The iPad and iPad 2 are amazing and versatile devices. There are also a huge number of great iPad and iPad 2 accessories available from a wide range of vendors. There’s a huge array of iPad cases available, from skins and minimalist designs to full-protection options. There are also screen protectors, iPad case plus keyboard combos, and some great iPad stands. For the iPad 2 in particular, there is of course the Apple Smart Cover and a wide range of back cover cases that are compatible with it.
The Logitech Ultrathin series of keyboards has been around a while now, and they’re probably some of the most-used iPad keyboards. The appeal of the Ultrathin is fairly evident once you see one: the aluminum and plastic keyboard fits over the iPad Air, just like a Smart Cover. However, take it off, plant the iPad in the built-in rest, and you’ve suddenly got a fully functional typing station that’s stable enough to use on your lap, or at a proper desk. The 2014 Ultrathin redesign brought two new tricks to the table: a very clever foldaway iPad hinge, and a tilting iPad stand.
The new hinge was really the major reason that I approached Logitech for a review sample of this keyboard. I’d bought a few of the previous versions of the Ultrathin, but the cleanliness of this year’s iPad hinge really takes the cake. By default, the hinge will just fold flat and stay nearly invisible along the rear edge of the keyboard. In this form, the Ultrathin just looks like a Bluetooth keyboard with a built-in stand.
Once you’re ready to go, you’ll pick up the iPad, slide the left side of the tablet towards the rear of the keyboard, and the hinge will simply pop right out of the casing and latch onto the iPad. The only caveat is that you’ve got to be more precise with an Ultrathin than with a Smart Cover, and the magnets won’t necessarily auto-align perfectly with the iPad. In nine out of ten instances, this isn’t a problem, but every once in a while the iPad doesn’t align quite properly.
We use iPads a lot in the school I teach in. In fact, we have issued one to each member of staff and each student. iPads are amazingly useful in the classroom in a variety of different ways, and certainly one of the best features is the camera. Back in the day, you’d have to book a video camera, film what you wanted, download the file, and hope that it was compatible with your creaky PC video editing software. Now, students can just shoot, edit and they are done all on one device. We use iPad in sports coaching in school and while it works great, it relies on either a student holding the iPad still, or the coach filming, rather than coaching. The Nexstar Training system offers a custom made solution to this issue, and it has certainly been thought about with sports training specifically in mind.Continue reading →
Belkin’s website copy claims that these BOOST UP chargers are 40% faster than a 5-watt charger at fully recharging an iPad Air, which is true, but not really a fair comparison because neither an iPad Air nor an iPad mini with Retina Display ship with a 5W charger. In fact, the newest generation of iPads both ship with Apple’s own 12W chargers out of the box, so they’re exactly as fast as this offering from Belkin. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some slight differences here.
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 to provide a bit of a charge. No, having a Power Pack in your bag is more like bringing the kitchen sink with you (well, if the kitchen sink provided power, and not water).
The Power Pack has two USB ports on it for charging — a 1.0A for smartphones and 2.5A port for tablets — but I really only ever used one of them at a time because I only carry one Lightning cable around with me. The shiny black plastic shell looks good, if a little non-descript, and it does pick up fingerprints easily.
I reviewed the Apex Rechargeable active stylus a few weeks back and I was really impressed with it after years of using those rubber or mesh tipped disasters to try to add a handwritten element to my iPad. As commented in the review, being in the Ned Flanders left handed brigade made the use of a non-active stylus sometimes infuriating for handwriting. Handwriting is one of the few things that the iPad doesn’t do particularly well, unlike Samsung and their Note range. Thankfully we are starting to get some really decent active styluses on the market and they are starting to appear at price points which are attractive. This is where the KickStarter funded Dart Stylus from Precision Touch comes in. Continue reading →
As we know, the iPad has several amazing apps which help you stay productive, have fun and do a variety of other things. One of the things I have been slightly underwhelmed by is third party hardware support. I’m not talking about simple stuff like bluetooth keyboards, rather hardware that attaches your iPad to other devices.
Celestron have a long and distinguished history manufacturing some of the best telescopes on the market and they have released a piece of hardware called SkyQ, which is essentially a wifi dongle that you can plug into your Celestron ‘goto’ compatible telescope and control it with an app on the iPad. For the uninitiated a ‘goto’ telescope is basically a computer controlled telescope that once aligned, will point automatically to any object in the sky. It’s great for lazy people like me who don’t have the time or brain power to learn about the night sky in the traditional way. Continue reading →
TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad for iPad Air is like a much more elegant execution of Apple’s own Smart Cases, except this accessory is really a very clever two-sided cover. Installing it is as simple as sticking it to the rear of the iPad. The cover provides adequate scratch protection for transit, but no extra shock protection for the sides of the device. This is an accessory that compliments the premium appearance of the iPad, and doesn’t detract from it in order to provide a bit of extra protection. I’m very happy with this tradeoff, since the SurfacePad does a great job of preserving the Air’s clean lines and chamfered edges.
It may not be quite the right place to be talking too much about what makes us happy in life, but it wouldn’t be too much to share with you that I find myself thanking my lucky stars a lot these days. And one reason is that I get to participate in the march of technology first-hand – what a rush! But whilst I class myself a technophile, and most form does follow function, user experience always tops the list when it comes to why I choose what to adopt.
Take books for instance. There’s less and less need to argue the advantages of electronic/digital books on mobile devices these days as they speak for themselves. Literally sometimes. But for all I swear by my reading devices, there are particular types of books I will always prefer in physical form, and in the same breath will agree with the reasons traditionalists give to lay the same case. And to swiftly bring this opener back into relevance, whilst the virtual keyboard on iOS devices is the best in the business, there’s still a lot to be said for the physical keyboard, especially for the touch-typists out there. Being a fussy one of them, I went looking and found this little gem – the Perixx Periboard-806 Folding Bluetooth ALU Keyboard. Mouthful.
Belkin was kind enough to send over two of their QODE (pronounced “code”) Bluetooth keyboards for review: the QODE Ultimate and QODE Thin Type. To be honest, the Thin Type is the keyboard I was initially looking forward to, but the QODE Ultimate turned out to be a pleasant surprise, with its clever use of magnets and all-in-one design.
The keyboards on each product are almost identical, with the exception of the combined function and number keys on the QODE Ultimate. The action on the keys is shallow, but there’s a satisfying thud that accompanies each keystroke that preserves the connection to the typing experience. The keys aren’t too clicky or noisy either, so you won’t be annoying any neighbours at Starbucks. The only thing I really don’t like is how the colon key was moved to the right of the spacebar. It’s something I can get used to, but even two weeks in, it still feels awkward.
I’ve been using the Compass 2 in lieu of a Smart Cover for a few weeks now, and I’m impressed with how versatile this metal stand has turned out to be. TwelveSouth’s take on an iPad stand offers the usual bag of tricks — portrait and landscape viewing, and a flatter angle for typing — but the difference is how this little stand stays so compact.
I imagine the term easel was likely thrown around during the marketing phase of this product. When the iPad sits back in this stand with the Paper app loaded up, it’s reminiscent of canvas on an easel. However, “Compass” is still a great name for this product, given the way it folds out like the mathematical instruments I used in high school: two legs swing out horizontally, and an extra leg folds backwards to help form a stable platform. Each leg on the Compass has a sort of foot, which folds out to help hold the iPad up.
You know you are pretty geeky when you get excited about receiving a stylus in the post. However, this is a fairly regular occurrence for me and I’m not quite, but almost a stylus junkie. One of the main reasons I love the iPad is that, used with apps which suit your style of working, you can do some amazing things to streamline your workflow. For me though, the thing that is missing from the iPad is a good stylus for handwritten input. I’ve always been slightly jealous of the Samsung S-pen and thought that this is one of the areas where the iPad is lacking. The iPad has some amazing note taking apps (Notability is my favourite), but without decent hardware input, the writing experience is truly awful. However, Lynktec look to be about to change this with their new rechargeable Apex active stylus. Continue reading →