Category Archives: iPad Accessory Reviews

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.

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Review: Pencil Stylus for iPad

 

I’ve had about four months to use the Pencil Stylus from FiftyThree, and I think it’s now safe enough to call this purchase a success. I was initially worried by reviews I’ve seen on Amazon that suggest that the Pencil can’t hold up for very long before breaking, but I’ve been taking the stylus around everywhere with me for a few months now, and it’s handling everyday wear and tear just fine. The rubber tip and eraser require a bit of a wipe down every few days, but that has been the extent of the upkeep.

I bought the Pencil because I wanted a solid stylus to help me draw more accurately within the Paper app. Pencil nails that with its great build quality and interesting material choices. I like that this stylus is made out of wood, yet still feels right at home alongside my aluminum iPad.

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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: ZAGG InvisibleShield Glass for iPad Air 2

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I usually plan items to review on this site, but this $50 ZAGG InvisibleShield Glass was really more of an impulse purchase to take advantage of a great 50% discount. My friend installed the Glass shield for me on Christmas Eve, and so I’ve really had only a few days with it to glean some impressions. Installation took a few minutes and was fairly simple, and ZAGG included the wipes and cleaning cloths required to clean things up. One interesting detail was the addition of a yellow tinted plastic cover for the glass, which helped a lot in lining everything up properly.

I had never put much stock in putting a sheet of glass on top of another sheet of glass for protection, but having seen the smooth look of a glass protector on my friend’s iPhone 6, I decided to give it a shot. The main reason I wanted glass was to ensure that my screen could take the abuse of being shoved into my bag without a case. I still carry the Logitech Ultrathin around with me everywhere, but I don’t necessarily keep it attached. That’s because I want instant access to the iPad when I pull it out of my bag, without having to fiddle with any extra cover. I find that makes my iPad Air 2 feel immediately more usable as a mobile computer.

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AirTurn Manos Mount for iPad – Almost, But Just Not Quite

manos headerSince October 16, talk has been mostly about better this, faster that and more of the other. But whether we all got what we wanted this time round in our iPads Air 2 and Mini 3, aren’t they just gorgeous regardless? Of course I’m biased.

And as Apple continues to report quarter upon quarter of eye-watering revenues, accessories makers happily carry on riding her coattails unashamedly, producing all manners of add-ons – some to simply personalise your device, whilst others to enhance functionality in ways that continue to be imagined. Personally, slapping on makeup on my already beautiful device is superfluous; I’m a big fan of the latter however, and the AirTurn Manos Mount falls into that category.

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Review: Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard Cover for iPad Air

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.

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Great Tool for Sports Coaches and Schools: Nexstar for iPad Review

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Nexstar, iPad, Apple TV and Coaches Eye used to coach swimming.

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

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Quick Look: Belkin BOOST UP Home and Car Chargers for iPad

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I was sent a Belkin BOOST UP Charger and BOOST UP Car charger, both of which feature 12-watt charging for the iPad.

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.

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