Smart keyboard will teach you how to play piano

Lust List: The ONE Light smart keyboard Who doesn’t want to play piano? Learning to tickle the ivories must be right up there with writing the great American novel: Many of us have a hankering to become more musical. The fantastic $299 ONE Light smart keyboard is the way to go if you want a […]

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Review: Zagg’s Slim Book More Than Doubles the Weight of the iPad Pro, but Keyboard is Great

Zagg’s newest Slim Book is its first product designed specifically for the iPad Pro. Following in the footsteps of its previous Slim Books for other iPads, the Slim Book for iPad Pro features a protective case that snaps around the iPad and fits into an accompanying full-sized keyboard.

The Slim Book is one of the few keyboard cases available for the iPad Pro, and it essentially turns the iPad Pro into a full-fledged laptop, plus it is versatile because it’s able to serve as a standalone case or a case that offers full protection. That might sound appealing, but as I’ve discovered testing it for the last week, there are some downsides to Zagg’s latest offering.

Design

The Slim Book consists of two pieces: a black plastic shell that fits around the back of the iPad Pro and a matching silver aluminum keyboard with black MacBook-style keys and a matching black plastic exterior. The shell piece that fits around the iPad Pro is relatively slim, snapping into place to protect the back of the iPad. It doesn’t feel cheaply made, but it also doesn’t feel as premium as an Apple product given all the plastic.

All of the ports on the iPad Pro are left open with the shell on, leaving everything from the headphone jack to the Lightning port accessible. Because the shell fits so tightly to the iPad Pro, it’s difficult to remove. This is not a shell that I would want to be taking off my iPad on a regular basis, because it takes a lot of force to get it off. It also makes the volume and the sleep/wake buttons on the iPad Pro more difficult to press because it causes them to be recessed.

For a while after I put it on, I wasn’t even sure my iPad Pro would ever come out, so expect a tight fit there. Given the amount of force it took to get that shell off, I’m concerned about future breakage, especially at weak spots near ports. If you get this case, you’re going to want to leave the back shell on all the time, so that’s something to keep in mind. On the plus side, it does offer some rear protection from scratches and dings.

The shell is thin enough that it doesn’t add a lot of bulk on its own, but the whole setup gets a lot heavier when the keyboard is added. On the left side of the shell, the plastic is slightly thicker, which allows it to fit into grooves on the keyboard portion of the case. It’s necessary for the holes in the shell up with the mounts in the keyboard groove, but this sounds more difficult than it is – things just kind of snap in place when you go to set the iPad and shell on the keyboard, but it can take a minute to line up both pieces.

On the keyboard, the slot that the iPad Pro sits in is attached to a hinge, which rotates forwards and backwards so the iPad Pro can be set at a user’s preferred viewing angle. The hinge action is smooth with little friction, and the hinge itself reliably stays in the correct position. The hinge can be positioned backwards to 135 degrees, but it closes completely in the front to serve as a protective clamshell case for the iPad Pro when not in use. When closed, the Slim Book is approximately three quarters of an inch thick at its thickest point (excepting the hinge area, which is about an inch thick) and with its black plastic exterior, it more closely resembles a bulky Windows laptop than a MacBook. Thickness wise, it’s a bit thicker than a Retina MacBook Pro.

When I first received the package containing the Slim Book, my first thought was „Wow, this is heavy.“ I thought it might just be the packaging that was adding weight, but no, the Slim Book itself weighs quite a bit. The iPad Pro on its own weighs a hefty 713 grams, or 1.57 pounds. Attached to the Zagg Slim Book, my iPad Pro weighed 1814 grams, equivalent to nearly four pounds. For comparisons sake, that’s heavier than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and nearly as heavy as the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which weighs 4.49 pounds. In fact, it feels heavier than a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro simply because the weight is distributed over a smaller surface area.

The iPad Pro can also be positioned backwards in the keyboard, allowing it to serve as a stand for reading or watching videos. When backwards, the keyboard can be folded flat under the iPad Pro, though I’m not sure why you would want to use it this way because it’s just added bulk.

Keyboard

Zagg’s Slim Book isn’t a lightweight solution, but that weight does allow it to sport a full-sized keyboard. The keys on the Zagg Pro mimic the keys of a Retina MacBook Pro, offering excellent key feel and travel. Of the iPad Pro keyboards I’ve tested so far, including the Logitech CREATE Keyboard Case, the Zagg Messenger Universal, and Apple’s own Smart Keyboard, the Zagg Slim Book has the best keys. The typing experience was almost identical to the typing experience on my Retina MacBook Pro (with slightly more travel), and the keys were neither too clicky nor overly noisy. If you like the way a Retina MacBook Pro or MacBook Air keyboard feels underneath your fingers, you will like the keyboard of the Zagg Slim Book.

Like most keyboards at this price point, the Zagg Slim Book offers backlighting. It goes a step beyond some other keyboards, though, allowing users to cycle through a range of different LED colors like aqua, green, yellow, red, purple, white, and deep blue. There are also three levels of brightness to choose from, along with an option to turn the backlighting off. Customizable backlighting was one of the features that I enjoyed most during the time that I tested the Zagg Slim Book.

At the top of the keyboard, there are function keys that correspond to specific iPad shortcuts. Using these keys, it’s possible to lock the iPad, access the home screen, open the app switcher, access search, bring up a Siri search, bring up the on-screen keyboard, adjust volume, and control media playback. Missing are keys for controlling screen brightness, so that will need to be done manually on the iPad.

The keyboard is detachable from the iPad Pro, so it can potentially be used with other devices. The Slim Book can switch between three different connected Bluetooth devices using the function key along with the first three number keys. Switching between devices is smooth and quick.

Keyboards like the Logitech CREATE and the Smart Keyboard connect to the iPad Pro using its Smart Connector, but the Zagg Slim Book connects via Bluetooth like any other Bluetooth device. That means it requires charging (via an included micro-USB cable), but according to Zagg, it only needs to be charged once every two years with regular usage. I had no issues with Bluetooth with the Slim Book. It connected quickly and stayed connected.

Bottom Line

The Zagg Slim Book has appealing features like multi-color backlighting, good key feel, and a smooth hinge with adjustable viewing angles, but it’s more than doubling the weight of the iPad Pro. That’s a deal breaker for me because it cuts down on the portability of Apple’s larger tablet. If I’m going to carry four pounds around, I might as well be carrying my Retina MacBook Pro.

For customers who purchased an iPad Pro for its portability or to use in place of a MacBook while traveling, this case probably isn’t the best option, but for customers who are using the iPad Pro as a complete laptop replacement, it may be more viable. The Slim Book is heavy, but it turns the iPad Pro’s tablet form into a MacBook-style design. Figuring out whether the Zagg Slim Book is for you basically comes down to deciding if you want to sacrifice portability for a keyboard.

As someone who is thoroughly invested in the Apple ecosystem and prefers products that match the aesthetic of Apple devices, the Zagg Slim Book would not be my first accessory choice. I am not a fan of the overwhelming black plastic, but the look may not bother those who are looking for function over form.

Pros:

Great keyboard

Multi-color backlighting

RMBP-style key feel

Connects to and switches between multiple iOS devices

Hinged design with multiple viewing angles

Cons:

Super heavy

Shell is very difficult to remove

Black plastic design doesn’t really match Apple devices

Makes volume/sleep/wake buttons harder to press

How to Buy

The Zagg Slim Book for iPad Pro is available from the Zagg website for $139.99.

Tags: review, Zagg
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Slash might be iOS’s most powerful keyboard, and it’s free

I’m not usually a big fan of most third-party iOS keyboards, because they’re often clumsy, and perform worse than iOS’s default keyboard. But I like Slash Keyboard. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it basically allows you to search for and insert nearly anything on the web – GIFs, stickers, YouTube videos, Foursquare locations, you name […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Zagg Review: The Messenger Universal Keyboard for iPad Pro Is a Good Value, but Has a Few Drawbacks

When the iPad Pro launched, Zagg had a third-party keyboard ready to go for the device – the Messenger Universal, an affordable universal keyboard designed to fit a wide range of tablets as large as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

As a simple universal keyboard, it has the benefit of being readily available for purchase and it’s relatively cheap compared to other options, but there are some definite downsides to the Messenger Universal that may prevent it from being a viable option for some people.

Rather than taking advantage of the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro, the Messenger Universal connects over Bluetooth like any traditional Bluetooth keyboard, pairing via the Settings app on the iPad Pro. I had no problems with setup and there were no loss-of-connection issues during my time testing the keyboard.

The Messenger Universal consists of a magnetic Smart Cover-style flap that props up the iPad and an accompanying full-sized keyboard. It doesn’t double as a case or a cover for the iPad like the Logitech CREATE or Apple’s own Smart Keyboard – it’s strictly a keyboard and a stand. Because it’s made for a range of different devices, the Messenger Universal can be paired with other tablets and smartphones in addition to the iPad Pro.

When not in use, the keyboard folds up folio style with the cover portion protecting the keys, so it’s fairly compact for travel. It is as wide as the iPad Pro at 12 inches, so it’s going to take up a fair amount of space in a bag or backpack, and it’s also just over a half an inch thick. The outside cover of the keyboard is a soft water-resistant material that’ll protect the keyboard from rain and spills, and the keyboard itself is made from a lightweight plastic.

The Messenger Universal is positioned as a budget keyboard, so don’t expect premium materials or bells and whistles – it feels like a keyboard that costs $70. It’s not flimsy and it doesn’t feel like a product that’s going to fall apart, but its build quality doesn’t measure up to some of the other iPad Pro keyboards available on the market.

My biggest issue with the Zagg Messenger Universal is the angle at which it holds the iPad Pro. Compared to other keyboards, the viewing angle when typing is positioned too far back. I don’t know how other people angle their screens when typing, but mine is not so far back as to be almost hard to see. I found the angle of the Zagg Messenger Universal to be uncomfortable for me, which was a deal breaker.

Zagg Messenger Universal angle

With most Bluetooth keyboards there are multiple angles to work with to meet different needs and preferences, but the Zagg Messenger Universal only has one. The cover can be folded in two ways, but both angles are essentially the same. The iPad Pro can, however, be positioned in landscape or portrait mode on the Messenger Universal’s built-in stand.

Apple Smart Keyboard angle

Because the iPad Pro is held in place with just the folded cover of the Messenger Universal, it’s not sturdy. The stand and keyboard worked fine on a flat surface, but in my lap, it was unstable. I wouldn’t recommend this as a keyboard to use on the couch or in other areas where you don’t have a flat surface to work with – there’s too much wobbling.

Typing experience is one of the most important factors with any iPad keyboard, and this is an area where I had no complaints. There’s a full sized keyboard that’s as easy to type on as a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro keyboard, and I had no problems transitioning from a MacBook to the Messenger Universal. My typing speed remained the same and the keys had enough travel that each press felt satisfying under my fingers. Because the keyboard is made of plastic it’s louder and more „clicky“ than some other iPad keyboards, but overall, it offers a typing experience that most MacBook users will be satisfied with.

As with most third-party iPad keyboards, there is a row of special function keys included that do things like go to the Home screen, lock the iPad, open the app switcher, open a search, take a screenshot, and control sound and media playback. The dedicated screenshot key is a nifty feature that’s not on a lot of iPad keyboards, but it does come at the expense of dedicated buttons for controlling screen brightness.

The Zagg Messenger Universal is battery powered and will require charging every few months using an included micro-USB cable. Power can be turned off using a button at the side, but the keyboard will also go to sleep when its cover is closed.

Bottom Line

At $70, the Zagg Messenger Universal is a lot less expensive than more sophisticated iPad Pro keyboards like the Smart Keyboard or the Logitech Create, but it’s also a basic entry-level option that has a few downsides. While the keyboard itself offers a solid typing experience, the single oddly tilted viewing angle may be unappealing to some users and the cover that holds the iPad Pro in place can be unstable at times, especially in a lap.

As just a keyboard, it doesn’t offer any additional protection for the iPad Pro like other options, and since it’s the same size as the iPad Pro, it doesn’t offer benefits like superior portability. It’s essentially on par with many third-party standalone Bluetooth keyboards, some of which are less expensive. A slim standalone keyboard paired with an iPad Pro case or Smart Cover is an option that’s just as viable as the Zagg Messenger Universal.

Zagg has another iPad Pro keyboard coming out in the near future, which is tailored specifically for Apple’s larger tablet and could be worth waiting for. Right now, there are limited options for iPad Pro keyboard solutions, but over the next few months, available products should expand quite a bit.

Pros:

Light weight

Affordable

Good key feel

Works with all iPads/iPhones

Cons:

Single viewing angle

Viewing angle is too far back

No backlighting

Cover stand isn’t sturdy for lap use

How to Buy

The Messenger Universal can be purchased from the Zagg website for $69.99.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.

Tags: review, Zagg, Zagg Messenger Universal
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Review: Brydge Debuts Smaller ‘BrydgeMini’ Keyboard for Older iPad Mini Models

Brydge, a company that sells high-quality keyboards for the iPad, has expanded its keyboard lineup with a new BrydgeMini model designed to work with the iPad mini 1, 2, and 3. With the BrydgeMini, which has been modeled after a MacBook keyboard, the iPad mini turns into a miniature MacBook – albeit with a much more cramped typing surface.

Like all Brydge keyboards, the BrydgeMini is made from aluminum that matches the finish of the iPad. It’s available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, and the build quality is excellent. Brydge charges a lot for its keyboards, but they’re almost always worth the cost. The BrydgeMini isn’t a keyboard case – it’s just a keyboard, with two silicone-lined tabs that hold the iPad mini in place. The BrydgeMini has a limited number of viewing angles as the tabs can be angled forwards or backwards slightly, but due to the design, it can’t be used with the iPad in portrait mode.

The BrydgeMini is identical to the BrydgeAir but has been shrunk down, so if you’ve used a BrydgeAir keyboard, the BrydgeMini will be familiar.

It doesn’t fold backwards to allow the iPad to be used in tablet mode while the keyboard is attached, but it’s easy enough to remove the iPad mini from the tabs. It does fold forward into a clamshell-style design for travel, but in this mode, it’s going to add a lot of bulk to Apple’s littlest tablet. It weighs in at 300 grams or .66 pounds, essentially doubling the weight of the iPad mini. The iPad mini weighs 331 grams or 0.73 pounds.

The BrydgeMini is also quite thick, so when in clamshell mode, it’s going to double the thickness of the iPad mini. It’ll still fit comfortably in a bag or backpack, but it’s definitely negating the slim profile of the iPad.

At the bottom there are four silicone feet to keep it stable on a flat surface, and because of its rigid design and the way the iPad mini fits into it, the BrydgeMini can also be used in a lap. That’s not always possible with other keyboards, so it’s a nice perk.

Setup is simple enough. Turn it on, hold down the keyboard button at the bottom edge, and go to the Bluetooth section of the Settings app on the iPad mini to connect. I had no trouble getting it paired and it also stayed paired while in use.

The entirety of the BrydgeMini’s length is dedicated to the keyboard, but the iPad mini is only 7.87 inches long, so the keyboard keys are cramped. It takes time to adjust to the smaller size of the iPad mini keys going from a bigger keyboard, but I can type at a reasonable pace. I’m not matching the speeds that I get on a full-size keyboard and I wouldn’t want to use the BrydgeMini for an entire term paper or anything lengthy, but it works for emails and shorter pieces of writing.

On the keyboard, the biggest issue is shrunken shift, return, and punctuation keys. They’re tiny, so it’s easy to hit the wrong key if you’re not looking down at the keyboard. As for the keys themselves, there’s a good amount of force and travel when pressing them, but there was an issue that I just couldn’t get over – they squeak. There’s a distinctive squeaking sound when hitting some of the keys, which I found incredibly distracting. It doesn’t happen all of the time or with all of the keys (it’s primarily a space bar problem), and I’m not sure if it’s something that would go away with time, but it didn’t lessen during my week of testing the keyboard.

Were I in a classroom, a library, or somewhere else where it was quiet, I wouldn’t want to use this keyboard due to the squeaking and the clicking of the keys. It’s definitely a clicky keyboard and is slightly louder than my MacBook keyboard. The keys do feel good under my fingers, though, due to the high travel.

At the top of the keyboard, there are several quick action keys that go to the home screen of the iPad, lock it, bring up search, turn on the on-screen keyboard, and control media playback and screen brightness. Most iPad keyboards have these features, but they’re worth highlighting. The BrydgeMini also includes backlighting underneath the keys, a feature that’s not quite as common. Backlighting is nice for typing in a darker room, and there are three adjustable levels of brightness.

While the Brydge keyboard I tested for the iPad Air 2 holds my iPad tightly in place, the BrydgeMini is a much looser fit with the iPad mini 2 I used it with. Held upside down, it falls out, and it also has a tendency to shift around just a bit while I type when not on a flat surface. This is a problem because of those aforementioned tabs that hold the iPad mini in place – they often shift to cover just a bit of the screen at the sides. It only obscures the tiniest portion of the screen, but it’s a distraction.

I also had some problems with the hinge that lets the iPad mini be angled slightly forwards or backwards. When angling backwards, it has a tendency to snap flat, so the limited viewing angles I get with the BrydgeMini are further limited.

The BrydgeMini charges via micro-USB and according to Brydge, it’s only going to need a charge once every few months depending on your usage level. I didn’t need to charge it during my testing period and didn’t notice any significant battery drain problems.

Bottom Line

The BrydgeMini is a nice keyboard, but as with any keyboard for the iPad mini, it’s tiny and can be difficult to type on. My first recommendation for iPad mini users is a larger standalone keyboard that gives more space for comfortable typing, but if you want something more compact that turns the iPad mini into a tiny MacBook, the BrydgeMini is a solid choice.

It has a solid key feel, there’s built-in backlighting for use at night, it’s made of the same quality aluminum as the iPad mini, and it has adjustable viewing angles, so you’re getting a lot of bells and whistles with this keyboard.

If you’re planning on updating your iPad in the next year or so, I don’t recommend getting the BrydgeMini. It’s $130, which is a pricy add-on to an iPad that starts at $399, and it doesn’t work with the newest iPad mini 4, so it’s also not going to work with subsequent iPad models.

This is a product that’s late to market, coming right on the heels of the iPad mini 4, even though the iPad mini has been available for several years. Brydge is also taking pre-orders for a version for the iPad mini 4, which will ship in January.

I did a more in-depth review of the BrydgeAir keyboard for the iPad Air 2, which is worth checking out to get a few more details on the BrydgeMini. The two keyboards are similar in design, with the BrydgeMini being a smaller version of the BrydgeAir. The only significant difference is the BrydgeMini’s lack of a built-in speaker.

Pros:

Backlighting

Keys feel great

Good build quality

Cons:

Expensive

Adds a lot of bulk to iPad mini

Keys squeak

Tabs sometimes shift to cover screen

iPad mini doesn’t fit tightly in tabs

Tendency to snap backwards makes it hard to adjust angle

How to Buy

The BrydgeMini is available from the Brydge website for $129.99.

Tags: review, Brydge, BrydgeAir
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Pro Tip: iPad Pro uses same keyboard shortcuts as your Mac

If you’re one of the lucky ones to get your hands on a big, beautiful iPad Pro, you might be surprised that many of the same OS X keyboard shortcuts, like the ones for cut, paste, find, etc., are available right on your new giant laptop replacement. The iPad Pro keyboard has a Command key […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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iPad Pro available to order Wednesday, in stores later this week

Apple has confirmed that its super-sized iPad Pro tablet will be available to order online Wednesday, with stocks available in retail stores from the end of this week. More than 40 countries will be covered by the launch, including the United States, Canada, China and much of Europe. Apple will start selling accessories for the iPad […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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