Back in March, we had a little debate concerning keyboard cases for the iPad and whether they were a productive accessory or just an unnecessary burden. Jonathan Kizer argued that typing on an external keyboard is much easier than on the iPad’s software keyboard, whereas Pedro Lobo mentioned that they were more of a hindrance than a tool to speed up your productivity, citing the useful shortcuts built into many apps such as WriteUp.
Soon after this, we were contacted by The Snugg, a popular manufacturer of a wide range of iPad and iPhone accessories and I thought in keeping to our theme, we would review their Bluetooth keyboard and case offering. Here are my thoughts.
My first impressions of the Snugg case were, on the whole, good. It was thin and light and I couldn’t see it taking up much space in my bag, which is really important (in my opinion, anyway) for a keyboard case — it shouldn’t be an unnecessary burden. The design of it is fairly simple: you just place your iPad in and start tapping away. The case only supports the iPad in landscape mode, unfortunately, and if you try to stand it up in portrait mode the sheer weight of the iPad will tip over.
Upon closer inspection, though, I found the case to be a bit flimsy and it felt cheap, which is a tad disappointing. There were several careless manufacturing errors, such as the wonky writing on the Option and Command buttons and the fact that the lower-right hand side of the case started to lift up (probably due to lack of glue) after only a couple of minutes of use, meaning that I had to press it down to properly tap the Right Shift button. This may have just been a manufacturing anomaly with my case, however, and I cannot speak for others manufactured, but it is something that I felt like mentioning here.
The case comes with a charging cable and charging it was done via a standard mini USB connector. It took about an hour for it to charge up fully via the USB port on my MacBook and the manufacturers claim a 55 hour battery life — I used it heavily for this review and found the battery life to be really good (i.e. it didn’t run out).
There’s unfortunately no way of knowing how much juice is left in the case until the little Charge light starts flashing. I would personally have liked to have seen a little power gauge showing me how much oomph is left in the battery but that’s me being picky and I don’t think everyone would appreciate this feature.
Setting It Up
Pairing the keyboard with my iPad was extremely straightforward and the instructions that came with the case were very simple to follow. All you have to do is hold down the little Connect button on the side of the case then find it in your iPad’s Bluetooth devices, enter a passcode and you’re off. The keyboard switches off automatically (there’s also an on/off switch if you want to turn it off for prolonged periods) after 15 minutes when you’re not using it, and reactivates when you strike a key. I found this feature pretty nifty, especially as I’m Mr Forgetful himself when it comes to turning off gadgets.
If you’ve seen or used a Mac keyboard, then the Snugg case won’t cause any nasty surprises. The layout is extremely similar to Apple’s offering, with the Fn, Ctrl, Option/Alt and Command keys all in the same place (and for some commands they also work with iOS, such as Cmd + A for select all, Cmd + C for copy, and so on) so when it came to typing on it, I could get started straight away.
The Snugg case also provides you with a number of nifty shortcuts to the most useful commands for your iPad, such as the brightness and volume control, the ability to launch Safari from any application, the standard music controls and the ability to switch between different keyboards. I found myself saving a lot of time with these shortcut keys and they did come in use on a number of different occasions.
The keyboard was a standard U.S. layout so I found myself hunting around for my beloved pound sterling key on a number of different occasions. Of course, this didn’t degrade the experience with the Snugg keyboard case, but it is something worth considering if you don’t use a U.S. keyboard.
I did, however, run into a number of issues with the layout. Firstly, the right Shift key is far too small (especially when compared to my MacBook’s keyboard) and the one on the left is too big. On several occasions, I found myself hitting the Up key (the key directly left of the right Shift key) and this did start to grate after a while. Secondly, the Backspace key kept sticking on occasion, meaning that my sentence would be randomly deleted. Again, this may have been a defect with my particular case, but it did start to irritate me profusely.
As A Case
The Snugg keyboard also doubles up as a case, though I certainly wouldn’t use it solely for this purpose. Although it provides a good level of protection to your iPad and its precious screen, I found getting the iPad out of it (especially with my short nails) was quite cumbersome. The case doesn’t attach magnetically – simply via a couple of clips – and it was quite awkward to remove my iPad when I wanted to use it.
I would personally use my existing case (an Apple Smart Cover) then simply carry the keyboard in my bag (it hardly weighs anything) and set it up when I want to use it. I know it’s a bit cumbersome but it’s a lot easier than having to wrench your iPad from the Snugg case every time you want to use it.
The Snugg case is a bit of a mixed batch, to be perfectly honest with you. Whilst I admire its portability and ease of use, I don’t like the fact that it feels cheap and a little bit flimsy. The most glaring issue that I encountered whilst reviewing it was that my case didn’t sit flat on my desk, so every time I tapped a key the left edge clacked against the wood (I did use a spirit level on my desk to check as well – it was perfectly flat). The solution to this was to wedge the piece of card that came with the case (as part of the packaging) underneath the left side of the case to stop it wobbling. Yet again, this may have been a manufacturing fault, but I deem it worthy of mentioning to any potential buyers.
At $50, the Snugg case is geared towards the middle end of the market and I personally it’s quite good value for money. The shortcuts are very convenient and I can type on it a lot quicker than my standard software keyboard (this review was written entirely on it in Byword) however the sub-par build quality of it didn’t impress me, though. Sure, you get what you pay for, but for $50, I expected something a bit better made.
In short, therefore, if you’re looking for a simple iPad keyboard case but aren’t that bothered how it looks then by all means, go for the Snugg‘s case. But, if you’re looking for quality and something which is aesthetically pleasing and doubles up as a useful iPad case (i.e. one that’s easy to remove) then I’d probably recommend spending your cash elsewhere.
If you’ve got this case and think differently, or if you’ve encountered the same issues as I did then we’d love to hear from you – please let your thoughts be known in the Comments section below!