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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  • nycromes - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    All of the issues you brought up in this review will surely be fixed, but of course, only in iPad Keyboard Dock v2 or v3. All who bought it will be required to buy the new version because Apple for some reason released a limited product (Who would have thunk it?).

    Anand, please please please put the kool-aid glass down... look at these quotes

    "This truly is a computing platform for people who don't really need a computer" what does that even mean? It just sounds so Apple. Nonsense phrase that has no quantifiable meaning, I think most here would agree that we come to this site for quantifiable reviews.

    "There are some elements of the whole keyboard dock setup that really do seem like Apple thought of everything." How can you say this at the bottom of a page of limitations and odd behavior?

    "It's great that Apple enabled some keyboard shortcuts" these should be functions of the OS, not the keyboard. They really shouldn't have to enable anything at this level. Its not like there are media keys or anything on the keyboard, its pretty much a standard layout.

    I can appreciate that you were trying very hard to be objective, but you have bought into the Apple mentality. To anyone who isn't a fanboy, its glaringly obvious and extremely annoying (as you can see from the comments on these posts). All the same, thanks for giving us a glimpse into the iPad and it's usability.
  • streak24 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Here, let me fix that one sentence for Anand...

    "This truly is a tech website for people who don't really need a tech website, at least not all of the power and capabilities of a full fledged tech website."

    Seriously, I had to double check to see if I had accidentally clicked my way to Gizmodo when I saw the front page this morning.

  • snoozemode - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Acer Aspire 1820PT. I say no more.

  • michal1980 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    after reading both of these pad 'reviews'

    Negatives get brushed away under the rug, the postives get blown up like a hot air balloon.

    So its more expensive, slower, and does less then a netbook. But you can touch it. OMG. Change your panties there wet all the way over here.

    Just like a middle school girl when she hears Justin Bieber (had to google thisguy).
  • Herald85 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Nice Subject ;p

    I agree with you on a certain level. The negative seems to be quite easily dismissed. But the touch interface is indeed the good part. It's intuitive and fast. I don't own a single Apple device but the iPhone / iPad interface I tried (my aunt owns an iPhone 3GS) works so much better than my Samsung Star, Windows XP (Acer netbook) and even my desktops Win7. The market this is aimed at do not care if this device is slower than a netbook. They don't care it's too expensive.

    You do realise this exact exchange of 'blah fanboi' 'yes fanboi but still valid point' happens on every website where they review Apple products? :)
  • Sunsmasher - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    You tech heads still don't get it.
    The ipad is for REGULAR FOLKS, not techies.
    Anand mentioned that he understood it better after a week.
    This device in CONVENIENT and USABLE, as well as aesthetic and beautiful.
    Yes, it's too expensive right now, but that will change.
    This thing is potentially a major paradigm shifter.
  • Aloonatic - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Yeah, that seems to be what a lot of people don't get about some products. The issue of value with a pure home consumer oriented product like this is different to that of a business/productivity device and cannot be so easily quantified. Yes, you can get more pixels, GBs or GHz somewhere else I'm sure, but that is not the whole story or reason why the general home user buys something like this.

    I can't say I'm sold on this however, especially when you take into account the cost of all the accessories that you will probably need to buy to get the most out of this, as the apparent "fanboy" reviewer pointed out himself in other reviews.

    I'll probably do what I did with my smart phone. Wait for Apple to show the way, work out the bugs, get people (users and devs) used to the idea and problems with a tablet and then get the Android version that will come along with more features at a lower price. For what it is, a coffee table/throw in your back back magazine replacement, it's waaaay too expensive for my blood, but these are early adopter times and prices, and if anyone knows how to milk people and use prestige pricing/marketing it's Apple.

    You could probably go back it the first iPhone review and find people saying similar sort of things, like it's too expensive and no general consumer will want to pay that much and use it when it can't make phone calls well etc, yet that took off. I expect something similar, but not in quite such an exaggerated way.
  • cfaalm - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Change? I wouldn't hold my breath for any Apple price cuts, especially on their "Precious".

    I think Apple should also sell a special no buttons iPad mouse for $69 LOL
  • nafhan - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    The iPad is not for regular folks - at all. Even Steve said it's for use as a second or third computer. The iPad is supposed to fit in between a "real" computer (desktop or laptop) and a smartphone, and the only people I know who have more than one computer are the techie types or those with money to burn.
    I would wait about a year before recommending the iPad to non-technical types to make sure that it sells well (and will thus be supported for a while), and to see if the HTML5 video situation has improved.
  • michal1980 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    How is it for regular folks?

    Regular folks that some how have a wireless router in their house but no other computers?

    Or regular folks that some how are too stupid to use a regular computer, yet smart enough to use an iPad that without extras (like wireless internet in your house) is useless?

    How are these regular folks going to use the iPad without another PC around? This thing almost requires another PC to function.

    so please stop with the la-la fantasy Apple Kool-aid, that this device that required another PC to function, is somehow going to be a PC-Lite for people that dont get PC's. Because that line of thinking quite frankly makes you stupid

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