If peripheral maker Belkin has its way, you’ll never change tablet keyboards again. The company tried to make that happen with last year’s “Ultimate Keyboard,” a name that wasn’t quite indicative of the product, though it was still quite good. Belkin is back, though, with an even more ultimate keyboard than before.
Ready for a new year and a new device or two, this year’s “Ultimate Keyboard” will be made for both the Galaxy Tab 3 10 inch and Apple’s iPad Air, bringing some of that ultimate goodness (possibly greatness?) to another platform beyond Apple’s hugely successful one.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet have an iPad Air model to speak of, so we’ll give you the hands-on with a Galaxy Tab 3.
From the look of things, Belkin isn’t kidding when the company says it has taken things back to the drawing board, keeping that metal exterior and but also extending it to the inside of the case, replacing the black shiny plastic of before and making it cold and silver.
The plastic groove that once surrounded the keyboard is also gone, and Belkin has flattened everything to make it far more comfortable for your wrists. The tablet is still hugged by a moulded case made of plastic, bound to the tablet your electronic gadget doesn’t fall out, with holes carved out for ports and cameras.
Belkin’s logic of providing three separate angles for the screen against the keyboard is still here, but we’re impressed to see the company appears to have fixed something we criticised, and that was where the magnets were located.
In the original “Ultimate Keyboard,” there were three magnetic strips in the centre of the area above the keyboard, helping you to position the screen at one of three angles.
It was a good idea, but ultimately, one strong magnet wasn’t quite as useful as it could be, and while three positions were possible, only one seemed reliable in transit, with the other two only working when you weren’t moving at all.
But over in the new model, Belkin is keeping the three positions and relying instead on two magnets, with one on each side, holding the tablet in position with a case that connects to those magnets quickly and firmly.
While we lack a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10 inch to test in the case, we’re still able to put the case through movement tests, and after shaking it enough, the new Belkin Ultimate Keyboard case is already much, much stronger than the one which wore its namesake a year ago.
There’s also a magnetic clip in the moulded case to keep everything locked in position, and the design feels tighter than in the previous incarnation.
The good news for Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and Apple iPad Air owners is that outside of the differences in tablet design, we’re told everything is the same. That is to say that the solid magnets and flatter keyboard we’re seeing in our hands on with the Tab version should also follow in the iPad Air equivalent.
Unfortunately, owners of the iPad 2, 3, and 4 won’t be getting the same design, as the newly packaged but similarly branded product for the older iPad models appears to be identical to last year’s generation, complete with the slight ridge along the keyboard and the centre magnets, so no upgrade here. Sorry older iPad owners.
Pricing for Belkin’s new model, though, appears to be around $170, putting it in the high-end part of the tablet keyboard case spectrum, though availability isn’t for another few weeks, so look for it in stores soon.