iHome tries to compete in the world of iPad Air keyboard cases. (December 26th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: iHome
- - Fast typing on large, widely-spaced keys - Bulk adds extra protection - Convenient power and Bluetooth switches
- - Stand does not reliably stay in place during typing - Keys too distant from iPad's screen - No auto-sleep/wake magnets - Bulk makes case inconvenient for use, travel - Corner grips are loose, poorly-stitched
Once a comparatively rare kind of accessory, keyboard cases have become legion in the past year -- or at least it feels that way, from a reviewer's perspective. There seems to be a pent-up demand for iPads that can also get some serious work done. iHome has been a relatively minor player in the keyboard market to date; in this review, we'll see if its new Type Slim case can break the mold.
The first thing you'll notice after slipping the Type Slim out of its box is how (ironically) gargantuan it is. Its edges extend well beyond the dimensions of the iPad Air, offering some extra protection, but also making a tablet far more cumbersome to use and carry. That's particularly true if you have to fit your iPad into a messenger bag, where every millimeter can count. I wouldn't want the case for traveling.
Aesthetically-speaking, meanwhile, the case is extremely bland. Aside from a few creases and a tiny iHome badge, the exterior is essentially featureless, and the interior isn't much better. That's neither here nor there quality-wise, but something that may nevertheless sway your opinion.
A more serious strike against the case comes from the way it holds an iPad in place. Four fabric-based tabs latch onto the corners; on the test unit, these were loose and shoddily stitched, which didn't exactly inspire confidence in a secure grip. Given that iHome markets the case as supporting every generation of full-size iPad, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the Type Slim isn't well-tailored to the Air.
The worst thing about the Type Slim though is its lid, or rather trying to use the lid as a stand. It folds back into a triangular position for support -- but there's no way of anchoring it other than sticking it under the keyboard section, and even that's unreliable, especially if you're resting on the case on anything less flat than a desk. During testing, I spent a few frustrating hours shuffling around on a couch as I tried to find a way of sitting that was both comfortable and prevented the Type Slim from collapsing on my lap. I never succeeded. Part of the issue is that there's only one real typing angle, and there's a huge gap between the keys and the screen. That makes some sitting positions impractical even when the lid is cooperating.
To top things off, that gap forces you to awkwardly stretch out your hand whenever you need to tap or swipe something on an iPad. And yet again we're dealing with a case that doesn't have auto-sleep/wake magnets -- something that's almost inexcusable in 2013.
There is one positive aspect to the Type Slim though, and that's the keyboard itself. It sports large, widely-spaced keys, which make typing as fast as on any laptop. There are also a number of iOS shortcuts, including an uncommon (and superfluous) toggle for the onscreen keyboard. Another noteworthy element is the presence of convenient, clearly-marked power and Bluetooth switches. Sad as it is to say, there's been a trend towards shrinking these buttons and hiding them out of the way, or even eliminating power buttons entirely. Accessory makers seem to forget that people may want to toggle a keyboard on and off themselves.
The quality of the keyboard isn't enough to overshadow the Type Slim's fundamental design problems, however. I just can't recommend the case, especially when there are far better alternatives from companies like Belkin and Logitech. Personally, I'd rather pair an iPad with a regular folio and a stand-alone keyboard than use iHome's option.