Given the right app and a bit of ingenuity, an iPad can become truly unexpected things. A music synthesiser, a spirit level, a canvas - being a full replacement for a laptop isn't a leap when you consider what it can do other than play Angry Birds. But to get the full computer-style experience you need a decent keyboard. The Tuff Luv keyboard case has a Bluetooth Qwerty interface built-in to make typing less of a pain.
It uses a folio-style design, but is rather different to the norm. The back flap folds all the way over, covering a third of the front, and the keyboard occupies the space that would normally hold the iPad. You can't remove the keyboard, and this unusual design makes the tablet somewhat awkward to use.
The case also adds a lot of weight and bulk to the tablet. With an iPad 2 in tow, it weighs 1.2kg - plodding into laptop territory. This is why we ideally like to see cases with removable keyboards, and if all you're using the iPad for is productivity tasks, you're doing it wrong.
In an effort to keep the price fairly low, the case has a fake leather finish with a little padding underneath. There's nothing wrong with such a choice, especially as it sidesteps the ethical issues involved, but the grain used is completely unconvincing. You can tell it's not the real thing from a quick glance, and the feel similarly will fool noone. The pay off is that this case costs roughly half the price of other big-name keyboard cases.
Folio cases usually use rear support to emulate a laptop screen layout, but the Tuff Luv take is different. The leatherette screen surround slots into a rubber ridge just above the keyboard. It works well enough if you use the case atop a flat surface, but doesn't offer enough stability for use on your knees or a sloped surface - the iPad will simply fall back.
In a very unusual move, Tuff Luv has used a rubber-keyed design rather than the standard plastic keys used by most keyboard case makers. Splash-proof as it may be, it's not a great typing experience.
The keys are raised a good height and are both sensibly-sized and arranged, but the action is spongy and indistinct. Hitting the right keys is easy enough, but the feel of them is all wrong. A keyboard case should make an iPad a viable typing alternative to a netbook, but this one has us running back to the iPad's onscreen version.
It feels like an impersonation of a keyboard, and as the whole keyboard layer is a single piece of rubber, there's little sense of pressing distinct keys. In its favour, the keyboard has an inbuilt rechargeable battery, so it won't drain the battery on your tablet. You charge this up using the microUSB port on its side.
Sometimes going for the cheaper option is a sensible idea - not here. With a bulky design, unconvincing faux-leather finish and poor rubber keyboard, the Tuff Luv Bluetooth keyboard case fails to turn your iPad 2 into a serious typing machine.