No matter how you slice it, prolonged typing on the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard just doesn’t cut it. The lack of tactile feedback slows me down and I find myself making many more spelling errors than usual. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the iPad’s touchscreen interface and some apps have done amazing things with it. But, if you’ve got to respond to a bunch of emails or need to type a document, the iPad’s virtual keyboard leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe the tyPad can help? Read on to find out.
The tyPad, from Accessory Workshop, LLC, is a Bluetooth keyboard and case combo for the iPad. While it is available for both the iPad and iPad 2, this review will focus on the original iPad version, but the only real difference between them is a cutout for the iPad 2′s front-facing camera. At first glance, the tyPad appears to be a pretty standard black, faux leather, portfolio-type case for the iPad. The case stays shut with a large flap and velcro enclosure. While we’re on the subject, I will tell you that the velcro is loud. It definitely keeps the case closed up tightly, but I found myself grimacing every time I ripped opened the case.
Once you slip the iPad into the case, all ports and connectors are accessible via cutouts around the edges. I was able to use a standard charge/sync cable, as well as several pairs of headphones with no problems. One of the great features of the tyPad is how you can flip up your iPad while typing, sort of creating a netbook-like device. The only downside to this configuration is the flap that closes the case hangs off the bottom, right where you’re typing. You can fold it underneath the case, but it’s thick enough to just feel a little weird. However, when the iPad is propped up in the case, it is in a very sturdy position and I found using it like this to be an enjoyable experience.
Inside the case is slim, silicone keyboard that connects to your iPad via Bluetooth. The keys are soft to the touch and feel almost identical to a keyboard using an iSkin cover (reviewed here). The key layout is pretty similar to a standard Mac keyboard, but there are a few differences. The one I found the most confusing was the placement of the quote/double-quote and forward slash buttons. In order to fit a all the letter keys in a standard configuration, these two keys were moved to the bottom row, next to a shortened spacebar. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it did take some getting used to.
Where the tyPad really shines is the top row of keys. Here you have one-touch access to Spotlight searching, media controls (rewind, play/pause, fast forward), volume controls and a dedicated “Home” button. I found myself using these keys all the time and they can really save a lot of time by allowing you to keep your hands on the keyboard instead of stopping to touch the iPad’s display.
The tyPad is charged via a mini-USB to USB cable, and after a full charge (which takes 3-4 hours), you can get a whopping 55 hours of continuous use before depleting the battery. The keyboard also has a physical on/off switch to turn the entire unit off. Small, blue LEDs indicate when the keyboard is on, charging and pairing. Setup was a snap. You just turn on the keyboard, then open Settings > General Settings > Bluetooth on your iPad. From there, ensure Bluetooth is on and the keyboard pops up as a menu option. You’re then asked to type a four digit passphrase on the keyboard and you’re done.
In my tests, the keyboard performed flawlessly. Once I got used to the few odd key placements, I was typing about as fast as I do on a normal MacBook Pro keyboard. The keyboard feels great to the touch and was pleasant to use for several hours. If you do any amount of typing on the iPad, I can definitely recommend this case. The productivity gained from using a physical keyboard versus an on-screen touchscreen one cannot be overstated.
The tyPad is available from the official tyPad website.
PROS: keyboard feels great, sturdy when used standing up, case provides good protection.
CONS: some odd key placements, flap gets in the way when typing, velcro is loud.