iLuv iPad 2 case and Bluetooth keyboard
Accessory of the Week If you have an Apple iPad, the chances are you'll have some kind of accessory to protect it. While a Jiffy bag would do, you'll probably be inclined to consider something more enduring. Typing on a piece of glass has a few shortcomings too – not only the lack of tactile responsiveness but the fact that the virtual keyboard covers half the screen. iLuv's combination of keyboard and cover is an accessory that provides a stylish approach to these issues and has been revamped for the iPad 2 .
iLuv's remodelled ICK826 for the Apple iPad 2
The iLuv ICK826 fits the iPad 2 by simply sliding it into a leather frame that forms the inside of half of the book-style cover and then tucking in a tongue behind it. Strategically placed gaps and holes in the leather allow for the docking connector and camera to be used in situ.
Facing it on the other side is a dinky Bluetooth keyboard that features a row of dedicated function keys for iPad-specific control. The Fn a modifier key also enables secondary functions for this row of 16 keys. Besides the compact Qwerty layout, there's Control, Option and Command keys as well as a big Enter/Return key. Alas, the Shift key on both sides is the same size as the arrow keys and letters, and the bigger Caps lock has no indicator light, which can be a real pain when entering passwords.
Unlike the Velcro fastening of the original model, the keyboard is held in place by magnets and can be detached from the cover, which is handy if you're keen to prop up the iPad and use it in portrait mode. Alas, the cover's prop stand doesn't offer positioning this way, although you could take it out of the frame and just slot it into position.
On the right side of keyboard is the pairing button, a micro USB connector for charging and an on/off switch. With Bluetooth active on the iPad and showing in the Setting menu, simply press the pair button, which flashes a bright blue and enter “XXXX” on the iLuv keyboard when prompted.
The removeable Bluetooth keyboard is held in place by magnets
After that, waking up the Bluetooth connection between devices requires just a couple of taps on the keyboard and you're typing again in a matter of seconds. As for the actual typing, this isn't the easiest keyboard to master. While everything is in its place, the keys are flush with each other, rather than raised chiclet-style. So, hunting around for the letters is achieved more easily with practice and can't be mastered so readily by feel.
The action of the keys is pretty good overall. A nice amount of give without being overly spongy and no nasty clattering or flexing either. The spacebar size was never an issue but the dinky shift key and anonymous caps lock regularly hampered progress.
It's a tad bulky when closed becoming more netbook than tablet
The detachable keyboard proved its usefulness on a train journey – there was just a small table to place the iPad/case combo on and little else. Flipping back the now empty flap to rest the prop stand on made for a more compact arrangement whilst typing with the keyboard on my lap. Indeed, given the central position of the prop stand, you might have to do this more often that you’d expect if you do have the whole lot on your lap. Either that or keep your knees together.
Battery life on the iLuv ICK826 was excellent. It’s claimed to last a month and with regular use going beyond that period, it manages that easily and then some – the inaccessible battery taking about three hours to fully charge first time. The wireless range is good too, so if you have the iPad hooked up to a TV with the Apple Digital AV adapter , you’ll have no difficulty operating remotely it using the multimedia function keys on the Bluetooth keyboard.
While there’s no doubt about the usefulness of this combination, it does end up being a bit bulky – what with the stiffened casing and keyboard sandwiched along with the iPad, the weight stacks up too. Yet it’s still highly portable and the iPad shortcut keys for a range of controls – homescreen, search, slideshow, volume and the like – come in very handy.
However, my biggest misgiving was the smell of the leather. Made in China, the hide used had the whiff of creosote and burnt plastic that took weeks to fade – meanwhile, small birds were falling out of the air whenever I used it. As this was an early sample, I would guess not all would be so stinky, but it did stop me taking it abroad, as the smell permeates anything in the same holdall.
Odours aside, the iLuv ICK826 is a durable, well thought out product with a very useful removable keyboard. You’ll find it a tad frustrating to work with at first, but with perseverance it becomes much easier, it’s just a shame there’s no caps lock light or a white version. Having used it for some time now, writing this article on the Pages app  for example, I found I alternated between fitting the iLuv or my Apple Smart Cover depending on how long I’d be on the move. Overall, the iLuv ICK826 is versatile, responds quickly and certainly worth considering if you've no love for touchscreen typing. ®
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