Interested in reading some of my work? Visit my Amazon.com page.
My iPad goes with me everywhere (well, almost everywhere.) But I often found myself dragging along my MacBook Air as well, because I couldn’t do any writing on the on-screen keyboard. Email or texting, sure, but not real writing.
I’d seen lots of the keyboard solutions out there, primarily the latch on covers that come off and provide a built in stand for your tablet. I’m thinking of the Logitech and Zagg covers, here. Those are great if you’re going to type on a desk or table, but not a lap solution, which, honestly, is where a shocking amount of my typing occurs.
Both solutions have you snap your iPad into a protective case that is attached to the keyboard itself by a hinge. With the iPad in place, the experience is a LOT like having an iPad laptop. Opening the iPad case uses the same tech trick as the smart cover to automatically turn on your ipad (or put it to sleep when you close it.) Both cases give you full access to the charging port and the power, volume and lock buttons. The build quality of both cases is excellent, although the ClamCase is significantly sturdier.
Both keyboards connect via Bluetooth and syncing them was very easy. They also have a micro USB port for charging. The batteries in both keyboards are good enough that I’m not really sure how long they last, but the respective packaging claims a month or more. I believe it.
One downside to both keyboard cases, though, is the snap it design makes extracting your tablet for keyboard free use a bit of a pain. With the Zagg, I’m a bit fearful that one of these types I’m going to crack the plastic case because of the way it full wraps the edges of the iPad. The Zagg design is slightly different, giving you a better purchase on the case/iPad for removal. But the difference is negligible.
As similar as the two keyboard cases are in concept, the differences are pretty dramatic. The most obvious difference is price – $100 for the Zagg, $160 for the ClamCase Pro. Realistically, however, you can get either case for about $20 less by doing a little comparison shopping for the Zagg or hunting down discount codes for the ClamCase.
The Zagg’s best feature is the backlit keyboard. You can cycle through a number of brightness levels, or simply turn it off. I type a lot and night and absolutely love this feature. They keyboard layout is pretty good, although not quite standard. The keys themselves are fairly firm, but not at all like typing on a real laptop keyboard. Also, there is about an inch of headroom above the keyboard, giving you less palm area below. The hinge on the Zagg Folio Keyboard opens to what looks like about 120 degrees, which gives you reasonably good viewing options. I always feel like I’m going to break the hinge when I open it, because it requires a good amount of pressure, but the hinge actually seems to be very sturdy.
The ClamCase’s best feature is it’s hinge, which opens up a full 360 degrees, allowing you to turn it into a tablet, or place it keyboard down for a better movie view. The second best feature is the keyboard itself. The Zagg is all plastic, case and keyboard. The ClamCase Pro has an aluminum keyboard body that is a spiritual cousin to a MacBook body. The keys also feel great, with enough travel to give you good responsiveness while you type. My WPM on the ClamCase was probably about 80% of what I can do on my MacBook Air, compared to maybe 60% on the Zagg. I’d liken the keyboard to an average PC laptop. Also, the keys begin at the top of the case (again, like a laptop) giving you plenty of palm room. But no backlighting, which really saddens me.
Both keyboard cases are excellent buys – You really can’t go wrong with either of them. The Zagg costs less and has backlit keys. The ClamCase costs more, but buys you the very sturdy build quality, an excellent keyboard, and a lot more case versatility. My advice is get the Zagg if you’re primarily planning to use the keyboard for light typing and/or at night. If you want to use your iPad as a true writing tool, invest in the ClamCase Pro, it’s the closest to a laptop feeling and you are definitely getting your money’s worth. For what it’s worthy, the one that earned a permanent place on my iPad was the ClamCase Pro.
If all you want to do is pound out a screenplay, it seems like a $200 laptop should do the trick, right? That’s what makes screenwriting on a Chromebook such an alluring promise. The low cost Google based machines have pretty good keyboards and displays, and the processors are more than sufficient to handle typing. But the requirement that all software run in a browser and mostly be tethered to the Internet have been a major stumbling block to would be blockbuster writers.
I have had two Chromebooks and tried out a number of writing apps on them. I wrote about my early efforts here. Although there are web based tools like CeltX, none of them were really good enough, especially if you’ve ever spent time working with a traditional (by which I mean real) computer. But I still wanted a solid state based, inexpensive, fan-less laptop for writing duty. I absolutely love my MacBook Air, and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it is filled with distractions. Hence my desire for a writing only machine.
Well lucky for all of us, Microsoft has come to fear the free Chrome OS and has introduced Windows with Bing, the free version of Windows, and HP and Asus, two companies with solid Chromebook backgrounds, have taken up the call to produce Chromebook killers.
Let me introduce you to the HP Stream and the Asus X205. Both laptops will run you roughly $200, they run Windows with Bing (which, like a Chromebook, requires you to have a Microsoft account) and have decent keyboards and mice and processors. And they come with cloud storage. Sound familiar? But the killer difference, and the one that makes them useful writing computers, is they run a full version of good old Windows. And if you get the “Signature Edition” of these computers at the Microsoft Store, there’s no bloatware slowing them down.
Chances are you have a favorite screenwriting app, so I won’t spend any time reviewing those. I purchased the HP Stream 11 system, and my comments below refer to that machine.
The first thing you should know is that whatever writing app you want to use, it will just run like it does on any other Windows based computer. I loaded up Final Draft and Scrivener, my go-to apps, and they opened quickly and performed great.
Chromebooks are known for their quick start up and waking, and snappy web performance. Startup on my Stream 11 was just a little slower than a Chromebook, but still fast, and web response is just as good.
The HP and Asus systems are about the same physical size and roughly the same cost. The Asus has a brighter screen and a more responsive trackpad, and the screen has a large degree of movement, but it has pretty mushy keys with a very short throw. It also uses an Atom processor. The HP uses an Intel Celeron processor and has a MUCH better keyboard. Since I primarily wanted to use the device for writing, better keyboard won out over better display. Beyond that, the two devices are strikingly similar, with 32 GB solid state drives, 2 GB of RAM, and web cams (which I’ll never use.)
So, this article was a very long winded way of saying, if you want to do screenwriting on a Chromebook, get the HP Stream or Asus X205 instead. Having spent a fair amount of time on both the Chromebook platform and the Win 8.1 with Bing platform, the latter is an unambiguously better solution.