Note: Although this iCapsule only fits the original iPad, we thought we’d include it anyway; why should iPad 2 users have all the fun?
The Rocketfish iCapsule Keyboard ($49) is a big bulky blob of a hardshell case. But it’s probably the best case on the market for turning your iPad into a laptop.
Although the iPad is expressly designed to be the anti-laptop, there are occasions when you need a full-size laptop keyboard.
What’s the most important thing about an external keyboard for the iPad? Why, the actual keyboard of course. That is, the size and layout of the keys, their movement and the overall quality. Does it make typing easier and faster than on-screen?
We’ve seen several external keyboards that don’t make typing easier. They have tiny little keys, cramped layouts, or cheap nasty keys that don’t travel well or are hard to hit.
Not so the iCapsule Keyboard, which combines a Bluetooth keyboard with a hardshell black case.
Typing on the iCapsule is fast and fluid. Unlike most external keyboards, you can prop the iCapsule in your lap.
The keys are large and well spaced. They’re chicklet style, but they’re more tightly spaced than most chicklet keyboards. The keys are firm, not squishy like some competitors’. There are a good selection of function keys: volume up and down; play/pause, forward and rewind; cut & paste; select all; and so on.
Tapping the screen to make text selections or launch apps takes some getting used to, but overall, the iCapsule Keyboard functions well as a faux laptop.
Then there’s the case itself. It’s a big chunky monster of a case, fattening the svelte iPad by a factor of four and surrounding it with a big plastic fat suit. Nonetheless, there’s barely any extra weight — the case is basically hollow. And it’s got to be big to accommodate the big keyboard.
The iPad slots easily into the lid. There’s a gap for the headphone cord (but not the dock cable). With the iPad in the lid, it’s well protected. There’s no way the iPad is going to slip out.
This is especially true when the case is closed and you’re lugging it around. When it’s shut, it’s shut. The case closes tighter than a lock-jawed clam. It’s actually difficult to get it open. I take this as an advantage; there’s no way the iPad is going to fall out as it’s carried around.
Opened up, the iCapsule is a little off balance . The iPad makes the lid heavy and it tends to tilt back. But with your hands on the keyboard most of the time, it’s not much of a problem.
The old-school carrying handle makes the iCapsule look the toilet-seat iBooks of old. It’s actually a great way to haul the iPad around. Especially for kids.
The Bluetooth keyboard is dead easy to pair — two minute job — and stays paired. There ar complaints on the web of the iCapsule dropping connections, but it’s not been a problem for me.
The keyboard uses two regular AA batteries — another advantage. Buitl-in rechargeable batteries are always dead when you need them most and standard AAAs are dead easy to replace.
This is a bulky car. There’s no stuffing this case in your svelte designer hipster bag.
It’s designed to work the iPad only in landscape mode. While this is great for watching movies, it’s not so great for editing long documents. But its easy to pop the iPad out and prop it up in portrait against the lid.
The iCapsule doesn’t accommodate the iPad 2. (There’s a new Rocketfish Advanced Series Keyboard Capsule for Apple iPad™ 2, which costs $100).
There’s no way to scroll pages in Safari or other apps using the keyboard.
The iCapsule is a serious keyboard you can put in your lap. It’s the best of both worlds: it transforms your iPad into a laptop when you need to be comfortable for long stretches of work.
This week it’s all about turning your iPad 2 (or iPad) into a workhorse, as we bang out a stack of iPad keyboard case reviews — sometimes using the keyboards themselves to write the reviews!