases are marked with a selection of Kiely’s signature designs and covered in either a high-gloss or soft-touch finish.

The distinctive, strong stylings of Irish-born Orla Kiely have appeared on hats, handbags, kitchenware and clothing before coming to Belkin’s new range. “This collection of fashion-inspired cases from internationally renowned designer Orla Kiely is a testament that function can be paired with an artful vision,” commented Belkin Product Manager Albert Farag. “Each case is designed first and foremost to keep your devices safe and secure, and is incredibly minimalist, giving you maximum protection without adding bulk.”

As you would expect, the cases are closely molded to fit your iDevice of choice, and the iPad editions can double up as stands with multiple viewing angles. Two different designs are available, Multi Stem and Optic Stem, with pricing ranging from £24.99 for the lightweight iPhone casing to £54.99 for the full-sized iPad. The iPad mini cases retail for £44.99, while the more durable pocketbook-style iPhone covers cost £29.99.

The iPad cases are compatible with the iPad 2 and newer models (including the iPad mini). The wallet cases, which include inner pockets and a secure snap closure tab, are for the iPhone 5 only, though the more lightweight back cases fit the iPhone 4, 4S and 5. The full range can be viewed and purchased from the Belkin website. According to Belkin, Orla herself uses an Optic Stem case for her own iPhone.

Belkin’s Galaxy Tab 3 Keyboard Case

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Tablets are great for surfing the net or viewing videos, but when it comes to using them for something more practical you’re often limited by the touchscreen. Whilst its great for prodding links or swiping through photos, this is not a technology that’s ideal for typing documents.

Serious users of the Galaxy Tab 3 now have a solution to the problem in the form of the Belkin Slim Style. It’s a case and Bluetooth keyboard combined, effectively turning your tablet into a netbook. It uses TruType keys which are well-spaced and responsive allowing for faster typing and greater accuracy than the touchscreen keyboard allows. It also has function keys that make it easy to copy and paste, adjust audio volume and control music playback.

It’s made of high quality materials, adding about 15mm to the thickness of the Galaxy Tab and 0.5Kg of weight. The design is smart and at first glance you might be forgiven for thinking you were looking at at a laptop. You can recharge it via USB – it comes supplied with a cable – and it gives 60 hours of active use on a full charge and around 2,000 hours on standby. The Slim Style also incorporates a viewing stand so that you can set the screen at a comfortable angle. It also has a hand-held media mode so that you can fold the keyboard and stand back out of the way when you’re not using them and operate your tablet in the normal way.

“Our new Slim Style Keyboard Case for the Galaxy Tab 3 truly lives up to its name, delivering dynamic productivity capabilities through a classic design that complements the tablet’s slim appeal,” says Ohad Zeira, director of product management at Belkin.

Whilst there are a number of similar products for the Galaxy Tab 2, in various materials including aluminium, there aren’t currently that many alternatives around for 10.1” Galaxy Tab 3 users. The BlueNEXT does a similar job but uses a leather case to contain both tablet and keyboard. The similar Poetic KeyBook Case can be found on Amazon or eBay.

Right now then, if you want to use your Galaxy Tab for typing long emails or working on your next best selling novel whilst you’re out and about, the Belkin Slim Style Keyboard Case looks like the best of the bunch. It costs £79.99 from www.belkin.co.uk

Best iPad Mini Keyboard case: Belkin FastFit vs Logitech Ultrathin

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Retina display quibbles aside, the iPad mini is maybe the best iPad Apple have made to date and for certain tasks it has been one of our most pleasurable mobile computing experiences in a long, long time. But as with all iPads from time to time a physical keyboard would be nice (although time has shown it’s far from essential). Two peripheral heavyweights announced new iPad mini keyboard cases this week so we thought we’d do a little face off. Full disclosure – the Logitech iPad Folding keyboard case is maybe the best portable iPad keyboard we’ve ever used so going in it was Logitech’s game to lose.

FastFit-Stand

Belkin FastFit Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard Case

In the red corner, weighing in at just 7 mm thick, the FastFit keyboard case is thinner than the iPad mini itself. And we know you don’t weigh thickness. Unlike netbooks of yesteryear the TruType keys are well-spaced for fast, cramp-free typing. Each key has a spring mechanism that provides tactile feedback when struck.

The case is also durable, crafted from anodised aircraft-grade aluminium and is held in place with magnets (how *do* they work?). The case’s low-powered Bluetooth 3.0 connection and 200mAh battery ensure comfortable wireless typing with optimal battery life The FastFit Keyboard can last for 155 hours of active use without needing a charge. FastFit Keyboard’s “auto-wake” feature activates the iPad mini when the case is opened, and vice versa – a now standard feature that seemed almost magical when Apple introduced the Smart Cover.

The FastFit Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard Case for iPad mini has an MSRP of £59.99 and will be available in June.

Ultrathin-Keyboard-Cover-Belkin

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini has the same instant On/Off function and generally has feature parity with the FastFit. Also utilising the power of integrated magnets to fasten, the slim aluminium cover is durable whilst adding very little weight to your iPad. The built-in Bluetooth EasyType keyboard, offers traditional typing plus iPad mini function shortcut keys for frequently used commands, such as copy and paste. The keyboard has a three-month battery life (based on usage of two hours per day), which works out to 180 hours over the FastFit’s 155.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini has a launch date of February 2013, for a suggested retail price of £69.99.

The Verdict

There’s obviously not much in it when two seasoned keyboard pros bring similar products to the market. Belkin have the slightly cheaper offering, but Logitech have superior battery life. The deciding factor for us was availability and the ability to get your hands on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini 3 months earlier gave it the edge.

Belkin’s Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre: Take your iPad to the movies

Despite having splashed out a few years ago on a big telly (the prices of which are now comically low) I watch a lot of content on my iPad. Especially after I discovered that Netflix has all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights and that my deadlines were “flexible”. But great though the iPad is – and it is pretty great it’s not quite the same as a trip to the movies, or a fancy home cinema set up. Belkin know this and want to beef up the iPad viewing experience with the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre.

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Belkin-Thunderstorm

Belkin teamed up with mobile sound leader Audifi so the the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre features high-efficiency, front-facing speakers that project cinematic-quality sound. Not your grandfather’s iPad dock, the Thunderstorm features ported speakers and integrated air channels in the design allow optimal airflow so bass frequencies come alive. It’s the sort of thing the Inception soundtrack was composed for.

There’s also a downloadable Thunderstorm App for extended control with customisable soundscapes for music, movies and games. There’s Musical which is balanced for music and web video; Cinematic which has a broader soundscape with simulated accentuated middle channel to lend clarity and presence to dialogue; and Action which spreads the soundscape out to its fullest extent and sharpens sound effects so games explode off the screen.

Designed to fit flush around the iPad, the Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre connects directly through the iPad dock connector for a seamless, unified experience. This direct connection eliminates the possibility of dropping the connection to the speaker and provides optimal calibration for the audio sound effects. It also features a multi-fold cover for a variety of comfortable viewing angles and screen protection.

Belkin tapped us to engineer the sound performance of the Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre from the inside out and we’re happy to see end results that deliver an immersive mobile audio experience. Through the design of core circuits, sound processing, custom speakers and a surprisingly thin acoustic enclosure, Audifi engineered a level of sonic depth and precision that was, until now, impossible to achieve in mobile devices.

Bruce Lancaster, general manager and vice president at Audifi.

The Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre will be available for both 30-pin connectors and the new Lightning connector.

Belkin Thunderstorm Handheld Home Theatre – £179.99/€229.99

What caught our eye at CES 2012 – Part 2

Continuing our round-up (find part 1 here) of CES 2012, here are some of the other products that caught our attention as we toured the various exhibition halls.

ION Audio’s Water Rocker and iPad Guitar Apprentice

This year saw the guys at ION Audio showcasing a number of brand new and forthcoming products. In addition to the Docs2Go scanner for the iPad (see our video here), we also liked the look of their Water Rocker and Guitar Apprentice products.

The Water Rocker is a football-sized waterproof (and submersible) floating speaker system for the iPhone, iPod or anything else that can accommodate a 1/8-inch jack. After putting your source device in the specially designed cover dock, it will then transmit your music (within an advertised 150-foot range) to the Water Rocker. A nice feature is that you can have up to 10 speakers working from a single transmitter – which could be useful if you have a particularly huge pool (lottery winners take note!). The Water Rocker also features a built-in FM radio and it’s due out in the UK in April with an expected retail price of around £89.

Guitar Apprentice is a full-scale, electric controller that turns your iPad in to a guitar. Combined with the app, you’ll be able to follow the lights on the instrument’s neck to learn guitar skills and chords. You strum the guitar by using the touch screen of the iPad which you can simply dock and undock from the main body of the guitar. A nice design touch is the ability to fold the neck of the guitar in half for easy storage. Guitar Apprentice is expected to be launched in the UK in Q4 with an anticipated price of around £99.99.

Belkin WeMo Home Control Switch

The pitch the lady from Belkin gave was simple: imagine you’ve just got to work and can’t remember if you unplugged your iron. With WeMo, you can simply boot up the free app on your iPhone and instantly see whether the switch is on or off. If you did leave it on, then you can turn it off remotely via the app – wonderful! This was just one example of how Belkin’s new line of home automation products could come in handy.

 

This particular product (the Home Control Switch) works with your existing electrical system (i.e. by sitting between your device’s normal plug and the wall socket) and then uses your home’s Wi-Fi network. The programmable switch can also work in tandem with the WeMo sensor product that was also announced at this year’s show.

The RRP for the Home Control Switch in the States is $49.99 and it will be available from March. We’ll update you if and when we get details of UK availability and pricing. Belkin’s WeMo section of their web site is at http://www.belkin.com/wemo/

Celluon’s Prodigy iPhone projection keyboard & battery case

The idea of a projection keyboard (i.e. one that beams the keyboard on to a surface) is not new, but this year the people from Celluon were showcasing a prototype iPhone case which not only incorporated the projected keyboard, but also an additional battery and stand. The company is currently evaluating market demand but seemed confident that the Prodigy would go in to mass production and it could be available by late summer. We were told the expected price would be around $179. Having given the keyboard a quick test, it seemed to work well and didn’t miss any of the keys we pressed.

When asked about future products, the company rep mentioned the concept of a universal dock with projection keyboard which would accept all sorts of devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Samsung phones, Galaxy tablet etc. As it’s only a conceptual product, there were no details on release date or pricing – but perhaps we’ll see it at next year’s CES. Visit http://celluon.com/index.htm for further information.

Tamaggo 360-imager

The unusual design of the Tamaggo was the first thing that caught our eye as we turned the corner of another aisle of CES exhibitors. The Tamaggo is billed as the first consumer picture-taking device with ‘fully integrated, built in panomorph technology’ that lets users take high-res 360 degree images with just a single click. In a nutshell, you hold this ball-sized device in the air and hit the big silver button on the side to take a 360 photo of your current surroundings. It can detect the way you are holding the device and will automatically adjust its orientation accordingly for horiztonal or vertical panoramic images.

The Tamaggo’s vital stats are: 14MP sensor, 2″ LCD touch screen, Mini USB and wireless (WiFi/Bluetooth), weighs 190g and is 92mm long, 55.8mm high and 61.1mm wide. It also features a rechargeable Li-Polymer battery and integrated stand allowing for remote image capture.

The Tamaggo will be available in the US in Q2 for under $200. We will update this if and when we have further details on UK pricing and availability. For further product information, check out the company’s site at http://www.tamaggo.com