The Gadget I Love: Harry McCracken & the Belkin iPad Ultimate Wireless Keyboard & Case
Few people have the perspective on tech that Harry McCracken has. For over 20 years, he has been writing about gadgets, tech and computing, and has earned a reputation as an honest, forthright analyzer of the tech world with a strong moral streak. For many years, he was editor in chief of PC World (including one incident where he resigned over publisher pressure to change a story to suit an advertiser), and he now works as an editor at large for Time. In that time, he has reviewed hundreds of gadgets, covered countless live events and has seen many generations of tech come and go. So what gadget does he use when he is working?
Richard Baguley: What is the gadget?
Harry McCracken : Belkin’s Ultimate Wireless Keyboard and Case, a $99.99 gadget which turns an iPad into a mini-laptop by letting you type on a physical keyboard that talks to the tablet via Bluetooth.
Richard Baguley: What do you love about this gadget?
Harry McCracken : I've been using an iPad as my main computer for close to two years now, and in that time I've used scads of keyboards. I've used a bunch of good ones—especially models from Logitech and Zagg—but the Belkin is my favorite one of the moment, with the best design I've seen to date. It protects both sides of the iPad—a key feature if you drop stuff as often as I do. Yet it’s also impressively thin, far more so than Logitech’s admirable-but-chunky Keyboard Folio Case.
The other great thing about Belkin’s case: When you feel like using your iPad like an iPad, you can fold the keyboard back and hold the whole setup like a tablet without it getting too cumbersome. With most keyboard cases, you either can't do that at all or you wind up with a ridiculously unwieldy handful.
Bottom line: There’s no downside to taking this case everywhere I take my iPad
Richard Baguley: What do you hate about this gadget?
Harry McCracken : Nothing! But I have one major quibble and one minor one. The larger gripe is that Belkin put a key that launches Siri directly to the left of the space bar, a position where the Command key typically resides. It’s way too easy to accidentally trigger Siri when you're trying to enter a keyboard combination such as <Command><V> to paste text.
My other beef is one which I have about nearly every iPad keyboard case I've tried: I'm not crazy about the materials Belkin chose for the exterior. The case is clad in a leatherlike material on one side and aluminum on the other, and both surfaces are prone to get pretty beat up if you tote your iPad everywhere, as I do. Given a choice, I'd vote for something more mundane but durable, like a sturdy plastic.
Richard Baguley : What one feature do you wish this gadget had?
Harry McCracken : Zagg’s Zaggkeys ProFolio+ has a backlit keyboard, so you can type in the dark. If Belkin knocked off that feature in a future version, I'd be thrilled—as long as it let you toggle the backlight on and off with some sort of switch you'll never hit by accident. (I keep pressing Zagg’s key when I don't mean to, draining the keyboard’s battery.)
Richard Baguley : If you were looking for a device like this, would you buy it again?
Harry McCracken : Right now, yes. But despite Belkin’s moniker, this isn't the ultimate keyboard case of my dreams. I want one with its design, but a sturdier exterior and a backlighting option. And those features and you would indeed have the perfect iPad productivity add-on.
Thanks to Harry McCracken for taking the time to talk about his favorite gadget! If you have questions, post them as notes, and you will be invited to join Medium.