Review: Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro for iPad Air 2

 

I wouldn’t fault you for making fun of Belkin’s naming convention with the QODE Ultimate Pro keyboard case. After all, why does an “Ultimate” accessory need to also be described as “Pro”? In Belkin’s case, it’s actually because they already have a QODE Ultimate case, and so they added the Pro moniker to let us know that they’ve upped the ante.

The good news is that, although the name may be silly, the product really delivers. Belkin’s QODE Ultimate Pro is one of the best keyboard cases I’ve ever used.

One of the tradeoffs of keyboard cases is that the added utility tends to double the weight of the iPad. The resulting combo is not heavy enough to weigh down a bag like a laptop would, but the added heft of a keyboard does make the iPad Air 2 harder to hold in one hand.

One approach to keeping the iPad lighter is to make sure the keyboard is easily detachable. This is the approach that Logitech took with their Ultrathin Keyboard’s magnetic hinged design. However, the Ultrathin fails to address the way that iOS Bluetooth pairing affects the software keyboard.

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Light, stable, minimalist stand for iPad: Cooler Master JAS Mini

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The Cooler Master JAS Mini is small, light, very simple, offers almost infinite viewing angles, and fits well with the Apple design aesthetic. I travel a lot, about 150,000 miles a year, so the weight of my gear is very important to me. With some trips taking as much as 36 hours door-to-door, any extra ounces in my gear bag have me walking crooked for days after. So I walked down to the local Apple Store to find a stand for my iPad Air to use on airplane tray tables for games or movies, and for at my desk(s) typing with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard I carry. My criteria were: size, weight, viewing angles, and stability.

I pulled all the available stands off the wall and immediately rejected all but two because of weight, size, or design. The two that remained were the Compass stand, for which I’d read many good reviews, and the JAS Mini that I’d never seen before. I took both out of their packages and whipped my iPad out of my bag. The Compass was well designed but seemed unnecessarily fussy, with lots of little parts to deploy. And it didn’t feel as stable as I wanted with those two tiny feet as all that was holding my iPad up off the desk.

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Another Look at InvisibleShield GLASS for iPad

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I removed my previous ZAGG Glass Screen Protector from my iPad Air 2 for two reasons: increased screen glare and lowered TouchID efficiency. In response, ZAGG sent over another set of their screen protectors: another Glass with a different “Omega” Home button cut-out, and their HDX protector, which claims to add great impact protection.

I haven’t yet installed the HDX, but I have spent the last few weeks with this newer Glass protector. The button cut-out on my previous Glass was circular, which made the Home button harder to press and I suspect it kept my finger just far enough from the TouchID sensor to affect accuracy. I’m happy to say that the new cut-out, which leaves the lower portion of the Home button exposed, no longer affects TouchID performance. I can reliably unlock my iPad Air 2 with my thumb, and I think that has everything to do with my finger sitting closer to the sensor.

As for the glare, I do think it’s still present, but it’s not a showstopper. The naked Air 2 screen still has glare, but reflections simply don’t look as bright as they do with a ZAGG Glass installed. I tend to run my iPad at about 30% brightness most of the time, and I find that’s enough to outdo any of the ill effects of an extra layer of glass over my screen.

So does this altered version of the Glass change my recommendation? Actually, yes. I do think there’s a tradeoff in glare for installing a ZAGG Glass, but it’s a fair one if you want an added layer of scratch protection that doesn’t affect the clarity of your screen (in the way that matted screen protectors can). There doesn’t seem to be a way to check whether or not the Glass will have the Omega cut-out, but their support seems good enough that you could contact them afterwards if you end up with the previous circular version.

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Review: Belkin QODE Slim Style for iPad Air 2

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I’ve previously reviewed the QODE Ultimate and the QODE ThinType, and although I still had a few issues with each of those designs, there were some great stand-out features like the pressure sensor on the ThinType, and the magnetic auto-disconnect on the QODE Ultimate. In contrast, the QODE Slim Style for iPad Air 2, which I just received for review last week, is a little more vanilla in its approach.

This Slim Style looks a lot like your standard folio case: it’s got a hard shell for protecting the iPad in your bag, and you can prop the tablet up at a desk or on your lap for typing. The instruction pamphlet does a poor job of telling you how to actually put your iPad into the case, though. I went through a bit of trial and error before I realized I had to slide the iPad into two of the corners and then pry the other two corners back, one at a time, until the iPad was sitting very snugly in place. I’m not a fan of this method of securing the iPad because it doesn’t feel intuitive or user friendly.

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Quick Look: Scosche strikeLINE pro Retractable Lightning Cable

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I always want to have charging cables with me, but I don’t like how messy they are, even stuffed inside of my canvas gear pouch. Retractable cables are a big win in my book, but you have to make sure to get the right ones. Not all of them are made equal, and the really cheap ones that you can often get with free shipping from websites that ship out of Hong Kong can break very easily, or may not work at all when plugged in.

Over the Christmas Holidays I decided it was time to upgrade my current set of long standard cables. I initially looked for products from PPCTechs because they made great retractable cables during the Windows Mobile era, but the company no longer seem to create any of their Lil’Sync cables. As such, I purchased the next best thing: a strikeLINE pro Lightning cable from Scosche. The only silly thing about this cable is its over-engineered name, which feels akin to calling oatmeal “Firestorm Day Starter – Soft Edition”. The rest of the cable is awesome though.

I’ve known Scosche to make some really solid accessories for tech devices, and this cable also feels like a quality product. The male heads and flat cable look like they the wear and tear of everyday use, and the mechanism for retraction feels reassuringly solid. This cable is compact when closed and long enough for use with a wall socket or sitting on my desk beside my MacBook Pro.

I bought this Scosche cable from Amazon.ca during a lightning deal, and you can likely find even better deals from Amazon.com (if the site ships to your neck of the woods).

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Quick Look: Belkin Travel Power Pack 9000 for iPad

This beast of a battery is the Belkin Travel Power Pack 9000. It’s a 9000 mAh battery, translates to about three or four charges for my iPhone 5S, or 60–70% of my iPad Air’s battery in real life charging situations. The Power Pack isn’t one of those tiny batteries that you use in an emergency […]

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