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Virtual Keyboard Alternatives for the iPad mini

iPad Accessories: The Apple iPad Keyboard Dock

The Apple iPad Keyboard Dock combines a full-size anodized aluminum keyboard with a built-in Dock that you can use to sync, charge, or connect other accessories to the iPad. Actually this keyboard has a pair of dock connectors, one in the front just above the top row of keys that you use to slide and connect the iPad itself, and the other on the rear for hooking up those other accessories.

You also find a standard-sized 3.5mm jack on the rear for connecting powered speakers with an optional audio cable.

This keyboard is a decent option for people who want to listen to music in stereo without donning headphones. Remember, the iPad has only a single built-in mono speaker.

The easy-to-type-on keyboard has dedicated one-touch function keys along the top row to summon the Home screen, open Spotlight search, increase or decrease brightness, initiate a Picture Frame slide, call upon the virtual keyboard, and lock or unlock the screen. You also find playback, mute, and volume controls for the iPod.

There is a drawback to the Keyboard Dock: having to remove the optional Apple iPad Case before sliding in the iPad.

Another drawback: Despite being lightweight, the keyboard’s design makes traveling with it a little awkward because the Dock on the rear sticks out in a triangular fashion. In any event, it’s just one more piece to account for.

And another drawback: You can prop up the iPad only in portrait mode when it's connected to the keyboard. You can’t connect it in landscape mode and type.

Because this keyboard is for the original iPad only, Apple has stopped selling it, but you can probably find it online if you need it.

You can purchase an iPad Dock for theoriginal iPad from Apple without a keyboard. The Dock is virtually identical to the one on the Keyboard Dock minus the keyboard. In other words, it has the same audio cable jack and dock connectors and the same drawbacks: You still can’t slide the iPad into the Dock when it’s outfitted in that original Apple Case, and you still can’t stand it up in the landscape mode.

You’re probably more interested in accessories for the iPad 2 or third-generation iPad. And you better believe that Apple came out with a Dock that fits the later devices. The newer Dock can charge your iPad battery while it's propped in an upright position, and has an audio line out port for connecting to powered speakers. If you connect the Dock to a computer with the USB cable that came with your iPad, you can sync the tablet as well.

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