Belkin Portable Keyboard Case for iPad mini Review
Belkin manages to shoehorn a full QWERTY into its Portable Keyboard Case for iPad mini, but it doesn’t offer a great typing experience.
- Sleek and classy design
- Full QWERTY keyboard
- Shortcut keys
- Small keys with some awkward keyboard layout choices
- Does not put iPad to sleep when closed
The iPad mini, like its larger sibling, is great for a lot of things, but typing anything longer than a short email message here or there isn’t one of them. But while keyboard cases are genuinely useful for the full-sized iPad, the small footprint of the iPad mini doesn’t allow for very spacious keyboards built into cases. Belkin is the latest company to try and shoehorn a full QWERTY keyboard into an iPad mini case, with its Portable Keyboard Case for iPad mini ($79.99 direct). Unfortunately, the keyboard is just too small, with some awkward layout choices that make it tough to type with ease or speed.
Design, Setup, and Keyboard
Unlike the ZAGGkeys Mini 7, which uses a thick rubber shell and kickstand, the Portable Keyboard Case resembles more traditional keyboard folio cases. A thin, suede-like outer flap folds around an inner frame for the iPad mini and a black plastic keyboard. The flap snaps closed magnetically and folds back into a small triangle for propping up the tablet for typing. The case measures 0.8-inch thick, which is the same as the ZAGGkeys Mini 7, but weighs only 9.28 ounces, compared with the Mini 7′s 12.32 ounces. The frame that holds the iPad mini leaves the speakers, ports, and buttons exposed and easily accessible, but the case does not put the tablet to sleep when closed.
Along the right edge are a micro USB port for charging with the included cable, a power switch, a pairing button, and an LED indicator light. Setup and pairing works like any other Bluetooth keyboard; simply flip the switch into the On position, press the Pair button, and enter the pairing code provided by the iPad mini.
The keyboard itself, while offering tactile feedback and a full QWERTY layout, isn’t very comfortable. The chiclet style keys provide a bit more travel than the ZAGGkeys Mini 7′s, but they’re noticeably smaller. On top of that, the keyboard layout is unorthodox and somewhat awkward—for instance, the Space Bar is far too small and the Backspace button is in line with the top row of letters, instead of numbers, like on most keyboards. That led to a lot of mistaken keystrokes in my tests, especially when trying to type quickly. I had a far more difficult time adjusting to the Portable Keyboard Case than the ZAGGkeys, which itself didn’t offer the best typing experience. There’s no dedicated function row like on the ZAGG model, instead you have to hold down the Fn key and use the number keys to access shortcuts like media controls.
I’m not completely sold on keyboard cases for the iPad mini. If there are doubts about the full-sized iPad as a productivity tool, those are only heightened by the iPad mini’s compact build. Simply put, I’m not sure there is enough real estate within the dimensions of the mini to fit a truly comfortable keyboard. The ZAGGkeys Mini 9 manages to fit a much more comfortable keyboard in, but, given its bulk, it nearly defeats the purpose of getting the compact tablet in the first place. Logitech recently announced an iPad mini version of its excellent Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, so I’m eager to see how that fares. But for now, I’d recommend a full-size portable Bluetooth keyboard like the Apple Wireless Keyboard and a separate case—check out some of our favorites.
By Eugene Kim, PCMag