Review: Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro for iPad Air 2

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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.

When an iPad is attached to a Bluetooth keyboard, iOS 8 defaults to that hardware keyboard for any input fields, which means the software keyboard won’t show up. That’s fine for when the iPad is attached to the keyboard, but what about when you pick it up to surf of watch something? This is one area where most detachable keyboards fail the user, because the only way to bring the software keyboard up is to quickly toggle Bluetooth on and off in Control Center, or turn the Bluetooth keyboard off.

Detachable, Magnetic Design

Belkin’s QODE Ultimate Pro solves this by not only being detachable, but by also integrating a magnetic system that also functions as a power switch. Snapping my iPad onto the case will automatically turn the keyboard on, and pulling my iPad off the case will turn the keyboard off after a few seconds. This case really seems to have been designed with the strengths of the iPad in mind. There are times when I’ll want to sit and type at a desk, and times where I’ll want to pull the iPad off to show a graph to someone — the QODE Ultimate Pro accommodates both of those instances beautifully.

My two complaints here are that the keyboard doesn’t always turn on as fast as I would like, and it definitely goes to sleep far too quickly. The former is me being nitpicky, but the latter is definitely Belkin being a little too aggressive with their battery-saving measures. I find that the keyboard can often fall asleep on me while I’m reading a webpage, and so I’ll have to tap on the keys to wake it up before I can start to type again. I think this sleep timer should have been set to a longer interval, even at the cost of a few days or a week of battery life.

Typing

The typing experience on the QODE Ultimate Pro is a bouncy one. There’s good travel on the backlit round-rect keys and the slightly matted texture feels great. I do have to be considerate about each keystroke though, or it can be easy to press a key only halfway, and not have it register. Now that I’m four weeks into using this keyboard, I am finding some of the keys a little squeaky. The spacebar in particular, has a definite squeak to it as I place a bit of pressure on it with my thumb. This hasn’t affected how I type, but it does take away from the typing experience.

Squeak!

However, I put up with the squeaking because of one of the major advantages of this case: its sheer typing flexibility. I’m hard put to find another case that’s so easy to set up in so many different configurations. The QODE Ultimate Pro does landscape typing at two different angles, like many other folio cases. However, due to its magnetic latch design, I can also type very comfortably in portrait mode, which lends itself to more ergonomic writing sessions, as I don’t have to look as far down to see my text. Once I’m done writing an article, it’s easy to just pick up the iPad and surf on the couch, knowing that the keyboard will automatically disconnect after a few seconds.

I also really like how the keyboard features a second Bluetooth profile, which means that I can pair it with my iPhone, or even with my Mac. Since those other devices won’t have a magnetic case to turn the keyboard on, Belkin designed the faux-leather cover to fold under the keyboard, which will also turn it on. This means I can use the QODE Ultimate Pro as a standalone keyboard for a Mac, in a pinch.

Conclusion

The QODE Ultimate Pro still has some issues that affect the typing experience, but it’s the most functional and flexible iPad case I’ve ever used — and that gives it a lot of leeway in my book. The battery lasts forever (I’ve charged it once in the past month), I can type however and wherever I want, and the design makes it fit in perfectly at the workplace. I’m not too crazy about the $150 price tag (I think this would be a great deal at $100-110), but there’s no denying that Belkin has something special on their hands here. The QODE Ultimate Pro is the first keyboard case I’ve seen that’s really built around all of the ways a person would want to use an iPad — in the hand or on a desk — and that makes it well worth your consideration.

The Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro was provided by iPR Group for review on iPad Insight. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.


Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

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