New Trent's Airbender Pro combines a number of features that we want in an iPad keyboard case. It has a comfortable keyboard and an adjustable, rotating hinge; plus, it's spill, dust and shock resistant. At $79, the Airbender Pro is also one of the least expensive keyboard cases around. Is this iPad Air accessory the bargain it seems?
The Airbender Pro looks every bit the part a rugged case. While not as durable as the Lifeproof Nuud, the Airbender Pro's semi-rigid plastic clamshell design feels like it can take some abuse. The soft coating also makes it comfortable to carry.
The most notable aspect of the Airbender Pro's design is its metal hinge, which connects the upper portion of the case with the keyboard section. The hinge attaches to the upper portion using a circular clip that resembles a camera's lens cap.
With the hinge, you can rotate the iPad into portrait or landscape mode, a feature we've only seen on one other keyboard case, the Targus Versavu. However, the Airbender one-ups the Targus by letting you adjust the iPad to pretty much whatever angle you desire.
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However, the part of the hinge that connects to the iPad needs to be stiffer, as it would not remain angled when we tilted the tablet back. Instead, we had to use the stiffer lower hinge. Worse, tilting the Airbender Pro past 90 degrees causes the entire case to flop backwards, whether on a desk or in your lap.
But the Airbender has one more trick up its sleeve: Next to where the lower hinge connects to the keyboard section of the case is a small switch. Slide it, and you can extend the lower hinge, which offers yet another way to adjust the angle of the iPad. The case still tilts back on your lap, though. We also suspect that the Airbender's footprint would take up most of an airline tray (front to back) with the hinge fully extended.
Measuring 9.7 x 7.4 x 1 inches, the Airbender Pro is one big iPad case. At 1.5 pounds, it's even heavier than the Kensington KeyFolio Pro Plus, which weighs 1.3 pounds. Then again, the Airbender is spill, dust and shock resistant, something no other iPad keyboard case can claim. When you detach the upper portion of the Airbender Pro from the keyboard, it's a much more manageable 8.25 ounces.
The Airbender Pro has an above-average keyboard. The matte black, island-style keys have a slightly gritty texture, and we like that the spacebar, as well as other keys (such as Shift, Caps Lock and Tab) are all fairly large. The keys also have a good amount of travel and were snappy during our testing use.
Click to EnlargeUsing the TapTyping app's speed test, we averaged 52 words per minute with 98-percent accuracy. That's 12 wpm slower than we scored on the M-Edge Universal Stealth Pro Keyboard Folio, and 7 wpm slower than our mark on the Kensington KeyFolio Pro Plus .
Above the number row is an additional row of iPad-specific keys, such as brightness and volume control, cut, copy, paste and media controls.
Click to EnlargeSince it's water resistant, getting your iPad Air into the Airbender Pro takes a couple of minutes. First, you must remove the rubber cover from the Pro, then open the hardcover case.
A clear plastic sheet covered the Air's screen, but that didn't affect the sensitivity of the touch screen. We played "Angry Birds" just as easily as if there were no cover at all. We were also pleased that it was easy to raise and lower the volume, even though the buttons were protected by rubber nubs.
Rubber covers protect all the iPad Air's ports, and this will keep an errant splash of water from ruining your tablet. But it still won't hold up to a dunking.
The Airbender Pro's battery is rated to last 200 hours. To preserve endurance, the case turns off its Bluetooth connection after 10 minutes of inactivity. Like other keyboard cases, it charges via microUSB.
Click to EnlargeIf it weren't for one flaw, the New Trent Airbender Pro would be among our favorite iPad keyboard cases. Its responsive keyboard let us type reasonably fast, and its low $79 price, durability and flexibility make it more versatile than most -- in theory. But because its upper hinge can't support the weight of an iPad, you need to extend the Airbender's metal arm all the way to tilt your iPad to a comfortable angle. As a result, using the AirBender Pro in cramped quarters, and especially on your lap, is much more of a challenge than we'd like.