The Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air is the latest entrant in the contest for the best iPad case. Just as an aside, I don't think the contest for the best Android tablet keyboard is quite as fierce. The iOS ecosystem is a huge advantage. Presently, there are some excellent keyboard options for all versions of the iPad, including the mini. But perfection is a tough target to hit. Some are close. None are them are perfect. They all have some flaw which keeps the iPad typist continually looking for something even better than what they have.

I have been rocking the Zagg Folio, which is a full-bodied case for the iPad Air. In the last couple of years, I have become a fan of Zagg keyboards. The Zagg Folia is one of the best ways to turn the iPad into a laptop. However, the iPad is not a laptop; it is a tablet. The Zagg Folio keeps the iPad in laptop mode, while making it very difficult to use it as a tablet. If I wanted a full-time laptop, I would just buy a laptop. We buy iPad keyboards so that we can live the hybrid lifestyle. Almost every other iPad keyboard is a better choice in that regard. 

Enter the Belkin QODE line of cases. Let me just acknowledge that I am not a huge fan of Belkin products. I was very skeptical to even give this keyboard a try, and for good reason that I will get to later. This is not even close to the perfect keyboard. But it is an excellent keyboard case. Here's what I mean: If you were to take the Belkin case and pair it with a Zagg or Logitech keyboard, you might actually get the perfect iPad keyboard case. 

The QODE provides almost everything you want in a case. This is the thinnest and lightest full-bodied iPad case I have personally used. It always seemed a shame to take something as sleek and light as the iPad Air and weigh it down with a boat anchor of a case. This is the first I have used that feels like a good match for the weight and size. 

I also give Belkin props for making it easy to install and uninstall the iPad. Though the iPad is secure in the case, it does not feel trapped in the enclosure. When in use, no part of the iPad is obstructed. The speakers, ports, and buttons are all accessible. Often overlooked by case makers is the front of the device. The Zagg makes it nigh unto impossible to access Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. In that case, you can't get to the bottom of the screen. In the QODE, the iPad's front is just as accessible as it's other critical bits.

Perhaps the best part of the design is that while in the case, the iPad can still be used as a tablet. You do not have to remove the iPad and find a place to set aside the case. You can either fold the iPad so that it lays mostly flat over the keys, or fold the case all the way back leaving the keys exposed in the back. Choosing that option allows you to fold the iPad even flatter. Which you should choose is a matter of taste. The case is only on, and the keys active when the iPad is in typing position. So when in tablet mode, there are no accidental key presses. 

That brings us to another aspect of this case's design and function. The iPad rests in typing position on the strength of magnets. There are three viewing angles supported by these magnets. They are plenty strong enough to justify using the iPad on the lap as one would a laptop. Regardless of the angle of your lap, there is no sense that the iPad is going to be dislodged by vigorous typing. Reaching up and performing four and five finger gestures also does not break the grip of the magnets.

When you do detach the iPad from the keyboard magnets for whatever reason, the keyboard automatically turns itself off. When you fold it back in tablet mode, the keyboard turns off. When you close the case for transport, the keyboard turns off. This means that the long-lasting battery will last even longer, as you cannot accidentally leave the case powered on when not in use. The reverse is also true. When the iPad is set up for typing by being engaged in one of the magnetic slots, the keyboard automatically powers on with little delay. That eliminates the need for an on\off switch. So thoroughly is the need eliminated, such a switch has indeed been omitted. 

As an iPad keyboard case, the QODE is superior. As a keyboard, there is still something left to be desired. How do you feel about colons and apostrophes? I seem to be a dying breed of people who still uses all available punctuations. I also type reasonably fast. This keyboard is a problem for such as me. Belkin uses a nonstandard configuration of keys which is anathema to touch typists. We expect the keys to be in a certain place. Our speed comes from the fact that we do not have to think about where the keys are. We know from years of muscle memory. Belkin messes with that successful formula.

The colon has been moved to the modifier row just to the right of the spacebar. The apostrophe has been jammed up against the "L". You are guaranteed to hit the return key when you were trying to make and apostrophe or quote. It is also going to cost you a beat when trying to strike a colon. Periods and comas are fine. But slashes and question marks will also take a bit of reorienting. I wouldn't call any of it a deal breaker. But it is all extremely annoying. This is especially true because there is so little else to be upset about. I am making fewer typos to correct than I did with the Zagg, or the Logitech before that. This keyboard has a lot going for it. I would rather Belkin had made the right-shift and return as half-sized keys, leaving everything in a standard configuration. Their choice was a mistake that will turn many good typists off of this offering.

So far, I find the efficiency of fewer typos to be worth the offset of a half-second consideration for certain punctuations. The choice to do this was unnecessary. The people who designed this keyboard layout clearly do not write long form. The only people who need a keyboard case for their iPad are those who write long form. It is as if Belkin wanted to purposely find something that reviewers could universally complain about. The only people not complaining about this are those who are not touch typists. Ignore their opinions. 

That said, I like everything else about this case so much, I am willing to continue using it as my primary iPad keyboard. I can even recommend this keyboard, though somewhat grudgingly. If you use a lot of punctuations outside of comas and periods, you will experience a bit of frustration and lag. But your frustration and lag will be canceled out by everything else that the case does well. Functionally, the keyboard is excellent save for a couple of bewildering key placements. My advice is to try it, but save the box. Chances are, you are going to want to find reasons to keep it. If you do decide to buy it, go Amazon. You will save a significant amount of money.

David Johnson