The iPad Keyboard Dock is a fine, heavy accessory. It’s a full-size keyboard, weighted so that you can dock your iPad in it without the whole caboodle falling over. And it works well: I’ve typed emails, voice documents, and more with the dock thus far, and it feels natural.
As Dan Frakes’s tweet references, the keyboard dock is a little too good: It makes you forget you’re using the iPad, and you’ll reach down for your laptop trackpad, or reach over for your desktop mouse — and they’re not there. Where normal computing is a combination of keyboard and mousing, iPad computing (with the keyboard dock) is a mix of keyboard and touching.
That’s a decided mental paradigm shift, but a manageable one.
As good as the keyboard is, though, I have my first sliver of iPad-related buyer’s remorse. Had I instead purchased the Apple iPad Case and Apple’s regular Bluetooth (wireless) keyboard, I might be a bit better off:
You can only use the keyboard dock in portrait mode. Apple’s case, on the other hand, can prop up the iPad in landscape mode. (I don’t yet have the case, so I don’t know how easily it can be rigged to stand up vertically with the screen visible. My guess: Not especially well without propping it up on something else.) The ideal external keyboard for iPad, though, should take into account the frequent need to switch the device’s orientation. I want to be able to type on real keys with the screen oriented either way.
I don’t, however, need the added mobility that a wireless keyboard could afford. You can’t realistically lean back in your chair, keyboard on your lap, iPad a couple feet away on the table. You need to be able to touch the iPad’s screen at least as frequently as you’d reach for your mouse or trackpad today.
There are other pros and cons on the Bluetooth keyboard option. The Bluetooth keyboard is lighter than the keyboard dock, but it also requires batteries. And of course it can’t charge your iPad the way the keyboard dock can.
Anyone who regularly uses the Mail app in portrait mode on the iPad is nutty; the landscape mode is immeasurably better. Any time I want to check my email, then, I need to remove the iPad from the keyboard. And if I then want to type out a longer reply, I then must re-dock the iPad again. Not a scalable solution.
Were I to place my order today, I think I’d get the regular iPad dock (which, again, only holds the iPad in portrait mode), the Bluetooth keyboard, and the iPad case. The combination is lighter (and thus more portable) than the iPad plus the keyboard dock, and more flexible, too.