Recently – as many of you know – I was on a flight to Orlando to participate in the Microsoft TechEd North America trade show/event on behalf of my employer. I travel a good deal on business, but mostly throughout the Northeast US, and so generally I prefer the train. Plenty of room and sufficient power outlets that using my MacBook isn’t an issue.
Of course, on an airplane, you get neither of those. I was on one of those mid-sized jets with only two rows of seats per side of the isle, so this was even more cramped than usual. I found myself in a standard aisle seat,near the front of the plane. With very little room to move, much less type, even the MacBook Air I had with me just wasn’t an option. This was especially true when the flyer in front of me decided he wanted to see just how far he could make his seat recline into my face.
Luckily, this trip, I had both my iPad and a bluetooth keyboard to work with. In my case it was a Joy KT-1063, but from what I hear around the web there are many others that work equally well. As long as they’re full-sized and made out of something sturdy, I think you’ll have the same experience.
Working with the iPad and keyboard that is non-attached (non-integrated into the cover) gave me a level of flexibility that I wouldn’t get with an attached model or a laptop. When we started out, I could push the iPad back to a stable viewing angle and keep the keyboard at a comfortable distance. When Mr. I-Want-To-Sleep put his seat back, I had to shift things around a bit, but the combination approach was much more useable than trying to wrangle an attached keyboard into a useable position.
Since I tend to prefer to write in a rich text editor, with very few bells and whistles, interaction with the screen is minimized, just a quick tap here and there to correct a typo. Also, since I prefer to navigate around text with arrow keys, the tap and hold system on the iPad always drove me nuts. Mind you, the approach is not without faults. Cheaper keyboards/keypads tend to not recognize keystrokes very well when you type quickly. Even this one (about US$70) would occasionally do the opposite and double-type some letters or spaces. Overall though, it performed admirably.
So, if you’re traveling a lot, especially on planes with limited room, the combination of the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard that moves independently of the case/device might be a great option. I certainly found the experience more than functional for use in crowded spots than a laptop or case-attached iPad keyboard.