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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  • PsychoPif - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Thanks for listening to our comments, at least you know how we feel and I'm sure you will keep an eye open for situation like these in the future.

    I've always like AT because I felt that it was one of the less biased hardware site on the net. I'd hate to see you fall prey to any kind of fanboyism.

    You've seen it in the phone reviews, and you did great by covering all your bases. Maybe you should do the same with tablets?
  • Dazex - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Guys, let's put things back into perspective. There may be tons of Apple review sites, but it's not a review from Anand himself. That's a huge distinction.

    Whether it be a PC, cellphone, gadget or Apple review. I come to Anandtech for the insight that Anand's assemble team of reviewer and more specifically, Anand himself can only give. Anand consistently prove to be very thoughtful and thorough in any of his reviews. He has demonstrated this from the early day and continue to excel at this. So Apple fanboi I may not be, but you can definitely consider me an Anand-fanboi.

    Thanks Anand for existing on the internet and answering the questions that I somehow have, but other review sites never seem to address or glance over. That makes your site very relevant, no matter what you decide to review or feature.
  • pzkfwg - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I agree with you. I'm not at all an Apple fanboy, but you have to admit that the iPad is really a new kind of device (with the exception of failed and fundamentally flawed old tablets) with a lot of potential. So whoever makes it, Apple or else, it is an hardware event worth this kind of coverage.

    And, yeah, I trust enough Anand to give me the best review possible so that I don't have to browse to Apple review sites since I'm not an Apple fanboy, remember?

    Maybe the keyboard review could simply have been added as an update to the original article, though.
  • TheHolyLancer - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    esp when there is this:


    radeon 4570 + c2d + touchscreen + full size keyboard

    if you want ipad + dock, may i suggest this thing instead? less battery for sure, but you can play MW2 or BC2 on it without issues.
  • pzkfwg - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    I think Anand makes it clear in his review that the killer feature in the iPad is the multitouch OS so that the device becomes very portable without the need of a physical keyboard. Nothing like the laptop you show.
  • smajid2004 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Hate to pile on, but I agree with some of the negative reviews given to Anand. It is simply lame to review a Dock/Keyboard even if it is made by Apple.

    I like some of the Apple products and do own and like the iPad, however I come to Anandtech for it's excellent objective presentation of all things hardware not unabashed Apple loving.

    There are enough Apple adoring sites that will claim that iPad makes a great cup of coffee in the morning and the keyboard can control the launch of the shuttle. Let's not make Anandtech one of those.

    Thanks for a great job for the most part. Keep up the good work.
  • Some1ne - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    I would have to agree. At the very least this review could have called Apple out over selling a $69 keyboard when for a couple dollars more per-unit they could have included a USB/mini-USB port that would allow users to connect their existing keyboards, and provided a cheap plastic stand to hold the iPad at "optimum typing angle". That would accomplish the same thing, without forcing users who have already paid a premium for access to the device to pay even more for the "privilege" of being able to use a keyboard with it.

    Viewed in that light, the keyboard dock really appears as little more than a complete rip-off, and the iPad gives the impression of being designed with exactly this sort of thing in mind. It's like the antithesis for Google's "do no evil" motto.
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    At first I thought this had to be a joke, then I realized it was an actual review but I ws still half right - it seems like a joke that it was stretched out to 3 pages! ;D

    This made me 'lol' though: "For example, if you type netbook the iPad will by default suggest "net book". " What happens if you type 'Adobe Flash'?
  • Griswold - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    It will suggest "go to hell".

    Seriously, even within Jobs reality distortion field(tm) down there in Apple-la-la-land they must have heard about netbooks. I mean the guru himself mentioned them. In anger (we dont make netbooks because we dont make crappy devices), but he knows they exist!
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    We get it, it's a large iPod touch that is bad at almost everything, and certainly worse than a netbook, and worse value.

    No-one cares

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