Posted by Jim Martin 22 November 2013
Photobox iPad Keyboard Case review: personalise it with your own photos
£65 inc VAT
Photobox is one of the biggest names in online photo printing, and has long offered a wide range of gifts. You can have a special photo printed on pretty much everything these days including iPhone and iPad cases.
Getting your photo on the back of a keyboard case isn't a cheap business, although if you catch a special offer you might only pay £50 instead of the usual £65 plus postage costs. See also: Best keyboard cases for the iPad
The ordering process is utterly simple. You can pick one or more photos from your online albums or, if you don't store any photos on Photobox's servers, upload some from your PC.
You can choose to have a single picture printed on the metal case, or opt for one of the templates that have room for several. It's easy to drag and drop photos into place and then more precisely line them up exactly how you want them to appear. Photobox's system will warn you if your photos are poor quality (in other words they don't have enough pixels and will appear blocky), which helps to avoid costly mistakes.
Once you're happy, you choose a delivery address and make the payment. Our case took only a couple of days to arrive.
Our immediate thoughts were that the print quality wasn't quite up to Photobox's usual high standards. Peering up close, photos look a little fuzzy, and colours are a bit overblown. However, the overall effect is excellent and - as a gift - it will undoubtedly be well received.
UPDATE: Because of our comments about print quality on the first keyboard, Photobox offered to print up and send out a replacement. We chose a full-size image to cover the entire case and are happy to report that colours were much more natural. Photobox says this is because a colour enhancement option is enabled by default when you design the case. With it turned off, as it was with the second case, results are much better.
Unfortunately, the keyboard itself is less successful. It's quick and easy to pair the Bluetooth device with your iPad (it works with an iPad 2, 3 or 4), and the little flip-up stand and slot holds an iPad at a decent angle. It's fairly sturdy, too, so you can type on your lap without worrying about your tablet falling on the floor.
The board is quite rigid and doesn't flex too much. Even the layout is good, with well-sized keys that are generally in the positions you'd expect them to be. We're not fans of the half-height Enter key but the shortcut keys to volume, brightness and the playback controls on the top row are welcome.
The fatal flaw is that the keys aren't nearly sensitive enough. Each one has plenty of travel but they all need a good hit to register, particularly the spacebar. Even when you've adjusted your force and begun to really hammer at the keys, they don't like it when you attempt to type quickly. Or slowly, for that matter.
Regardless of typing speed, some of your keystrokes will be omitted. Key combinations were a problem too. The Shift key is ignored about half the time, we found, making it nearly impossible to capitalise a word or sentence.
The case itself fits onto the iPad just like an Apple Smart Cover (see Best cases and covers for the new iPad) using magnets. Like Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, Photobox's offers no protection for the rear of your iPad, but as the hinge design is the same as Apple's it will fit if you already have a rear shell that's compatible with the Smart Cover.
Photobox iPad keyboard case: Verdict
A personalised keyboard case for the iPad sounds like a great idea, and we'd have liked Photobox's a whole lot more if it had a better keyboard. As it stands, typing is a hit and miss affair that's - if anything - not as pleasant as using the on-screen keyboard. If you're sold on the idea of a personalised iPad case, Photobox offers both a rear shell (compatible with Apple's Smart Cover) and a 'cover' which is just like Apple's and works with the rear shell so you can have photos on the front and back.