ClamCase for iPad Review: A Keyboard That Tries to Turn Your iPad Into a Mini-Laptop
At a Glance
If you miss netbooks but love your iPad, this keyboard case is a good choice for getting that laptop feel with your iPad.
The ClamCase ($149 as of May 11, 2012) takes a straightforward approach to the idea of adding a keyboard to your iPad by turning it into a laptop. Made of a sturdy matte plastic, the case surrounds the iPad and attaches via a hinge in the back to the keyboard base. Unfortunately, this model stumbles in usability and design.
The ClamCase looks like a sleek netbook when closed. It's also about the size and weight of a netbook, adding 1.6 pounds to the 1.44 pounds of the iPad, bringing the whole package in at just over 3 pounds.
Most keyboard cases require you to slide the bottom edge of the iPad into a slot directly behind the keyboard to prop it up in typing mode. Since the ClamCase relies on a sturdy hinge to keep the iPad at the proper angle, you don't have to reposition the iPad when you open the case.
Many cases give you only a single groove to fit the iPad into, providing just one viewing angle for the screen. ClamCase's unique double hinge gives you every angle, from closed to flat on the table. It even keeps going around the back, so you can fold it completely inside out to hold the tablet up with the keyboard behind it.
The other thing you get with the ClamCase--something that you don't see in cover- or folio-style cases--is a wrist rest. Because the iPad sits at the very back of the case, there's room for a genuine wrist rest in front of the keyboard. It looks like it should have a touchpad in the middle, but that wouldn't accomplish much since the iPad doesn't support cursor navigation on screen.
Unfortunately, this setup has one major drawback: It’s top-heavy. On a table, at my preferred angle, it was no problem; when I used it on my lap, I had to keep my hands down on the wrist rest, or the entire thing--iPad and all--would tip backward.
The other annoyance I found in the design is that the wrist rest doesn't angle down in front of the spacebar enough, so pressing the spacebar fully is difficult. I missed spaces multiple times because my thumb ran into the edge of the wrist rest before I pressed down enough on the spacebar.
The bottom of the case has four rubber feet to hold it steady on a table, and the top piece has all the cutouts for buttons, ports, and cameras. The standard Micro-USB port for charging is on the back of the right side, along with an LED to indicate charging status. On the top right of the keyboard deck are two additional LEDs indicating caps lock and Bluetooth pairing mode.
The keyboard itself is well spaced to make the most of the limited width of the iPad. The keys are flat, island-style shapes, but they have hardly any separation between them; touch typists will find that the arrangement makes it harder to feel the difference between keys.
The travel depth is good, just as you would expect from a deck that has the thickness of a netbook without any actual components underneath it to limit the keyboard. However, the mechanism under the keys is not good. The keys are stiff, which means you'll frequently miss key presses. I typed this review on the ClamCase, and I lost many e's and spaces along the way, mostly the e at the end of the (which you might have noticed appears several times in this review).
This keyboard also has one of the shortest times before it goes to sleep of any that I have tried. I keep waking my iPad to see the on-screen keyboard because the Bluetooth ClamCase has gone to sleep. As much as I want to like this case, the design drives me crazy enough that I couldn’t type on it over the long haul, let alone recommend it.