After recently spending time looking for a quality stylus, I switched gears to take a look at another Bluetooth keyboard case for the iPad. Even though the TruGlide stylus that I reviewed last week proved to be a great find, it is unfortunately one of only a few available that are worth the cost of admission. Well, at least in my humble opinion.
Keyboard cases, however, are a much different story, as there are several products available that are quite solid, and a few that rise even to the level of exceptional. I have reviewed both the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case for iPad 2 by ZAGG and the ZAGGfolio and also own an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard paired with an Incase Origami Workstation. All of these are excellent choices for iPad users looking for an easier way to type. Also, Thomas took a look at the very popular Adonit Pro a few months back, which he gave a solid thumbs up. In other words, we know our Bluetooth keyboards around here.
Despite this, I have to confess that I’ve slipped a bit lately. I have been so satisfied with the ZAGGfolio since my review, that I had honestly stopped looking for other alternatives. I guess that’s how Targus’ Versavu Keyboard and Case escaped my notice for a while. I was aware of their Versavu case, which has a very unique design (more on that in a moment), but didn’t know about the more recent keyboard version of this case until a reader named John mentioned it and asked if I could do a review in a comment on my original ZAGGfolio review. So, here we are. Can the Targus Versavu take the ZAGGfolio’s place at my side? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
I actually got an iPad 2 version of the Versavu Keyboard Case to review, even though I have a new iPad. At first I thought this might be an problem, but before sending it back, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I found that it actually works perfectly, even with the extra thickness of my Best Skins Ever rear skin factored in. I can put my new iPad in and take it out without any extra force or any damage to my rear skin.
Even though the iPad 2 version of the Versavu works fine for the new iPad, Targus now offers a recently updated version made specifically for the new iPad. In talking with the PR personnel from Targus, I learned that there are few differences between the two versions. First, the new version is slightly larger, to work with the new iPad’s increased thickness. Second, while both the iPad 2 and new iPad models are both offered with the same Black or White exteriors, the interior of the White models are different shades of Blue. The iPad 2?s case is much brighter, while the new iPad model is much more subdued looking. Speaking of looks……….
Look and Feel
This is the area where the Versavu really stands out from the keyboard cases that I have used in the past. Most of the exterior surface of the case has a soft, faux-leather covering on top of what feels like either a stiff cardboard or flexible plastic pieces.
All around, this material feels very nice in the hand, but also seems to be durable enough for basic protection, as well. There have been a couple of occasions where I sat the case on an uneven surface, which left a few slight indentions in the material (which is normal for any softer material). However, as you can see from the picture below, it has consistently regained its smooth original shape.
The top half of the iPad section of the case feels similar to the touch, but is actually quite different from the rest of the case. While the leather material on the outside is the same, this shell of this half is made from a much harder plastic. On the inside of the case, this is the piece that the back of the iPad snaps into to protect it from bumps and bruises, and secure it while using the keyboard.
Targus did a nice job of integrating as much of the look and feel as possible, while providing additional protection for the iPad. So, when you put it all together, the Versavu has a solid combination of a soft, comfortable to hold exterior, with the added protection of a hard shell.
Like most of the other popular cases available for the various iPad models, the Versavu has all of the necessary cutouts, openings, and notches for the camera, dock connector, headphone jack, sleep button, and volume adjustment buttons.
Thankfully, like any good case, the openings do not sacrifice its stability, or its level of protection.
The most unique design element of the Versavu is on the outside of the case on the side that holds the iPad. Just like its keyboard-less cousin, this case has a circular opening in the center that shows off the Apple logo on the back of the iPad.
While this does expose part of the back of the iPad to the elements, there is still ample protection around the opening, so it doesn’t really worry me when it comes to normal use, or even drops. You might pick up a few scratches here and there, but you can easily prevent that by using a rear skin, which I always do anyway. The Versavu hasn’t caused any damage to my rear skin in over a week of constant use, so the two seem to make a great combo.
All things considered, I love this design touch, as it gives the Versavu a very distinct look and gets back a little of that “Apple appeal” that you typically lose when you put the iPad in a case. It is also important to note, however, that this circular cut-out in the back isn’t meant for looks alone. More on that in a bit.
As previously mentioned, the Versavu Keyboard Case is available in both Black and White versions. I found the Black model that I tried out to be very professional looking, with the subtle white accent stitching on the outside especially attractive.
The Targus brand name is stamped into the bottom-right corner, but fortunately, it is also very subtly done. Thankfully, it does not have any additional accent or coloring to make it stand out too much. I’ve seen more than one nice case marred by such a design choice.
The inside of the Versavu also continues the softer feel of the exterior. The rigid bracket around the keyboard and the exposed section behind it are covered in a gray, textured microfiber with matching gray stitching. It is similar in feel to the screen side of an Apple Smart Cover, just with more texture, and both looks and feels very nice. The only issue I could foresee is with it possibly showing some dirt over time, but I didn’t see any direct evidence of this in my brief test period. However, you should easily be able to clean it with care if that happens.
Targus also included a pen/stylus holder on the inside spine of the case. This is very handy addition, as it allows you to easily keep up with your stylus, but have it out of the way while you are using the Versavu’s keyboard. It is also out of the way while the case is closed, so you don’t have to worry about your stylus scratching your iPad.
While the look of the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case says portability, and the ZAGGfolio’s screams durability, the Versavu may feel a little more comfortable to those who are used to carrying a leather day planner or organizer. Again, it is very professional and polished looking, and would not feel at all out of place in a boardroom or office. In fact, I actually had the opportunity to take my iPad to a meeting with a customer this week. Two people asked me about the case and where I got it from, so it definitely struck a chord.
Making a Case
Now let’s take a look at the design and functionality of the case. The Versavu uses a hinged design, similar to the ZAGGfolio and other keyboard cases, with the hinge running along the center of the iPad side of the case.
That hinge allows the plastic base that holds the iPad to move freely when the case is opened. The bottom of the iPad then fits into a groove behind the keys of the keyboard that holds it in place while you are typing. Again, this is similar to several other Bluetooth keyboard cases.
However, there is a major difference that sets the Versavu apart from any other keyboard case that I have seen. At the center of the hinge is the previously mentioned circular opening in the case. Remember when I said this opening wasn’t just for looks? It is actually a rotating wheel attached to the plastic base that holds the iPad, allowing it a full 360 degrees of movement.
Thanks to this rotating hinge, the Versavu is the only case that allows you to use the iPad in portrait orientation without taking it out of the case.
This will certainly be a valuable feature for anyone who prefers to do their typing in this format, but just how common is this use case? That’s difficult to say, exactly, but after doing some testing, I have found that typing in portrait mode is an advantage in some circumstances.
For example, iSource, like many tech blogs, uses a fairly compact format that works well on a variety of displays at a variety of resolutions. Since there is more to any blog than just article content, such as ads and links, when you look at any article on this site, the text occupies a single column on the left side of the screen. Because of this, typing the draft of a review in portrait orientation is actually quite beneficial.
When composing our articles, we always attempt to maintain a balance between content and white space, which makes life much easier on the eyes while you are reading. I have found that it is actually much easier to strike that balance while drafting an article on my iPad (which I use about 99% of the time) if I am typing in portrait orientation. It provides a perspective that just makes more sense when you consider what the end result will look like. Whatever the reason you may have for typing on the iPad in portrait orientation, the Versavu is the only Bluetooth keyboard case that gives you the versatility to do it without removing your iPad from the case.
While the rotating hinge is the Versavu’s most distinctive feature, it isn’t the only one that makes it unique. I have used the ZAGGfolio for several months now since I wrote my review, and used the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case for a while before that. One of the main drawbacks of each is, what you do with it when you need to use the iPad, but aren’t typing? It is especially difficult to find a comfortable position to use your iPad’s screen while standing up, and either trying to hold the Logitech case separately, or hold the ZAGGfolio’s keyboard section folded back against the iPad section. Neither of these options works well at all.
The Versavu, on the other hand, performs rather admirably in this respect.
Because the hinges behind the iPad are in the center of the case, it is easy to lay the iPad section down on top of the keyboard in either landscape or portrait orientation for use on the go.
While I would suggest that you turn off the keyboard before laying your iPad on top of it to prevent inadvertently pressing some of the keys, that is really the only potential issue to be aware of. The fact that you can use your device independent of the keyboard and without any real hassle is, again, a nice additional bonus.
The last notable feature of the Versavu case is how easy it is to get your iPad into and out off the plastic mounting bracket.
As you can see, it is held in place by a plastic border that sits flush with the edge of the screen on both sides. I was impressed with how secure the iPad feels while you are opening or closing the case, or changing the orientation. It never slipped or inadvertently popped out while being moved. When you consider the facts that I am not only using a new iPad in a case designed for the iPad 2, but also have a rear skin installed, the stability is even more impressive.
Another benefit of the Versavu is how easy it is to remove the iPad, when you need to. No case works all the time and in every situation, so it’s a big plus when a case makes it easy to retrieve your device. This is very handy for me, as my kids, especially my daughter, are always interested in playing games and watching videos on my iPad’s large screen. None of them are interested in using the keyboard, however, so I always end up removing my iPad from whatever case I am using before I hand it over. This was always more of hassle with the ZAGGfolio, but is no problem at all with the Versavu.
How useful is a keyboard case if it has a below average keyboard? Not very. Not at all, in fact. Fortunately, that isn’t the case here, as the Versavu’s keyboard should be enough to make most users quite happy. Like any compact keyboard, there are trade-offs to be aware of, but this one is definitely comparable to other Bluetooth keyboards made for mobile devices.
As for design and layout, the Versavu’s keyboard is definitely on the small side, even for a compact, mobile device-keyboard, it is a bit cramped for someone with big hands, like myself.
You can see here that the Versavu keyboard is noticeably smaller than that of the ZAGGfolio. This comparison also holds true for the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case, which uses the same keyboard design.
Despite its size limitations, however, the Versavu still manages to include 15 dedicated shortcut keys, along with a generous amount of spacing between each key. The keys are also quite responsive and have a nice feedback action. These features are an accomplishment when you consider how compact the keyboard is. Thanks to them, after an adjustment period over my 14 days of using the Versavu, I got quite used to the size. It became a non-issue, and ended up hardly bothering me at all.
On the design front, the Versavu’s keyboard is pretty similar to most of the other offerings on the market. It has the same basic On/Off and Bluetooth controls as all the others out there.
It also has a micro USB plug for charging, but it is easier to use than some, such as the ZAGGfolio, since it is always uncovered and accessible.
The Versavu, like its competitors, also has great battery life, going weeks to months between charges.
Since I have made some comparisons to the ZAGGfolio, there is another thing to bear in mind about the Versavu keyboard- it is permanently attached to the case. The ability to remove the keyboard and use it independently is one of the main versatility features of the ZAGGfolio. In fact, the ZAGGfolio’s keyboard does so well on its own that ZAGG made a version called the ZAGGkeys Solo, which available without the rest of the case. However, I didn’t really find this to be an issue, for me. To me, the Versavu gets around the problem by giving you more flexibility to use your iPad any way you want to while it is in the case. In other words, this is 6 of 1, half-dozen of the other.
This isn’t to say there weren’t some other small issues with the Versavu’s keyboard, however. The positioning of the arrow keys between the Cmd and Option keys on the right hand side is actually more of a problem for me than the keyboard’s overall size.
I use the arrow keys a lot while typing and editing notes and documents, and found myself missing the right arrow and hitting the Option key instead. This has been the most difficult adjustment for me with this hardware.
The other, more minor issue I had (and this again is due to the compact size of the keyboard) was with the non-standard punctuation keys. Due to size constraints, the question mark, forward slash, colon, semi-colon, and bracket keys have all been placed under letter keys and are activated by the Fn key. To be honest, the only one of these that really bothered me at all was the question mark, as it is more commonly used, and I would have to pause briefly and remind myself how to get to it.
In the end, none of the issues I had with the Versavu’s keyboard would prevent me from recommending it. Considering that, even with my large hands, I could adapt to using it, I’m pretty sure it will work even better for the majority of users.
With a look, you can tell that Targus paid plenty of attention to the design of the Versavu line of cases, including this Bluetooth keyboard version. However, there are a few minor complaints that I had with a few of the design choices that were made. First, I’m not a fan of the nylon strap used to hold the case closed.
In Targus’ defense, a strap probably makes a lot more sense than a rigid clasp, but the way it is implemented leaves something to be desired, in my opinion.
As you can see, the strap does a good job of keeping the case securely closed. The problem is with opening it, as it usually requires two hands. The strap is attached to the keyboard section of the case, and when it is closed, the strap lays flat between the corner pieces of the plastic base that the iPad sits in.
The fit is snug enough to keep the case closed, which is understandable. The problem is that the strap has to be flipped all the way back over to the keyboard side of the case to open it up, which is very cumbersome.
This is especially the case if you try to do it with with one hand.
All things considered, this is a minor gripe, but the strap did get on my nerves. You can just bypass the strap, if you feel comfortable holding the case closed without it. I found myself doing this the majority of the time for normal use during my testing, and only using the strap when carrying my iPad from place to place.
Another minor complaint that I have with the Versavu, but again, one that goes hand-in-hand with the design of the case, is the occasional lack of stability. Instability was a big issue with the majority of first generation iPad keyboard cases. Most of those early models were all soft leather (or more often, fake leather), and offered almost no real support. That style of case won’t work at all unless it is placed on a hard, flat surface.
Now, the Versavu doesn’t suffer from anywhere near that same level of instability. However, because of the soft base under the keyboard, and especially the soft leather hinge behind it, it can wobble a bit if you use it in your lap.
(Picture Note: I realize that this picture is taken from an angle that has no practical purpose. However, you get the same compression effect when you have the keyboard facing you, and you legs aren’t level. I experience this at home in my recliner, if I have my legs up.)
This isn’t a problem at all if your legs are fairly level, as I am actually using the Versavu in this position in my lap as I am typing right now. The problems come if you are reclined and the iPad is tilted toward you. The flexible hinge allows the iPad to move more than a hard case like the ZAGGfolio, and the viewing angle can become an issue. Because the iPad can rock forward, the iPad can end up at almost a full 90 degree angle to the keyboard, making the screen a little more difficult to see.
All things considered, this is again, just a minor issue, since the case can work effectively in the lap. It just might not work as well in all situations. However, the Versavu does have very good stability for a soft cover case, so if you prefer this kind of material for a case, this area actually works in its favor.
The last minor complaint that I have with the Versavu, but one that I am not willing to give Targus a pass on, is the absence of Smart Cover-style magnets. The vast majority of high-end cases compatible with the iPad 2 and new iPad include these magnets for automatic sleep and wake, and as such, it’s pretty natural to expect this capability in all accessories at this point. Sure, it’s a small thing, but this is one of the features that sets the newer iPads apart, and it just doesn’t make sense that Targus left them out. The next version of this case needs to have these magnets included.
While I have mentioned several small issues that I came across while using Targus’ Versavu Bluetooth Keyboard Case, bear in mind that they are all minor gripes. I can heartily recommend this case to anyone looking for a quality keyboard matched with a case that offers plenty of protection. Despite the small issue I raised, it offers more stability than any other soft exterior keyboard case that I have seen. It is also easily the most versatile keyboard case on the market, offering users the ability to use the iPad in portrait or landscape orientation with or without the keyboard, all without ever removing the iPad from the case.
Add to these fine features the facts that this particular model is compatible with both the iPad 2 and the new iPad, that it includes a way to carry a pen or stylus, that it has an fresh, original design, and that it offers plenty of protection for your precious cargo, and you have a real winner. The Versavu isn’t without its flaws or trade-offs, but it overcomes them all, and is definitely worthy of a place next to the top iPad keyboard cases. Now, is it the one for me, personally? Hmmmm. The jury is still out on that one. There are times when I will see myself preferring to use this case over the others that I own, but I’m not sure if it will replace my ZAGGfolio everyday. I sometimes work in environments that require something a bit more rugged, so the Versavu might not be the best case for me, at work. However, I can definitely see myself switching over to the Versavu quite often when I am going to meetings, or after I get home.
When thinking about what keyboard case is right for you, don’t let my lack of keyboard commitment give you cold feet. I guess I’m just spoiled. That’s what I get for doing a bunch of in-depth reviews of some of the best Bluetooth Keyboard cases available for the iPad. As for the Targus Versavu, I can say that it is the best of breed when it comes to flexibility, and is the best all-around soft case I have tried. Despite a few issues here and there, the good far outweighs the negative. If you want full device protection that comes with maximum versatility and professional looks, then meet your new keyboard case.
The Targus Versavu Bluetooth Keyboard Case is available for the iPad 2 and the New iPad in both Black and White for a MSRP of $99.99.