The lack of a "proper" keyboard for the iPad remains a significant issue for some users. Typing on a flat, unresponsive glass screen isn’t everyone's cup of tea.
There are now dozens of iPad-friendly keyboards on the market. We've taken a look at five different options below (the prices quoted were RRP at time of writing):
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover - $100
This Logitech keyboard is a little thinner than an iPad 3 or 4 and attaches to the iPad using a magnetic hinge, like Apple's Smart Cover.
When the keyboard case is opened the iPad automatically powers on and it protects the iPad's display when closed. Communication with the iPad is via Bluetooth - as is the case with all the keyboards we are looking at.
Behind the keyboard, there's a deep channel than the iPad sits in. Although, technically, the iPad can sit in the channel on any edge, when placed with the home button on the left side as you face the iPad, there's a nice click to indicate everything is in place.
According to Logitech the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover's battery should last a whopping six months assuming you're using your iPad for about two hours each day. Recharging is via a USB connection to a computer and you can conserve power by using the power switch on the right side of the device.
We've used the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover to type thousands of words. We found it quite comfortable to type on although it's important to understand that, at this size, the keyboard is a little cramped.
There's a home button in the same place as the ESC key on a regular keyboard that takes you back to the home screen. There are also shortcuts that are invoked by using a Function key for tasks like volume control, playing/pausing media and search.
Although it's not cheap, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover does a great job of making your iPad into a potential laptop replacement.
In our opinion it's the best of the keyboards we've looked at here. Verdict: 4.5/5
Belkin YourType FOLIO+KEYBOARD - $130
Belkin's approach to the iPad keyboard conundrum is to create an attractive folio case for the iPad 2 or newer with a keyboard that can be easily removed so that you're not constrained by angles and positions defined by other people.
The YourType Folio+Keyboard offers solid protection for the iPad and can hold the keyboard, reducing your briefcase clutter.
Set up was very easy. We turned the keyboard on, went into the iPad's Bluetooth settings and entered a four-digit code to connect the keyboard. All that took just a few seconds.
Charging is via USB. Like most Bluetooth keyboards, there's no way to know how much battery juice is left.
The keyboard is reasonably comfortable to use although, like any smaller-than-usual keyboard, it does take some getting use to.
There's a row of extra keys along the top for special functions like play/pause, volume control, cut/copy/paste and jumping back to the iOS homescreen. A couple of extra buttons adjacent to the spacebar automatically type in ".com" and the "@" symbol.
As the keyboard can be easily removed from the case - it's secured with four Velcro tabs - you can adjust the screen angle to whatever suits you best and not what some product designer thought you'd like.
Although it's a little on the pricey side, you do get an attractive and solid case to protect your iPad and a portable Bluetooth keyboard. When you look at it like that, it's not bad value. Verdict: 4/5
Padacs Rubata 3 - $60
The Rubata 3 is a quite a chunky case but it offers plenty of protection for the iPad. The covers are very solid and it holds the iPad very securely.
However, that protection adds quite a bit of bulk to the iPad.
Connecting to the Rubata was easy. One thing that stumped us for a few minutes was that the power button needed to be held down for a few seconds before the keyboard turns on.
This is described in the manual. There's a small blue LED that lets you know when the power is on but it's quite small and hard to see. A red LED indicates when the device is charging.
Recharging the internal battery is via USB but you need to use the supplied cable, as the connector is proprietary.
The keyboard was comfortable to use although there was a bit of a hump in it in the top right corner. This is where the electronics for the power button, Bluetooth and charging are positioned.
There are special ".com" and "@" keys as well as a home button other shortcuts for play/pause, volume control and cut/copy/paste. The screen can be placed at two different viewing angles.
One thing we found annoying was that there's a flap on the front of the keyboard. It did provide somewhere for our wrists to rest but in confined spaces, like tray tables on planes, it took up too much space.
The Padacs Rubata is a well-priced accessory but the extra bulk it adds might put some people off. Verdict: 3/5
Dolphin Bluetooth Keyboard - $20
Sometimes, the path less trodden reveals some treasures. The Dolphin Bluetooth keyboard isn’t likely to be on the radar for many people, but it offers great value if you can handle the extra bulk.
We found the Dolphin in our local Woolworths supermarket in the stationery section.
First thing - this is not an iPad-specific accessory. It's a generic keyboard so you can really use it with any computer or tablet that has Bluetooth connectivity.
In order to prop your iPad up on a decent viewing angle you'll need some sort of cover like Apple's Smart Cover.
Power comes from a pair of regular AAA batteries so it's easy to keep working if you run out of power.
It comes with a carry case and silicone cover to protect the unit in case of a spill.
The Dolphin is a full sized keyboard with properly-spaced keys and a full set of F-keys. The keys were comfortable to type on.
The Dolphin is not as flat as the iPad-specific keyboards, there's much more travel on the keys. There aren’t any iPad-specific keys to jump you to the homescreen although the volume controls and mute worked.
In our view, if you have the extra baggage space, this is a more comfortable keyboard than the others for typing, but we did find the lack of a homescreen button and the inability to map a key for this in iOS a little annoying.
But given the price we could live with that bit of inconvenience. Verdict: 3.5/5
Kensington KeyFolio Expert for iPad - $120
The KeyFolio Expert for iPad is an elegant case that offers good protection for your iPad as well as a Bluetooth keyboard. It's compatible with the iPad 2 and more recent iPads up to the time of writing.
Unlike many other cases, this one has a plastic frame that the iPad slides into. The main section of the case has three creases built into it so that it can be folded into a triangle that acts as a stand for the iPad.
This works quite well, although we found that when the keyboard is out and the iPad is standing it only just fits on an aeroplane tray table.
The keyboard is comfortable to type on. It's smaller than a laptop or full size desktop keyboard, but the keys are adequately spaced and we were able to accurately type at a good speed.
There are special keys for jumping back to the home screen, adjusting volume and brightness and several other commands. There's also a light near the power button to indicate when the Caps Lock key is pressed - a handy touch that's missing from most other iPad keyboards.
Our only criticism of the KeyFolio Expert for iPad is that the case started to look a little grubby after a while. It seems to mark easily, although we weren't concerned that it was wearing out prematurely. Verdict: 4/5
Have an iPad keyboard you prefer? Add your comment below and tell us why.
From Logitech to Belkin, here are four iPad keyboards and our verdict on which we think is the best. [Updated with Kensington Keyfolio Expert].