When it comes to the “iPad as work computer” debate, I’m pretty schizophrenic. For a while I was taking my first-generation iPad nearly everywhere, and I bought a clever little bag from InCase—which I no longer see on their web site—that has a sleeve for the iPad, a place to put the keyboard, and even room for assorted cables and chargers. My summation was, and remains, that while the iPad makes a mediocre netbook replacement, a netbook makes a really crappy tablet replacement, so on balance the iPad wins. My main computer at the time was a 15″ MacBook Pro; compared to the iPad, it was absolutely gargantuan.
Then, last year, I replaced the MBP with a 13″ Air.
I’m aware that not everyone could, or would want to, use an Air as their main computer, but for me it works splendidly. At this moment I’m using it as a desktop, connected up to an old but perfectly fine 24″ Dell monitor and using my Das Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad. While I’m considering replacing the Dell with a Thunderbolt Display later this year and taking advantage of its various connections—get a nice two-terabyte FireWire 800 drive, maybe, and wired ethernet—for the most part this is everything that I want from a desktop. And, if I want to go out to work, it’s lightweight, has the same resolution as the MBP it replaced, and has all the power of a Mac rather than, well, the power of an iPad.
Even so, often “the power of an iPad” is enough, and after buying a new third-generation iPad not too long ago I decided I wanted to see if I could get a keyboard/case combo for it as opposed to using the bag. Passing by a Fry’s a few days ago, I went in looking for the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, but they didn’t have it. What they did have was the Adonit Writer Plus, which looked pretty cool and seemed to be well-reviewed. So I bought it, and then gave it a field test in a coffee shop for a few hours.
The Adonit seems well-made and the keyboard has a nice feel, pretty similar to the current Apple keyboards—which I consider a high compliment, since Apple makes what I think are the best scissor switch keyboards on the market. The keys are smaller than Apple’s, but the keyboard itself is smaller than the iPad, so that’s to be expected. And the case is a very clever design, one that uses the iPad’s magnets to stay closed and uses its own magnets to hold the keyboard in place against its back: you can slide the keyboard back and forth to adjust the angle of the display, something that very few other cases handle as gracefully.
The big problem with the Adonit comes if you’re a touch typist. I am. On a good full-sized keyboard I can usually hit 100 WPM. This means that I’ve internalized where all the keys are on a typical American QWERTY keyboard at this point. If you screw around with where the common keys are in any substantive way, though, I’m hosed.
On the Adonit, they’ve put that little inverted-T for the arrow keys into the main “block” of the keyboard. The bottom row to the right of the spacebar runs command, option, left-arrow, down-arrow, right-arrow. The left-arrow is right under the slash/question mark key, so you can see on a normal keyboard that would put the up arrow in the same place as the right shift key. And so it does on the Adonit: their solution to this conundrum is to have the second row from the bottom end with slash, up-arrow, right shift.
Which means that every time someone who’s used to normal keyboard placement tries to make a capital letter or another shifted character using the right shift key, they move the cursor up one line and then type the unshifted character.
Do you know how many times you hit the right shift key in normal typing of text, particularly fiction, where there’s a lot of proper names? This is a great way to find out. For me the answer is: a whole damn lot.
If this arrangement doesn’t bother you—or you don’t think it will—then by all means, do check out the Writer Plus. For me, though, that compromise, combined with the slightly smaller keys that such a keyboard is constrained to have, turned out to be enough to make me take it back to Fry’s.
I may yet try out the Logitech Ultrathin, but for now it’s back to the InCase bag if I’m heading out with the iPad yet expect to be typing a lot.
(Or, you know, just using the Air.)