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.
The QODE Ultimate is a folio keyboard case, which provides full body protection for the iPad during transit, but requires that you carry the full weight of the tablet and keyboard (nearly 2 lbs.) at all times. The folio form factor comes in handy when you’re toting an iPad around without a bag, as I often do while at the office. The rubberized exterior makes the case easy to grip, and a set of strong magnets keep the case secured until you want to open it up.
Setting up the Ultimate for typing takes mere seconds, as it’s very similar to opening a laptop. You lift the iPad up and and anchor it to the keyboard magnetically at one of three pre-set angles. The magnetic link also automatically awakens the Bluetooth keyboard, so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. The QODE magnets are solid enough that I can lift the whole case up just by the iPad, without anything else flapping around. This keyboard combo works beautifully at a desk, but it’s just as comfortable to use on the couch, thanks to its amazing stability.
The downside of the Ultimate is all of the added weight from the plastic casing and the keyboard. That weight is manageable for quickly referencing an Excel sheet, but it’s simply too heavy for one-handed usage. I enjoy the freedom of being able to pick the iPad up, type using the split keyboard, or hold it in one hand and scroll through web pages with the other. I think the QODE Ultimate might have been able to accommodate that level of freedom by reducing battery life (thereby making the keyboard lighter), or including some sort of quick-eject system for the iPad Air. However, as-is, it’s just too heavy.
QODE Thin Type
The key word you’re buying into with a Belkin Thin Type is “flexibility”. The iPad Air is wonderfully light, and so the QODE Thin Type nets big points from me because I don’t have to sacrifice the freedom that the Air’s form factor affords me. It’s easy to detach the iPad at a moment’s notice, but just as easy to place the tablet back on the Thin Type for writing or watching. The keyboard wakes itself up a second after the iPad is placed into the plastic insert, and the case is stable enough to support both portrait and landscape orientations.
I’m also very happy with the build quality on the Thin Type. The keyboard feels very solid, and it measures up to the iPad Air’s premium materials. It doesn’t have as secure a magnetic seal as the QODE Ultimate, but it’s still very easy to walk around with, and it does wake the iPad up when you unfold it.
The caveat is that this design is not as convenient as an all-in-one folio, nor is it as malleable as Apple’s Smart Cover. The QODE Ultimate Case may be heavy, but it also means you only ever have one thing to bring around. You won’t ever forget your keyboard, because it’s always right behind your iPad. The Thin Type, on the other hand, is an accessory you’ll have to be more mindful of. It also doesn’t fold around the back of the iPad like a Smart Cover, so you’ll have to place it on a table or tuck it under your arm if you want to hold the iPad in both hands. This tradeoff works for me because I prefer to have my iPad as light and free as possible, but it could also be easily lost if you’re the forgetful type.
Most quality Bluetooth keyboards cost a pretty penny, and the offerings from Belkin are no exception. The QODE Ultimate retails for around $130, and the Thin Type is available for an even $100. The Ultimate is a sleek all-in-one package, and there’s something to be said about how beautifully the magnetic aligning works, but I find its weight too constricting for how I like to use my iPad Air. The Thin Type is much closer to the sweet spot: it’s light, detachable, still usable in the lap, and offers both portrait and landscape support.
If it came down to it, I’d pick the Thin Type over the Ultimate most every time. It’s a little cheaper (but doesn’t feel cheap), and I think its design embraces the spirit of the iPad as a flexible, multi-purpose device.
Belkin’s QODE Ultimate and Thin Type keyboards were provided by the iPR Group for review on iPad Insight. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.