Those who have read some of my previous work know that I’ve not always been a huge admirer of Apple. While their products have always been incredibly beautifully designed, I’ve always found them to be quite restrictive.
Last year, however, my Asus Transformer TF101 gave up the ghost, and I was rendered tablet-less for weeks on end. Oh, the horror! In the spirit of the holiday season (it was about December), I decided to bury the hatchet and buy the iPad Air, the first tablet in the world to have a 64-bit chip, allowing for faster processing speeds.
I’ll admit it here and now: I immediately fell in love with my iDevice. Sure, iOS is a little more constrictive, but the apps are beautiful, the iPad itself is light, and it functions without a hitch. The only problem I had was that there was no keyboard. Armed with a leather multi-angled stand / cover, I was able to type pretty quick and coherent messages, but always missed the tactile experience of a proper keyboard.
Enter the Clamcase Pro – a BlueTooth keyboard case, designed specifically for the iPad Air. With its Macbook-esque looks, chiclet keyboard, and a hinge that’s as flexible as an Olympic gymnast, it looked like the perfect choice for someone who was quickly and deeply falling in love with the iDevice aesthetic.
It’s obvious, from the get go, that the Clamcase Pro was designed to fit the iPad Air like a glove. Not only are there cut outs for the rear camera and clicky buttons for the volume rocker, but there are also tiny little holes that match the speaker grill on the iPad precisely and perfectly.
In fact, the Clamcase looks so embedded in the Apple ‘ecosystem’, that the hole for the headphone jack doesn’t accommodate headphone cables that are bigger than those on Apple’s own earphones! This has been met with consternation by several buyers, several of whom [including me] have ended up resorting to DIY tactics to ensure other headphones will fit.
There is one ‘switch’ on the device itself, and it’s a tiny, sliding button that turns the keyboard on or off.
The device is easy to pair, and the end-to-end process takes under 10 seconds, and the keyboard is lightening fast. It automatically shuts off after a extended periods of non-use, and will wake automatically if keys are pressed. The keyboard also turns off if the hinge is bent back at an angle past that of a typical ‘laptop’ angle, so it can be used as a media stand.
Looks beautiful? Check.
But how does it fare against the sands of time?
One Year On…
They say that beauty doesn’t last forever. That statement holds especially true for the Clamcase, unfortunately, despite it being just over a year old.
Some of its imperfections were planned and caused by necessity. As a result of the headphone jack issue, my Clamcase’s headphone jack has been crudely widened – but squint a bit, or look at it from afar, and you won’t tell that it’s a hasty, home rectification.
However, other parts of the device have sprouted very strange cracks – both on the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the case. Whilst the case remains structurally intact when the hinge is bent at 90 degrees or less, bending it further means that the case opens up, and the iPad springs free. The interior aluminium-esque trim of the keyboard is coming off of the base of the keyboard, despite the case not being dropped or manhandled in any way.
The cracks appeared superficial at first, but then began to appear right through the case, and required hasty and rather ugly mending with epoxy putty [which, again, doesn’t appear too bad if you squint] and duct tape [which looks horrendous even if you close your eyes].
Thankfully, however, despite the strange signs of battering and bruising that the Clamcase exhibits, it still functions almost perfectly. The keyboard is a joy to type on, the function keys on the top row are a blessing for quick access to certain features, and the multi-functional hinge is still incredibly versatile [when the case isn’t spitting your iPad out as you use it].
So, the bottom line is that, if you’re buying this case to appease people who look at you as you use it [and, let’s be completely honest here, isn’t that half the reason for buying a device and accessories that look so good?], you’ll be disappointed [and disappointing them!] after a year. But if you prefer function over fashion, this is a great keyboard, and can inspire and augment productivity on the go.