Anker's new keyboard cover could prove that price doesn't equal quality. (March 7th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Anker
- - Convenient Bluetooth keyboard doubles as screen protection - Low cost - Pop-out kickstand holds iPad sturdy - Excellent, responsive typing experience
- - Doesn't offer any rear shell protection - Keyboard layout somewhat claustrophobic - Has to be detached for handheld iPad use
When Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Cover first came out, it caused something of a minor stir in the iPad world. It was the very first keyboard cover, solving a problem many people probably didn't realize they had: finding a Bluetooth keyboard that's more convenient than a separate unit, but less bulky than a full-on keyboard case. The one major issue -- apart from having to find your own protection for an iPad's rear shell -- was price. Even now, the Ultrathin is $100, which isn't far off from the cost of a keyboard folio. Anker's TC930 attempts to duplicate much of the Ultrathin for a cheaper price, while simultaneously putting its own spin on things.
Let's start with the basics. Just on first glance, there's almost no difference between the TC930 and the original Ultrathin. Both have a silver aluminum exterior, a magnetic hinge, and a black plastic keyboard with a number of iOS shortcuts. Really, the only way you can tell the difference on the surface is the absence of a Logitech logo, and the use of blue lettering for the shortcuts.
On closer examination though, more differences do begin to show. Whereas the Ultrathin keyboard is inset, the TC930 keeps its keys off the screen with a pair of rubber-tipped nubs, which seem to do an adequate job. All of the status LEDs are up front, and to trigger Bluetooth pairing, you have to hit Function-C instead of a dedicated button on the side. For me, at least, both design choices are a plus.
The biggest shift is in how the cover props up an iPad for typing. Whereas the Ultrathin uses a magnet and a clever groove to hold an iPad in place, the TC930 combines a magnet and groove with a pop-up kickstand. Inserting an iPad into the groove triggers the kickstand automatically.
This is a welcome improvement, on the whole. While I never had many stability problems with the Ultrathin, the TC930 is even more rock-solid, virtually impossible to tip over backwards. Forwards is a different story, but that's by design and not a real concern. The only drawback is that you have to thumb the kickstand down before you can go back to cover mode, and that's such a minor inconvenience that it's barely worth mentioning.
The typing experience here is about as good as one could hope for. Your iPad sits at a nice viewing angle, and close to the keys, making it easy to reach up and tap onscreen controls. The keyboard layout can sometimes feel claustrophobic, but that seems endemic to any keyboard cover/case for the iPad Air; it's a smaller tablet than its predecessors. Even then, it took me virtually no time at all to adjust to the arrangement, and the keys are responsive and wonderfully clicky.
I've actually been struggling to find any serious downsides to this product, but all I can think of are flaws that apply to any other keyboard cover. There's still no protection for the rear of an iPad, which means you'll either need to find a compatible shell case or be very mindful of how you lay your iPad down -- either way, the TC930 can only protect an iPad's screen if you drop it, at best. You also have to detach the cover completely if you want to switch to handheld use.
Within its limitations then, the TC930 gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up. It blows my mind that something as good (if not better) than a $100 accessory can cost just $36. The only question left is long-term durability -- will Anker's product still hold up three months from now? A year? Two years? Given the price gap though, you could buy two TC930s and still save money.