iPad Week: Choosing a Keyboard

Q: I have an iPad, but it takes me too long to type out emails. Can you suggest a keyboard?

Toccata.jpgA: Out of the office last week, I followed the Apple press conference, during which Steve Jobs announced a new operating system and other Apple goodies, on Twitter. When he confirmed that the new MacBook Air would be smaller and lighter than ever -- rumors had been floating around the tech blogosphere for some time -- but cost more than I had hoped, I wrote, "So it's basically just an ipad with a $400 keyboard, right?"

I was corrected. The Wi-Fi-enabled model of the iPad with a 64GB flash drive (the same hard drive space in the basic MacBook Air) will run you $699. So the Air, with a base price of $999, is basically an iPad with a $300 keyboard.

With the MacBook Air you'll get a computer that runs a full version of OS X, a better processor and a dedicated graphics chip, but the iPad seems to be working just fine for early adopters. Sales numbers, too, show the iPad to be the future of the portable computing market.

If you use the iPad to send a lot of emails or want to avoid using the touch screen for another reason, then it's time to invest in a keyboard.

You have lots of options, including two sold directly by Apple. In its online store, Apple offers an iPad Keyboard Dock and a Wireless Keyboard for $69 each. But my money is with the Toccata Keyboard from PADACS, which received a glowing review this morning from Chris Taylor on Fast Company. Priced at $69.95, the Toccata comes with a synthetic leather case that gives it a professional look and provides protection to both it and your iPad.

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"Like the best products in the Apple ecosystem, the Toccata just works," Taylor wrote. "It connects automatically via Bluetooth when you press any key, and switches itself off when not in use. You recharge it via USB after 45 hours of runtime, a welcome relief to those of us who've been using the battery-powered Apple Bluetooth keyboard, which can die at the most inopportune moments."

There is one negative point to make: The Toccata isn't a full-size keyboard. It's the same size as the iPad screen so that the two can be stored together in the case without adding bulk. As a result, some keys are placed where you will have to relearn them.

But that's a minor point. Just as you learned how to type with your thumbs when texting, you can learn where the keys are on this keyboard. Especially if it means saving a couple hundred bucks.

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