Rarely does Apple ever sell you an accessory that competes with a basic function of the device it's intended for. Apple believed in its virtual keyboard on the iPhone and thus you never got a physical alternative. So what makes the iPad so different that Apple would offer a $69 dock with a built in keyboard?

The iPad keyboard isn't really portable. It is from a size/weight standpoint, but its shape tells a different story. It's the dock part of the keyboard dock that really prevents this thing from being portable in any normal iPad case. It's because of this that I believe it turns the iPad into more of a desktop than a netbook/notebook.

And I think that's Apple's intent as well. In Apple's eyes, the iPad is already more than capable at the sort of casual web browsing/emailing that netbooks are designed for. The keyboard dock simply makes the iPad function as a light desktop when you're at home. It's not going to make the iPad any more appealing, but if the device was designed for you, it's going to make your life easier.

The iPad keyboard dock has made me understand the real focus of the iPad more than I did a week ago. This truly is a computing platform for people who don't really need a computer, at least not all of the power and capabilities of a full fledged computer. It's great for the basic things: typing, checking email, looking at photos, playing music, browsing the web. These are all things any computer can do, and a netbook can actually do them cheaper. The iPad just does them simpler. In achieving that simplicity you do lose out on some higher level functionality of course (e.g. not being able to open zip attachments in Mail), but for some that's a fair tradeoff.

Strange Behavior

The keyboard dock has three points of interface: the dock connector for the iPad, the dock connector for your power brick/computer, and a line out port for external speakers.

The iPad dock connector is a relatively snug fit, which unfortunately means you'll have to remove Apple's case before docking your iPad. The external dock connector works as advertised, although given that most PCs can't charge the iPad while connected you may find yourself switching dock cables quite a bit (unless the iPad is your primary computing device).

The line out port is the strangest of them all. When in use, you lose the ability to adjust volume on the iPad. Either via the volume rocker or the hotkeys on the keyboard, you can't adjust volume. It defaults to four bars and anything more you have to adjust on your speakers. You can still mute audio however.

I also found that I'd occasionally get a hissing sound out of my speakers occasionally when I'd launch certain apps or hit the lock button on the keyboard.

The Keyboard & Using it
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  • pullmyfoot - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    +2

    4 articles in one week, (four!) devoted to the wonderful iPad.
    Reply
  • wizzlewiz - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Also am tired of hearing about Apple, 60% of all articles I've read in the last few days have been Apple this, Apple that, Adobe saying Apple should play with itself in the corner.

    Not hating on Apple, I just feel the tech world doesn't need every Apdate.
    Reply
  • PsychoPif - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    I agree, there is already a ton a apple fan site out there that are more than happy to review every gadget Apple can sell.

    Anand, the site is great, we all love the inside view on CPU, the advanced reviews of graphic architecture, don't ruin it with an apple review every day.

    The IPad is out, we heard. If anyone was remotely interested in it, I'm pretty sure they found out great alternate sources of information by now.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    And if you thought it will die down now, you need to think again!

    June/July is iPhone HD time! Duck and cover, for the reviews will be flying at you from every direction, also here at AT!
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    I can understand that the iPad isn't for everyone, which is why I've continually referred to it as a very polarizing device. Even in the keyboard dock review I mentioned that it's the type of thing that's almost as polarizing. It's going to either make you love your iPad more, or upset you even further. There's not much I can do about that.

    My goal has and always will be to provide the same sort of depth to whatever it is we cover - whether it's a new CPU, SSD, motherboard or even an Apple product. I believe Apple users deserve the same depth of content as owners of the rest of the products we review.

    But it's not all about Apple. Today alone at the top of the site we've got a new SSD, a thorough look at the Nehalem EX, an update on GeForce GTX 400 availability and some more notebook stuff in addition to the iPad keyboard dock coverage. The accessory wasn't available at launch and after receiving it I thought it might be worthy of a quick review for those who are interested in the iPad, but in no way is it impacting the regular flow of other content on AT.

    I was testing SSDs while I wrote up the review last night and am continuing to do so today as well :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    "iPad, but in no way is it impacting the regular flow of other content on AT"

    I see what you did there -_o
    Reply
  • manicfreak - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Is an Apple dock really that sophisticated that it needs 3 pages to explain what it does? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Of course not, but the pros/cons and quirks worth mentioning justify it. Regardless of what we write, we want it to be as thorough as possible. 3 pages is pretty short on AT :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    theres reviewing, and then theres talking up a 'magical' device. When your reviews start talking of the great 'experance' and start to brush aside obivous glareing defects, you move past objective writing into, fanboism.

    IMHO the device is less polariising then the reviewers.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Well, for a device like this, the experience is a large part of what will make or break the device. For example, the experience of Windows Mobile on my HTC Diamond for me has overall been pretty bad, something that just specs can't relate. OTOH I have had very few troubles with my Archos 5, while others have numerous complaints. I'm sure both relate to how I use the devices, and what I expect from them.

    As a side note, I really like your smartphone coverage Anand. I appreciate the insight into the hardware and the future roadmap for such that is missing from most reviews at cell phone sites.
    Reply

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