iPad Accessories for the Serious Professional

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- That laptop died on you one time too many. It became too slow, with too many viruses. The battery deteriorated to the point where it lasted only two hours. It took four minutes to boot up from cold. You always had to sit down in order to use it.

In other words, you had enough. It was time for a change.

You are now a serious professional who is serious in making the iPad your next laptop -- your main productivity tool, where you type documents.

Now you need tools to go along with your iPad. This review includes two of the critical hardware ingredients: The most rugged case money can buy and the leading portable keyboard.

Let's start with the rugged case. This is the Pelican i1075, which has a list price of $79.99, although Amazon ( AMZN) will sell it to you for $52.25. The Pelican i1075 case protects your iPad and a small handful of accessories from a fall as well as from being dropped three feet into the ocean. It is excellent for that rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, where the bag will hit rocks and be submerged by water from time to time.

Specifically, the Pelican case fits the Apple BlueTooth keyboard inside, which the Apple ( AAPL) store will sell you for $69. This is an excellent keyboard. However, unless you are carrying it in a bag such as this Pelican i1075, it is not nicely portable. You don't want to be walking up and down the street with this keyboard in your hand, jammed up against the iPad itself.

The Pelican i1075 case solves the problem of the sharp and metallic Apple keyboard, which is of course otherwise an excellent keyboard.

But what if you also need a keyboard when you're on "light duty" -- such as simply walking to the cafe on a weekend and you want to use it there for an hour or so?

That's where the Zagg Flex keyboard enters the picture. It also has a list price of $79.99, although again Amazon sells it for less --$56.99 in this case. The Zagg Flex is smaller than the Apple keyboard, and it's more plasticky and the keyboard feeling is not nearly as good. But it's good enough for "light duty" when you are not in a professional mood, perhaps.

The Zagg Flex keyboard has two important virtues:

First, it is surrounded by a removable folded material that unpacks into a stand for every kind of tablet on the market I have tested.

The stand even holds a large high-resolution smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This has the particular virtue of not being tied to any particular kind of tablet. Let's say you have an iPad 1, then upgrade to an iPad 2 and a 3 and so forth. Perhaps you have all of them. Perhaps you also have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. This Zagg Flex fits them all. Hence the name "Flex."

I can't stress enough how important this is. You really don't want to have to buy a new keyboard for each tablet you may own over time.

That would be a waste and bureaucratic nightmare. It even works with a high-resolution large-screen smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, on which I actually managed to author an article.

The feeling of the protective "stand" material is similar to the cover that Apple sold with the iPad 1 in 2010 and early 2011. It feels very easy and relatively secure to hold in one hand. Kudos for this solution that improved a lot on the previous portable keyboards in the market.

Back to the Pelican i1075 case, which holds the iPad and either of these keyboards: The Pelican i1075 case fits any of the iPads perfectly, but not a tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. In addition to the keyboard, it also holds a few minor accessories, such as the iPad charger, the USB cord and perhaps a pair of small earbuds.

This is clearly not something that will replace your regular briefcase or equivalent.

There is no handle on the Pelican i1075, but it comes with a shoulder strap that on the one hand is a bit cheap, but on the other hand is fairly functional. It works. It goes with the "bullet-proof"extremely protective iPad case to which it is attached.

In summary, although every person's needs and habits are sometimes radically different, I can generally recommend the Pelican i1075 custom bag for the iPad, as well as the Zagg Flex keyboard. The Zagg Flex is a more flexible alternative to Apple's own keyboard, but it is not nearly as good for the actual typing experience on the iPad.

The prices of both products on Amazon -- near the mid-$50s -- are very reasonable for the value received. For some people, this may just work as a laptop replacement for our brave new post-PC world.

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