Belkin has a number of iPad keyboards in its lineup, but the QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case is for people who place a premium on portability. This $99 accessory weighs less than a pound, and is as stylish as the iPad Air itself. But with a ton of keyboard cases on the market, does the QODE make the cut?
The Belkin QODE's design is similar to that of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. On the top, there's a hinge that attaches magnetically to the iPad Air. About a third of the way down is a slot that holds the Air when you're typing, and below that is the keyboard itself. The rear of the case is thicker than the front, so the keyboard is angled toward you, which makes the typing experience more comfortable.
Like Logitech's keyboard, Belkin's is made of aluminum, which pairs nicely with the Air but leaves the tablet's back exposed. The slot that holds the iPad, as well as the keyboard, is made of white plastic, but if you think it will show dirt too easily, you can also order a version in black.
Although the QODE holds the iPad securely, you can't adjust the angle of the iPad, as you can with the Brydge keyboard and the latest Logitech Ultrathin. Also, you must first detach the iPad from the QODE before you can insert the tablet into the slot on the keyboard deck. One clever feature is that a button in the middle of the slot automatically turns on the keyboard when an iPad is inserted, saving battery life. We found that if your iPad goes to sleep while in the dock, you'll need to reinsert it to re-establish the Bluetooth connection.
At 9.45 x 6.8 x 0.4 inches and 13.35 ounces (0.83 pounds), the Belkin QODE is slightly thicker and heavier than the Logitech Ultrathin (9.45 x 6.9 x 0.25 inches, 0.71 pounds), but both are significantly lighter than the 1.15-pound Brydge+ case, which also includes a speaker.
We like that Belkin included a dedicated row above the number keys for iPad-specific functions, including home, volume up/down, play/pause and even screenshot. In a first for Belkin's keyboards, there are also three buttons to control playback in iTunes Radio. However, we wish there were brightness controls instead. Between the Fn and Alt keys on the bottom row is a button to launch Siri, a nice touch.
The only major issue we have with the QODE's layout is that the colon key is on the bottom row, to the right of the space bar, instead of farther up, near the right Enter key. We also wish there were a light to indicate if the Caps Lock key had been pressed.
The Belkin QODE's keys have 1.5 mm of travel and take 55 grams of force to press, making for a good, but not great, typing experience. Using the TapTyping iOS app's speed test, we averaged about 56 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy.
Although the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard case's keys had just 1 mm of travel, their slightly larger size allowed us to type at a rate of 61 wpm. Neither was as good as what we saw on the Brydge+; that keyboard has 2 mm of travel, and we averaged between 63 and 69 wpm.
Belkin estimates that the QODE's battery will provide about 79 hours of typing time. A microUSB port on the back edge lets you recharge the device.
Small, light and sturdy, the $99 Belkin QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case was very easy to type on and barely added any weight to our bag when paired with our iPad Air. If you have more money to spend, the Brydge+ ($149) offers an easier-to-use, laptoplike design, as well as a speaker. But for the price, the QODE is a very good iPad Air accessory.