Apple iPad, Day 16: Setting Up My iPad Workstation

30 Days With the iPad: Day 16

The size, weight, battery life, and other attributes of the iPad 2 make it a solid choice for computing on the go, but most of the time I am just sitting at my desk. Today I am going to explore how to set the iPad up at my desk to connect with a monitor and keyboard for everyday use.

Even though my PC is a rather smallish notebook--a Dell XPS M1330--it spends the vast majority of its time pretending to be a desktop. It sits tucked under my desk with three things connected to it: a power cord, an HDMI cable, and a USB hub. That USB hub further connects to the wireless mouse and keyboard, speakers, webcam, scanner, external storage drive(s), and other such things.

The Digital AV Adapter lets me mirror my iPad display over HDMI to my desktop monitor.
The goal of my exercise today, then, is to try and recreate some similar set up using the iPad in place of my netbook. Some of my devices--like my keyboard, or maybe even my USB headset--might be able to work using the iPad camera kit, but most of the peripherals I use with my notebook will not work with the iPad 2 so I will need to find equivalents or workarounds.

I appreciate the Logitech Keyboard Case that I got for the iPad 2. It works just fine as a protective cover for the glass front of the iPad 2 while in transit, and gives me the option of using a physical keyboard for more typing intensive tasks on the go. That said, it is a tiny netbook-style keyboard, and not one that I would choose to do the lion's share of my work if I am sitting here at my desk. Nor would I prefer to do all of my work on the iPad's 9-inch display when I have a 23-inch monitor sitting in front of me.

First, I got the Apple Digital AV Adapter. It connects to the iPad's 30-pin dock connector, and provides a pass-through 30-pin dock connector so you can still connect the iPad to power, as well as an HDMI port. I connected the HDMI cable from my monitor, and voila! The display on my iPad 2 is now mirrored to my monitor.

There are two issues I have with this setup, though. First, I needed to lock the orientation of the iPad to landscape to keep it from rotating the display. Second, I have a wide monitor, and even in landscape the input from the iPad did not fill the screen. I had black bars on either side of the display.

Next I got a full-size Bluetooth keyboard to use. As I mentioned above, it is theoretically possible to hack together a solution using the iPad camera connection kit that might let me use my current keyboard. However, my keyboard is actually wireless and uses a USB transceiver. I'm not sure how well the iPad can daisy chain devices (30-pin connector to digital AV adapter to camera connection kit to USB keyboard), plus doing so would take away my ability to leave the iPad connected to power while in use.

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