Students are required to have a case with their iPads while at school, and we’ve noticed that most students have opted for cases which include a keyboard as well. Keyboards are not required, but many students have chosen to use them with their iPads. There are two common styles of keyboard case for the iPad: one where the keyboard and iPad are secured together into one object, and the other where the keyboard stores in such a way as to protect the device, but the keyboard and iPad are not fixed together (two separate pieces). We’ve noticed some pros and cons to each. Please note: these are presented as examples only– not endorsements or recommendations of any particular case.
One-piece Case (often called Folios):
Example: Logitech Keyboard Folio Case (@ Best Buy)
These cases offer a layer of protection to the iPad since they wrap all the way around the device. While certainly not drop-proof like some of the heavier-duty cases like a Griffin Survivor or Otterbox Defender, these cases provide scratch protection in bags, as well as varying protection against the occasional jostling and normal use wear.
The limitation of these cases is that they lock the iPad into “mini-laptop mode:” it’s much easier to handle them in landscape (wider) mode than portrait (taller) mode, for example. In addition, drawing or writing on the screen itself is often made more difficult if the case or keyboard get in the way. Finally, one common use of the iPad is taking pictures or video with the front-facing camera. This requires holding the entire iPad up, and if a keyboard is attached and dangling below, this makes it more awkward (especially for smaller users).
Example: Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad (@ Best Buy)
This is an example of a keyboard which attaches to the iPad to cover the screen when stored, but can be quickly detached from the iPad when it’s simply being held as a reader, or for web browsing, or for camera usage. This is a much more flexible and non-restrictive style of case/keyboard, but it is not as protective as the folio case above. Since the iPad is not wrapped or surrounded by the case, there is no protection against scratches on the back while in a bag or on a table, nor is there any protection for corners in the event of a small drop. The screen is protected while the case is “closed,” but any other protection is minimal at best.
Fully Separate Keyboards
There is also a third option: a case and fully detached keyboard. These keyboards can be left in the backpack or at home and only pulled out when needed, leaving a wide range of cases which can offer both protection and flexibility. As the iPad is originally designed to be used by itself (not with an external keyboard), this may allow ease-of-use for a variety of functions, and many users get over the initial learning curve of using the on-glass virtual keyboard quite quickly.
As with most of your technology choices, the best recommendation is to go to a retailer with a variety of options, such as Best Buy, Frye’s, the Apple Store or others, and look at the different types of cases and keyboards available.