I recently was approached to write a review of the PI DOCK iT Air iPad case with bluetooth keyboard. Given that I have had a keyboard case for every iPad I’ve owned (except my current one) I was willing to give it a try. I find that using a case can certainly increase my productivity when traveling, and as a touch typist I’ve always found that the iPad’s touch screen keyboard is a bit lacking. I also don’t feel comfortable talking out my emails or documents, so no matter how good a speech to text translator is, I tend not to use them.
When the box arrived it had a gash in it, but it didn’t impact the case at all. Like all cases, it has a little bit of a delay in the typing especially when it first pairs with the Bluetooth, but that is normal. I can certainly type faster with the keyboard then the onscreen keyboard. I am sure that the tactile feedback makes a big difference for a touch typist. Similar to the other cases, the keyboard is slightly smaller than a normal Mac keyboard, which can cause a few typos.
I found that it has an interesting design for changing angle of the screen. They call it a slideway, and it allows you to extend the hinge so that the screen can go either vertical or horizontal, and at a comfortable angle for your eyes. As someone who reads a lot of magazines and books on the iPad, the ability for a case to support vertical orientation is a nice touch.
Given that it is a case and keyboard, it doesn’t need much of a manual, and the simple manual (1 page back and front) does a good job of explaining all the features. I guess you don’t really need much more than that.
I wrote the rough draft of this review in Word for iPad so that I could test out the keyboard in a meaningful way. (Given that I took pictures with my SLR the final part of the review was done on my Macbook Pro.) The targeted user of the Dock iT is an enterprise iPad user, I feel this made the most sense. A little secret that the team at DOCK iT doesn’t mention is that the slideway’s ability to swivel the screen direction around, also makes it ideal for some games. I use Real Racing 3 on my iPad, and it works great for that game! Providing me with a stable enough base and a solid steering wheel feel. Very cool!
The keyboard is a bit small, but no smaller than other iPad keyboards I’ve used in the past. The plastic keys tactile enough, to allow for most touch typing, providing a nice little raised area on the F and J keys so that you can easily home your hands. There are a set of rubber feet and rubber nubs around the keyboard (I’ve lost one of the rubber feet, not sure where but after a week of traveling it got lost some point during my travels). The rubber feet keep the keyboard in place nicely on a desk (even after loosing one of them it feels stable and doesn’t wobble). While the nubs around the screen are designed to protect your screen from touching the plastic. This is good, but as a touch typist they do get in the way at times.
Like most cases, they include special keys for cut, copy, paste, volume controls, brightness, home button, and screen lock. These keys really increase the productivity on the iPad once you get used to them. One minor thing, the Home button seemed a bit finicky (not sure if this was a Bluetooth syncing issue or an iOS8 Beta issue). The reason I believe it may be beta related is that it appears to be app dependent. They also a Caps Lock Indicator light, I’ve not seen this on the other keyboard cases I’ve used in the past – nice touch.
On day three of playing with the DOCK iT I discovered how to lay it flat. You can slide the screen on top of the keyboard. (Don’t forget to turn off the Bluetooth before doing this.) This is great for drawing programs and some games. It does, however, make the iPad much thicker than the Apple case, which I use at times, allowing me to hold the iPad like a book.
There’s one feature that is both a plus and a minus, and that is how well the DOCK iT holds the iPad is the shell. I wanted to take the iPad out of the case to put it in a dock I have for charging. After prying the iPad out of the case with a letter opener, I ended up scratching my iPad’s back a bit. I’ve always prided myself in selling my old iPad while it still looks like new. I guess I won’t be able to do that with this one.
Another point on build quality. I was putting the case in my back pack and my employee badge got itself between the screen and keyboard, popping off a key. On a normal keyboard that would be the end of it, but on the DOCK iT Air I was able to just pop the key back in to place and it works. Nice.
Overall I am pleased with the build quality of the DOCK iT, it held up in my few weeks of testing. Battery life appears good, I’ve only charged it once and so far have used it for two weeks with no required recharging. The lip where the iPad sits is great for horizontal positioning, but in vertical positioning it can be a bit unstable, based on the screen angle. This is a basic physics problem due to the weight of the iPad Air and the rounded corners of the slot where the iPad sits. It works fine for a sturdy desk, but for not so much when reading a magazine in bed.
The team at PI also provided me with a cool sticker for the case – check it out.