The wireless Bluetooth keyboard is a lightweight, slim affair which aids Freedom’s claims to fame for the Combi as the lightest and thinnest solution around. Aside from the usual keys, it sports a Bluetooth pairing button at the top, while the rear houses a microUSB charging port and on/off switch. A microUSB cable is included, and according to Freedom, the Combi should last up to 100hrs of full use (300hrs standby) on a charge.
Layout and spacing are very good, with a dedicated row of iOS keys, dedicated number keys, and a full-size right-shift key. Key response is also excellent, with a decent amount of travel and crisp feedback. This is a nice change from many iPad keyboards, which –even on models where keys have a good click - frequently suffer from a horrible layout.
However, the keys themselves are on the wee side. Though you can get up a nice quick touch-typing speed, the occasional mistake from hitting the edge of another key will be inevitable unless you have very small hands.
Just to put some numbers to that, the keys on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (which is our benchmark as it’s the best iPad keyboard we’ve used) has keys that are 14mm wide, while on the Freedom i-Connex Combi they measure 12.5mm across. That might not sound like much, but it’s enough to make a noticeable difference when typing.
We also discovered another issue where key response on the board is affected by dropped signal, especially when close to the iPad and main folio cover - resulting in missed keystrokes or multiple character instances for a single one. We tested this with a second i-Connex Combi keyboard just to make sure, and the behaviour was repeated. This is unfortunate as it’s a likely position when using the keyboard away from a desk.
And that’s where we get to the Freedom i-Connex Combi’s main problem. Most iPad keyboards make an effort to dock the iPad with the tablet connected. The Combi might be more elegant than most and is certainly thinner and nicer to hold than the average keyboard folio, but the keyboard remains a loose element. While this is just fine on a desk, if you want to work on your lap it’s very far from ideal, as is the stand mechanism. For this kind of scenario, folio alternatives like the Adonit Writer are superior despite their inferior keyboard layouts.
Currently, the cheapest we were able to find the Combi for was £80. That seems like reasonable enough value for what you’re getting. After all, a few niggles aside it lives up to its promises and on a desk it’s nicer to use than many folio iPad cases.
However, when you can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for around £70, the i-Connex doesn’t seem that attractive anymore. It might feel like we’re harping on a lot about the Ultrathin, but it offers a superior typing experience, is thinner, looks better and properly docks your iPad with a strong magnetic mechanism - essentially turning it into a ‘laptop’ that’s as comfy on your lap as on a desk. Admittedly it doesn’t protect the back of the iPad, but if you can live with this, it’s by far the superior choice.
The Freedom i-Connex Combi is an innovative and versatile iPad and new iPad folio cover with a great smart cover, plus a keyboard which offers a decent typing experience and works well on a desk. However, it suffers from a few niggles, comes across as quite bulky, and the loose keyboard design is terrible when trying to use it on your lap. With alternatives that are superior on many counts available for less, its appeal is limited.