At least one company has been dabbling in tablet cases as long if not longer than Logitech, and that’s Belkin, always striving to get the “ultimate” in keyboard cases for the Apple tablets. Its latest model takes the regular “ultimate” and puts it on a diet. Does this make everything better in the end?
Features and performance
In terms of performance, it’s a fairly short order for what a keyboard case has to do, and it really comes down to two primary areas: protection and having a decent keyboard.
Fortunately, Belkin’s Ultimate Keyboard Lite gets most of this right, taking the formula from its previous Ultimate models and basically shaving everything down a tad.
For instance, the aluminium of its mid-range not-so-lite case has been replaced with plastic, which makes the case feel like it is wrapped in the firm but still plastic polycarbonate shell.
In truth, this makes it no different to say the Belkin keyboard case from 2014 for the iPad Air, which also makes us feel that Belkin basically upped the design for the iPad Air 2 crowd this year, but also shifted over the old design and said “repackage it for the cheap iPad Air 2 crowd in the form of a more budget friendly model”.
And in a way, that’s precisely what the Belkin QODE Lite is: a fairly inexpensive way to get your tablet connected with a typing experience without hampering the tablet experience all too much, even if it doesn’t feel like much has evolved.
You still find a plastic shell to hold your iPad Air or Air 2, connected with a peace of fabric to a plastic and aluminium section, where a Bluetooth keyboard sits waiting for you.
When you close the keyboard case, a small magnet sits along the edge so that the black folio case stays shut.
That is pretty much the same case we’ve seen for yonks.
It’s not a bad thing, either, and Belkin makes pretty decent keyboard cases, but it also features some of the flaws in the existing models, such as the keyboard feeling a touch too cramped, and at least one of the keys being repositioned.
We’re talking mainly about the colon and semi-colon key, still in that awkward spot next to the space bar that no other keyboard but Belkin’s seems to believe, though the apostrophe also feels like it’s in the wrong place — in truth, it’s just really squished — so you end up often pressing the enter key and bringing forth a carriage return than hitting that puntuation key you intended to punch.
We’re not even sure why Belkin includes the home row indicators on F and J if the keyboard layout has changed. Touch typists aren’t exactly going to have a super fun time knowing they’ll have to go through looking for spare carriage returns and punctuation problems.
The magnets also succumb to one of the flaws of the previous design, and that’s not a good thing given you only have two magnetic spots.
As a point, two magnetic screen positions is a reduction from the three a Belkin QODE case normally arrives with, and just like on previous models, you can’t help but feel one is just for show.
The main one will be the obvious one: right behind the keys. This is the one most people will end up using, and it’s quite stable. Shake it and it’s fine, with the magnets holding the iPad Air 2 completely fine.
Behind this, though, there’s a secondary position letting the iPad Air take a slightly different view. In theory, that would be fine, provided the magnets were strong enough.
Unfortunately, they’re clearly not because the most minor amount of movement or shaking to the case will see the iPad detaching from its magnetic section and fly forward.
On the plus side, at least your iPad is encased in a bit of plastic held in place by a long piece of pleather, so it’s not as if it will fall to its death, but it doesn’t mean it won’t crash into things on the way down, possibly scratching your device.
Traveling on public transport, this might not leave you with the best of feelings, so if you use this case in places that frequently move — buses, trains, or you just happen to have the most nervous legs ever — do not use the rear magnetic position. It’s just far too unstable.
For around $150, Belkin’s Ultimate Keyboard Lite offers a decent entry into the keyboard case world, provided you don’t use that rear magnet and aren’t too fond of repetitive quote and apostrophe use, because you’ll likely need to retrain your hands for that.
You don’t have to use the case as a keyboard case, either, and the moment you flatten the screen against the keyboard, it switches off, allowing you to use it like a regular tablet, which is useful.
That said, it’s not the best keyboard case we’ve ever seen, and for an extra $50, you’ll find quite a few others that fit the bill better, but if you only have $150 to spend, the QODE Lite isn’t a bad way to spend your cash.