Kensington KeyCover Plus iPad Air full review

The Kensington KeyCover Plus for iPad Air an iPad keyboard that aims to enhance the iPad Air. Kensington's KeyCover Plus for iPad transforms Apple’s tablet into an effective laptop-style device. Clipping into the iPad Air, the KeyCover Plus acts as both a case and keyboard cover for the iPad.

On the outside, the Kensington KeyCover Plus looks like a regular iPad Case. A solid block of anodized plastic that the iPad clips into (face down to protect the screen). On the inside of the KeyCover Plus for iPad Air's cover sits a plastic keyboard with a groove at the top to act as a stand. You unclip the iPad Air from the keyboard and sit it vertically in the groove to work.

Our review of the Kensington KeyCover Plus looks at the following:

  • Is the Kensington KeyCover for iPad Air good to type on?
  • Does the KeyCover for iPad Air protect the iPad?
  • What is the Kensington KeyCover for iPad Air backlit keyboard like to use?

Kensington KeyCover Plus side view

What is the KeyCover Plus for iPad Air like to type on?

The most important aspect of any keyboard case is the keyboard itself. We found typing on the Kensington KeyCover Plus for iPad Air to be comfortable and easy to type on. As with all iPad Air keyboards the matching size and shape of the keyboard mean a slightly reduced footprint. But Kensington seems to have found a good balance. The keys are also the square plastic (AKA ‘chiclet’) style rather than rubberised. On the whole it’s very much like a regular Apple keyboard.

Unlike some other iPad keyboards we have tested, the KeyCover Plus has a separate Caps Lock key and both Left and Right shift keys, as well as separate Arrow and Function keys. The Function keys are wide ranging including one-button access to Home, Multitasking, Siri and Spotlight.

See also:

Kensington KeyCover Plus keyboard

Looking at the KeyCover Plus backlight

The KeyCover Plus for iPad Air is the first keyboard we've used for the iPad that features backlighting. This is a feature found on most MacBooks where the keys light up in low level lighting. It has lighting giving a swish futuristic feel to the keyboard. The colour is white by default, but the keyboard shortcut enables you to cycle through a range of different colours: blue, red, green, cyan, purple, and lime. Another function key is used to control the brightness and On/Off setting of the keyboard. While the keys on a MacBook light up automatically (via a built-in light sensor) on the KeyCover Plus you need to switch it on and off, and control the brightness setting, using the keys.

Having a backlight feature on the iPad keyboard is a swish feature. But it's worth remembering that the keyboard is battery powered from a small internal charge. We found the backlit keyboard quickly drained our battery. The clip on nature of the case compounds this problem, because it does not turn off the iPad automatically (as a Smart Cover would).

On top of this, the Kensington KeyCover uses Bluetooth 3.0 (according to this specification sheet) rather than the new, low-power, Bluetooth 4.0. This means that the KeyCover will continue to drain power from the iPad when it is connected. Even when it is not in use.

So you need to be careful to switch off both the iPad and the keyboard before stowing it away. Fortunately the KeyCover Plus has an easily accessible On/Off Switch. But battery drain is still an aspect we'd watch out for. If you forget to turn off the KeyCover or the iPad then you’re going to look at a battery drain for both devices, especially if you’re using it with a backlit keyboard.

The Kensington website claims a working time of 110 hours and standby time of 40 days. This is a reasonable claim given the 250mAh battery, but this will not include the backlit keyboard.

As with all iPad keyboards we have some reservations about the price: does it really deserve to be £99? Apple’s own wireless keyboard comes in at £59, and that’s not considered cheap. The Kensington KeyCover is not alone in hovering around the £80 - £100 mark though, and this seems to be where all iPad keyboards are sitting at the moment. And at least the Kensington KeyCover does feature a backlit keyboard to help justify the additional expense.

What is the KeyCover Plus like to use?

We took the Kensington KeyCover Plus on a train into London to test it out for this review. The iPad Air clips neatly and securely into the KeyCover Plus case, and the whole iPad Air felt secure in our bag. The KeyCover Plus is light too, weighing in at just 54 grams the KeyCover adds very little weight or bulk to the iPad Air.

One thing we found disappointing was that the KeyCover Plus for iPad Air does not hold an iPad Air snapped in facing up. This means it is a detachable case that transforms into a portable keyboard, rather than a case for general use.

Unclipping the iPad Air from the KeyCover is easy enough, but it is a snap system rather than the magnetic system found on the Apple Smart. So it is a case of prising both apart, rather than magnetically unsnapping the keyboard off. The keyboard remained upright in the KeyCover groove throughout the journey, when we used it on a lap.

On the whole we found the Kensington KeyCover Plus an easy and light keyboard to use. We have some concerns about the battery life and backlighting, and would perhaps prefer not to have to unclip the iPad Air from a case to use it. It’s a sturdy case, however, and a good keyboard.


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