ClamCase Pro review: Turn your iPad into a mini-laptop

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Reviews

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You can get a case for your iPad, that’s nothing new. You can hook up a Bluetooth keyboard to your iPad, that’s also nothing new. But the ClamCase Pro combines the two, and that may be new you. It’s a very protective case for your iPad and it has a Bluetooth keyboard. It’s cool! When you tap into a text field, rather than the virtual keyboard popping up (covering half the screen), you simply type on the ClamCase keyboard.

The ClamCase Pro is a Polycarbonate and aluminum case that is a skosh larger than the iPad itself for width and height, but doubles the thickness and the weight of the iPad. The iPad is about 1.5 pounds, and the ClamCase is also about 1.5 pounds, so it does make carrying the two a bit more work. But what ClamCase also provides is a real keyboard. I can also add that this makes the iPad a complete package; it works.

Interestingly, it looks like a very small laptop, perhaps like one of the netbooks Steve Jobs used to deride. Who knew at the time that he was preparing to change the digital world with the iPad, which filled a nitch the Netbook wasn’t capable of filling.

I’ve been at lectures watching people tap away on the iPad’s virtual keyboard with many additional taps of the backspace key as they try to keep up with the discussion and try to have their text legible without the typo errors that are all too common from the iPad’s keyboard. Admittedly, some people type very well with these things, but many do not. There is something about a real keyboard that many people seem to need.

There are ClamCase models now to fit all of Apple’s iPads, including the new iPad Air and iPad mini. I was testing the model for the iPad 2/3/4. The ClamCase Pro comes in the box with a single USB cable to charge the ClamCase, a cardboard sheet with all of the instructions needed, and the ClamCase. The iPad 2 simply snaps into the case. After installing, you need to link the ClamCase to your iPad via Bluetooth and, well, that’s about it.

Typing on the keyboard is very easy and very natural. The keyboard is about 84% the size of a standard keyboard (the ClamCase Pro keyboard is 9″ wide) but was very easy to adapt to. Going back and forth between the ClamCase keyboard and a regular keyboard was very easy. The iPad itself is held very firmly in the top of the ClamCase and doesn’t wiggle around. Similarly, you can’t push the top backward with standard iPad screen finger activities (select, zooming, panning, etc.). The hinge, by the way, is a double-hinge allowing you to fold the keyboard side all the way to the back, making it possible to use the iPad as an iPad. The hinges have considerable friction, so there are no issues with working on the iPad’s surface causing the back to be pushed backward. This is not an issue.

Views of the ClamCase Pro

Views of the ClamCase Pro closed, open, and 360 degrees of open

One of the big surprise features with the ClamCase Pro is that they added some very wise keyboard extras as seen below (the scan is from their cardboard info sheet). Like function keys, these lie mostly across the top of the keyboard. Note in particular that you can Cut, Copy, and Paste, as well as play your iTunes from the keyboard and set volume and muting. The Home key acts the same as the Home key on your iPad. What’s not shown here is that on the keyboard you have up, down, left, and right arrow keys. Heaven.

As mentioned earlier, tapping into a text/number/URL/whatever field, you simply enter the text from the keyboard. However, if you want to access the virtual keyboard, simply tap the Keyboard key and you are good to go. Tap it again and you are back to the keyboard. Unfortunately, Apple’s change from iOS 6 to 7 killed the Slideshow feature. The ClamCase folks are working on this.

The Extra keys on the ClamCase Pro

The Extra keys on the ClamCase Pro

If you want to use your iPad as an iPad and not use the keyboard, simply do not turn on the keyboard. The iPad and the ClamCase Pro do not share power input, power output, on/off keys or any other electronic links. Charging the ClamCase does not charge the iPad, and vise versa; they are connected only via Bluetooth. Note that you do have complete access to all of the ports of your iPad with one exception: the Mute switch. However, there is a Mute button on the keyboard, so this is not a big loss (as long as your ClamCase is on). If your headphones/buds/or other sound cord has a fat plug, they will not fit past the ClamCase into the earphone jack.

It takes about two hours to fully charge your ClamCase Pro, and the company claims this single charge will power the ClamCase for about 100 hours of use. I can’t say I’ve seen any excessive battery use from the iPad with Bluetooth being left on continuously.

Some extra observations:

  1. When you use a laptop on your lap, the heat can become excessive. Not so with the ClamCase, there is no heat-generation from the lower half of the case (the keyboard side), so no hot laps.
  2. Because this is so “laptop like,” you’ll find your thumb slashing away where the Touchpad should be if it was a laptop. It’s not a laptop, so there’s no Touchpad.
  3. Getting into the habit of working with the keyboard and squiggling your fingers on the screen as you normally would with an iPad requires some new muscle memory things to work out.
  4. If you go to a website that senses you are on an iPad, you get iPad controls and do not have a laptop/desktop controls.
  5. There are no separate speakers for the ClamCase, but I found that the sound passing through the plastic body seemed to mellow the tone from the iPad speaker, providing some improvement to the tone quality.

About the only negatives I’ve observed so far is that sometimes when turning on the iPad and ClamCase Pro when both have been off for a day or so, there can be an extended time before the two to link up. Doubling the weight of the iPad is only critical if you tend to always hold your iPad. But if you use it on a table, your lap, or on a counter, it’s a significant improvement. A minimal complaint is that on one side of the ClamCase is an embossed imprint saying “ClamCase,” which is the bottom. The top has a shiny clam-like icon that can barely be seen. That’s the top. It’s real easy to open the ClamCase upside down. There is no consequence of this action other than the need to turn it around.

I do have to add one other negative: the documentation. Other than the single cardboard info sheet that comes with the ClamCase Pro, there is no central source to obtain information other than to write focused questions to the ClamCase website. They do have a FAQ page (sort of) that provides some information, but during my ClamCase Pro review period, I came up with two questions about which I could not find any information. One was on the Slideshow button, and the other was asking about the need to turn off the ClamCase when not using the iPad. In both cases I received a response relatively quickly (I received the answer to the 2nd question on a Sunday, no less). However, why is there no information on either issue clearly available on the web site? The good news is that the ClamCase Pro is good enough that I will not downgrade my review of the ClamCase due to the poor level of information. But I do hope the company digs around their questions and provides a simple PDF or something for users to get additional information.

Oh, to answer the battery issue, I was told that when the ClamCase is not used for 10-15 minutes, it goes on a standby mode where it can sit for up to 6 months. This can vary depending on the level of the charge when the ClamCase is put into a standby mode.

Isn’t that information that should be easily available on their site?

In short, the ClamCase is a winner if you want to be able to type on your iPad, provide good protection for your iPad, and extend the capabilities of the iPad.

Appletell Rating:
ClamCase Pro for iPad review

Buy the ClamCase Pro for iPad

Provides: Scrach/scuff protection, Bluetooth keyboard input
Developer: ClamCase LLC
Minimum Requirements: iPad 2/3/4 (also available for iPad mini and iPad Air)
Price: $170.00
Availability: Now

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  • Robert S

    This would be perfect if the ClamCase did have a Touchpad built into it. Hopefully, the next version will have this input feature included for easier cursor control while typing.

  • Wayne Daniels

    This needs a touchpad for sure.

  • Ellen

    Lack of a forward delete function and lack of capitalizing the first character after a period make the clamcase pro inefficient for writing and editing. It’s a beautiful design with major design flaws. I do not think the designers are writers. I can’t give up my PC laptop yet. The advertisements suggest the clamcase turns a mini ipad into a mini laptop. It does not. Not yet, at least.