To own an iPad is to wonder, "Could I do all my work on it?" While the onscreen keyboard on an iPad is surprisingly functional, die-hard writers will crave a Bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard case, of which there are several good examples out there. The $99 Belkin Keyboard Folio differs from many other options because it's actually functional as a case, and tucks its keyboard out of the way, thanks to some clever design origami.
The gray-skinned Keyboard Folio is made of a synthetic material that's stiff, clean-looking, and comfortable to hold. Without an iPad 2 inside, it's one of the thinnest keyboard cases we've ever seen. The wraparound hole-dotted grip on the side edge resembles bicycle seat upholstery, but the whole package is easy to grip and not unattractive.
Inside, all surfaces are covered in soft black microfiber. Much as with Apple's original iPad case, the iPad 2 slides into the case snugly, while an additional flap effectively seals off the device from rampant crumbs or dust. The fit's snug enough and specific enough that an original iPad won't make it in.
With an iPad 2 inside it, the case looks like a regular folio case. At this point, you won't even see the keyboard. Lift the iPad 2-containing half of the case up, and the plastic keyboard reveals itself, hinged and hiding, secured by Velcro. The keyboard flips around and, once the device is in keyboard mode, the case stands propped up horizontally while the keyboard rests and stays put on the open back lid, thanks to friction from the microfiber interior. The end result is a well-propped-up and adjustably angled iPad 2, with a keyboard that rests out in the open with no side walls or case parts to cramp access to the keys. See the photos at the top of this review for more detail.
The Bluetooth keyboard component has internal rechargeable batteries, and a USB cable for charging up. Pairing was a simple process, although pressing the "pair" button on the top right side of our keyboard didn't work: we had to press the Backspace key instead. The keyboard's well-spaced, raised, square keys lie where you'd expect them to, and we found they responded well during extended typing, exhibiting the type of springy response you'd get from a laptop keyboard. A row of iOS-specific function keys control volume, play/pause, cut/paste, and assorted other shortcuts, but they won't provide alternatives to the need to reach up and touch the iPad screen from time to time to launch apps.
Some people may not like the Belkin Keyboard Folio's slightly floppy design, although the friction-based stand holds up excellently on a desk. On a lap, you're not likely to be so lucky. Another plus to the Keyboard Folio's foldaway keyboard is that you can tuck the keyboard away and use the case as a picture frame or desk-based, stand-up screen.
We loved the versatility of the Belkin Keyboard Folio, and it might be the best case-keyboard combo we've seen yet. However, be forewarned that when the case is in folio mode the tucked-away keyboard adds significant thickness: it's thicker than two iPads stacked on top of each other at its thickest point (a little under 1.25 inches). It's obviously still very portable, however, and it's a case that's practically guaranteed not to ever risk scratching your iPad 2's screen. You just have to get used to the floppiness, and the abundance of folding flaps inherent in the design. iPad 2 keyboarders, we'd strongly recommend you check it out.