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Computerized Investing > September 8, 2012

Crux360 for iPad 2 and iPad 3

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$99

Hard shell keyboard case for iPad 2 and iPad 3.

One of the biggest knocks I have heard about the iPad is that its on-screen keyboard isn’t overly conducive to prolonged typing. For this reason, many cases have come to the market over the years that integrate protection for the iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard. In effect, this combination turns the iPad into a netbook.

In this column, I have reviewed a couple of iPad keyboard cases: the Kensington KeyFolio Pro Performance Case and the ZAGGfolio Keyboard Case. I have been using the ZAGGfolio case since I reviewed it last December; it provides adequate protection for my iPad 2, while offering a functional keyboard.

It had been awhile since I looked at what’s new on the market, so I was given a Crux360 for my iPad 2 (they also make similar cases for the new iPad “3”).While the Crux360 is definitely made of sturdier material than the ZAGGfolio, its keyboard leaves some things to be desired.

Out of the Box & Setup

The Crux360 comes in a microfiber bag, which I started using to carry around my assorted chargers and cables when traveling. There is also a micro-USB charging cable and the Quick Start Guide.

The Crux360 is not an insignificant piece of technology. It weighs nearly 1.6 pounds, which is more than an iPad itself. As merely a case, I would definitely give the Crux360 the nod over the ZAGGfolio. I do have one gripe, though. When the Crux360 first came out, it had a larger cutout in the back so you could proudly display the Apple logo on the back of your iPad. However, many reviewers complained that this seriously diminished the protection provided by the Crux360. To appease those wanting more coverage, as well as those who still want to show the world they are using an Apple product, this hole is now filled in by a piece of plastic held in place by tape. I would prefer a single piece of molded plastic, sans hole.

There are cutouts, albeit a bit oversized, for the speaker, rear-facing camera, headphone jack and dock connector.

Before using the Crux360, you need to install your iPad into the case. This is done by sliding the iPad into the top of the Crux360. Then, push the bottom of the iPad down until it snaps into place behind the two tabs at the bottom. Removing the iPad was a bit of a chore, as the tabs that release the iPad are difficult to disengage.

Once you have the iPad installed in the case, the next step is to pair your iPad with the Crux360. First, make sure Bluetooth is enabled. Next, press the power button on the Crux360 until the green power light is glowing solid (the power button is deeply sunken and may require a pen or pencil to depress). To the left of the power and indicator lights is a “button” that you must hold down until the blue sync indicator light starts blinking. Going back to your iPad, tap “Crux” from the devices list. You will be prompted on the iPad screen to enter a passkey using the Crux360 keyboard, and then the iPad and Crux360 are connected. Once you have paired the device with your iPad, the two should automatically sync in the future as long as both devices are on and Bluetooth is enabled on your iPad.

To turn the Crux360 off, again press the power button until the red power button blinks.

Performance

While the Crux360 has the advantage over the ZAGGfolio in terms of protection, it falls well short in terms of its keyboard. While it has a full QWERTY layout and iOS keys along the very top—home, search, copy, paste, playback controls, etc.—it does not offer a pleasant typing experience. Like all iPad keyboard cases, the keys of the Crux360 are shrunk to fit the profile of the iPad. However, even compared to the ZAGGfolio, the Crux360’s keys are especially cramped. I do not have the biggest hands in the world, and even I was having a hard time getting into a typing rhythm with this keyboard. The ZAGGfolio’s keys have a little bit of space between them, but the keys still aren’t too small for typing. The Crux360’s keys are right next to each other and yet somehow feel even smaller than those of the ZAGGfolio. I might even say that I would prefer using one of the premium on-screen keyboard apps I have purchased compared to the Crux360. Also, when in laptop mode, the Crux360 is a bit top-heavy. When using it on a flat surface such as a table, this isn’t too much of an issue. However, if you are trying to use it on your lap, you will find yourself constantly having to prevent it from toppling backwards.

The Crux360’s heavy-duty hinge allows you to use it in a variety of “modes” without having to remove the iPad from the enclosure (unlike the ZAGGfolio, where you have to pop the lower portion out of the case and rest it in a slot above the keyboard to watch videos or type). The hinge also holds its position, no matter what. The Crux360 offers four different modes: laptop mode, where the iPad and keyboard function as a mini-laptop; movie mode, where the keyboard rotates around so that the case rests on four rubber feet on the keyboard side (turn the keyboard off prior to using it in this mode); tablet mode, where you rotate the keyboard all the way around and hold it like you normally hold the iPad by itself; and carrying mode, where the case is closed. In the carrying mode, the Crux360 works just like the Apple Smart Cover, where it automatically turns off the iPad when it’s closed and turns it back on when it’s opened. I kind of wish there was a snap on the Crux360 like with the ZAGGfolio to keep the case perfectly closed.

Battery

The Crux360 comes with a micro-USB charging cable, which allows you to plug the keyboard into a USB port on your computer for charging. I do like the fact that the port is fully accessible on the side of the keyboard, without having to partially remove the keyboard from the case for charging. It took less than an hour to charge the Crux360 the first time around. According to the company, the lithium-ion battery provides 120 hours of continuous use or 1,000 hours of standby time.

To conserve battery, the keyboard will go into power save mode if it is idle for more than two minutes. To resume from power save mode, just start typing.

Overall

There is a lot to love about the Crux360 but, unfortunately, there is also a lot not to love. As a case, it certainly has the heft to install confidence that it will protect your iPad from pretty serious abuse. However, you are paying a lot of money if protection is all you are concerned about. Also, at $99 the Crux360 is priced similarly to other keyboard cases.

For me, cases such as this are keyboards first, cases second. As a keyboard, in my opinion, the Crux360 doesn’t cut it. Its cramped keys make typing a challenge, especially after having used the ZAGGfolio for almost a year. Furthermore, its quirky power and sync buttons are of no help to someone already frustrated by the keyboard. For these reasons, I am putting my iPad back into my ZAGGfolio case once this review is finished.

Pros

  • Sturdy design
  • Stiff hinge holds its position
  • Competitively priced
  • 360-degree rotation on the hinge

Cons

  • Cramped keyboard
  • Sync and power buttons difficult to use
  • Top-heavy when in laptop mode

Crux360 for iPad 2 and iPad 3

$99

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @AAII_CI.