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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  • Some1ne - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    If that's the case, then let the websites for REGULAR FOLKS review it. This is a website for TECHIES. I come here for stories and articles that are too technologically oriented for those "regular folks" to care about. In short, I come here for TECHNOLOGY news. And while a review of the iPad itself is justifiable on the grounds that it is a new piece of technology being launched by a major tech company, a review of a $69 keyboard accessory that only works with the iPad is not. There's nothing new or innovative about a dock/keyboard accessory. Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    Agree. This type of stuff does not belong on Anand. End of story.

    Neither does the bias, conveniently missing out the many many shortcomings. Something thats not avoided in reviews for other products, so why let Apple off.

    If this dock was made by any other company it would not have been reviewd.
    Reply
  • TGressus - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    The positive reviews of the iPad seem to draw the most criticism. I'd like to think it's a reaction to the the stark contrast between what the device really is and what the reviewer wants the device to be, as referred to in earlier replies. It'd be a shame if it's just group think hating.

    On the topic of the human interface for portable devices, whomever can evolve text input will rule the next wave of tech. We've got to get beyond single character input whatever we do...
    Reply
  • nafhan - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    They're marketing the iPad as a second or third computer, and the dock is not portable. So it's really only useful in a location where you are likely to already have your "real" computer. Since the iPad has to be removed from it's protective case to use the dock, it'd be easier to just use your desktop/laptop. This dock is possibly the most useless $70 peripheral ever.
    Also, if they put the dock connector on a short cable, the dock could be used in either landscape or portrait mode. I guess that would "ruin" the aesthetics, and make the $50, yet to be released, "media and entertainment" dock redundant.
    Reply
  • tyusaf - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    After reading all the comments, I'd just like to say, thanks for the review.

    It contains all the information I need to determine whether I need the keyboard dock or not - which I think was the point of the review. I'd like to think that I'm as techie as Anand, and would have the same issues when using the keyboard - which all contributes to helping me with my purchasing decision.

    Cheers
    Reply
  • MoreGibberish - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    I would think the standard Apple Bluetooth Keyboard plus the Apple or Incase iPad case would be a better option. Either of these two cases prop up your iPad in landscape mode. Plus you can use the keyboard with your mac. On the downside, apps like Pages don't show their formatting toolbar in landscape mode. Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    "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"

    And how do these people get their pictures onto the ipad without a card reader slot, usb port or even a camera? I mean, without buying that camera connection kit for another 30-50 bucks?

    And here is one you cant answer: My mother would fit the bill perfectly, but she'll never buy this ipad because she cant connect a printer to it. period. Theres three things she does with her computer, in this order:

    1. Her correspondence
    2. e-mail
    3. browse the web

    Recently I told her about the WePad. That thing really got all the options the ipad lacks and doesnt use oversized windows or a castrated osx to achieve it. If it delivers on the promise, she might buy that come summer.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Would a bluetooth printer not work?

    Or just wait for iPad v2 or v3 which might actually include something useful like a USB port.
    Reply
  • leaf-eater-dubai - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand,

    your review was great and helped me alot to decide wether I should get an iPad or not!

    I do have one question and I would be grateful if anyone could answer this:

    Do I need power to operate the keyboard? Will it take the power from the iPad or how will it work? I am a student and I plan on taking this to class.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    The keyboard dock is powered by the iPad itself :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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