on December 3, 2012
I picked this up for two main reasons:
1) To protect the iPad while still being usable
2) To make it more useful with a keyboard
Let me cover how well this functions with each of my needs.
Protection and usability:
I'm using an iPad2, and the sleeve to hold the iPad in fits snugly. There is no movement once it's settled in, so cameras stay aligned, and things look flush. The iPad itself is secured with a strap where you insert it, that wraps around the top (in landscape, so by the volume rocker) and sits between the back of the iPad and the inside of the cover. It seems more than secure for normal movement. The face of the iPad has protection around the entire bezel in the form of the colored faux-leather material, which also provides a buffer between the iPad and the keyboard which is critical since you close the iPad onto the keyboard. There is no protection on the corners, though the cover does extend beyond these corners. Still, if dropped, this cover probably wouldn't stop damage from happening to at least 2 corners of the device.
I am pretty rough with my technology, and feel that this cover is sturdy enough to protect the pad from the miscellaneous scuffs and bumps, if I have the cover closed. One thing that surprised me was that this cover (the light brown version) DOES NOT COME WITH A STRAP to keep it closed. This is contrary to the initial pictures you see showing a strap that holds the cover closed. If you notice, these pictures are all for the black colored version of this cover. Looking again at the various color offerings, I'm able to see that the subtle bump of the strap that appears in the picture on the Black cover is missing when looking at the other colors, but none of the supplemental text or pictures indicates this. This was one of those last selling points to me at the time of purchase, as such a strap would be very useful to me for keeping the cover closed when moving around from place to place. I will have to explore adding a strap myself, so please be aware that if you're not buying the black colored cover, you will not get a strap.
All ports are accessible. Landscape mode is the default orientation, and this case is engineered solely for that mode. There is no way to swivel the device from inside the case. I knew this when buying, so it was not a detraction for me, but I can see this being a concern for some.
As far as actually using the pad, when configured in the setup you see in most of the pics, that is the iPad positioned above the keyboard, it is quite usable. I was typing out blog entries with the cover on my lap in this orientation. The velcro method of stabilization, as others have mentioned, is fairly ingenious, and works well. The keyboard itself sits inside a recessed portion in the case. If the keyboard is removed (which is easy to do, though the keyboard does have magnets to hold it in), the case surface is velcro here too, allowing for the screen to be angled any way you want. I prefer having the keyboard inside the case, but it's nice to have the option.
The one other thing to keep in mind from a usability perspective is that if you plan on using the iPad without a keyboard for a while (such as playing a game), it is not intuitive how you should hold the cover. Holding it with the back cover dangling is very heavy and unwieldy. Taking pictures in this fashion will be a little cumbersome (though not impossible). The way (I'm assuming) that you are supposed to use the cover for this purpose is to utilize a small strip of velcro located BELOW the keyboard, right at the bottom of the cover. Doing so still give a little bit of angle, but also makes the cover nearly flat, and becomes a little easier to hold in a traditional manner. It is still heavy, but I was able to play games without any hindrance once I discovered this orientation.
I will share the concern another user raised about how long the velcro loops will hold up - I have no evidence in my week of use that there are quality issues, but the concept of reusing velcro means that you will eventually run into wear and tear issues at some point. There is a 2 year limited warranty, so you might have luck with a replacement if it fails in the warranty period, but wear and tear is not covered, so YMMV.
So all told, this cover met just about all of my needs for protection. The corners are a little exposed, there's no strap to keep the case closed with the color I got, and I see some potential wear down on the velcro happening at some point, but the cover is wonderfully usable, and very study and well made.
The keyboard was a nice bonus for me in a cover, and many of the features have been well documented in reviews. As mentioned above, it sits in a recessed portion of the cover, so it can remain in the cover when you close it, as the keys sit just below the housing to (mostly) prevent keys from being depressed when closed. There is also a protective barrier around the iPad bezel, which doubles as a means of preventing the screen of the iPad from hitting the housing of the keyboard or its keys. That said, I'd probably still recommend a screenguard of some sort, as there is no additional protection for your screen. Also, the keys can be slightly depressed when the cover is closed, if there is enough pressure put on the case from various points. Fortunately, you can turn the keyboard off, so you shouldn't experience any battery drain issues from a closed cover, as long as you remember to do that. Simply letting the keyboard go to sleep (after 15 minutes) isn't enough, as keypresses will wake it up, so a closed cover pushing keys will both wake the keyboard and wake the iPad if the keyboard is left on.
The keyboard itself feels solid, and my hands fit it perfectly (I'm used to a netbook's reduced keyboard footprint, and it seems the keys on this keyboard were identically sized). The nice part about this keyboard are the functional keys, which can do the following: Go to home screen (double tapping brings up the open apps list, but holding does not initiate moving or closing apps), opening a slideshow of your picutres, toggle the onscreen keyboard (I never had an issue where the onscreen keyboard appeared when I was using the keyboard, but it's nice to have I guess), a search key, media keys (previous, play/pause/ next), volume mute, volume down, volume up, and a lock button. These really help with a lot of the little gestures and tasks that I do, so it was nice to have them on the keyboard.
Having a keyboard included with this case really transforms the iPad from a tablet to a netbook for me, without the hindrances that a netbook has. The keyboard is perfect, fits the case well, and stays out of the way when you don't need it. I don't see how I'll use any table in the future without one, and fortunately, with this being a bluetooth keyboard, I won't have to.
So, for my needs, this case fit my needs almost perfectly (and certainly better than most anything else I saw). That it was very reasonable priced when I purchased it (thanks to Black Friday) made this impossible to ignore. I have given this 5 stars, but if things like a strap to keep the case closed, or Portrait mode useability from within the case is important to you, you will have to look elsewhere.