Much like its full-sized namesake, the iPad mini is spawning its own market of third-party cases—including the keyboard-packing variety. The tablet’s diminutive dimensions are a boon for its portability, but when it comes to productivity, the extra-cramped on-screen keyboard just won’t cut it for many. The Zagg ZAGGkeys Mini 7 ($89.99 direct) is one of the first solutions available for adding a physical keyboard to your iPad mini, but it’s not the best. The ZAGGkeys Mini 9 is marginally larger, but the same price, and offers a much more comfortable typing experience.
Design, Setup, and Keyboard
The Mini 7 looks a lot like your typical iPad keyboard folio, only—you guessed it—miniature. The outside is wrapped in black synthetic leather, and unlike most standard folios, the Mini 7 features a small kickstand to prop the iPad mini up. The case portion that protects the mini is made from thick, pliable rubber, which is probably great for protection from bumps and drops, but seems a bit ungainly when surrounding the svelte tablet.
The case measures about 0.80 inches thick and weighs 12.32 ounces, compared with the 0.28 inches and 10.9 ounces of the mini alone. There are cutouts for all the ports and buttons, though the headphone cutout is a bit too narrow. The keyboard folds nicely over the iPad mini’s screen, and while the closure has a magnetic snap to it, opening the case again does not activate the iPad’s automatic sleep/wake feature.
Above the keyboard are Power and Bluetooth buttons, with LED indicators next to both. Setup is as simple as pressing the Power button and then the Bluetooth button to put the Mini 7 into pairing mode. Then you simply pair the device with your tablet as you would any other Bluetooth accessory.
The keyboard itself has a full QWERTY layout and even manages to fit in a row of dedicated iPad function keys. Zagg claims that the setup is only 13 percent smaller than a traditional Apple keyboard and the chiclet style keys actually look very similar in size to full-sized iPad keyboard folio keys. The layout and spacing is very cramped, but that’s to be expected. The big problem here is feel and responsiveness.The keys feel a bit mushy and lack the crispness found in iPad keyboard cases like the ZAGGkeys PROplus. During testing, I also noticed that keys tended to stick, resulting in double keystrokes and generally sluggish responsiveness. You’ll be able to type faster on the Mini 7 than using the on-screen keyboard, but it’s not the most comfortable experience, especially when you consider the bulk this keyboard adds.
There are also some questionable keyboard layout choices. For example, you have to hold the Fn key, not Shift or Ctrl, to get to apostrophes and quotation marks. It’s bad enough that colon and semi colon take precedence over the apostrophe and quotation mark, but the Fn key is also wedged tightly between the Ctrl and Cmd keys, making it difficult to accurately hit.
The reason most people get an iPad mini is for its supreme portability, and the Zagg ZAGGkeys Mini 7 almost seems like an affront to its strikingly thin-and-light design, especially since it doesn’t provide the best typing experience. If you really need a keyboard for your iPad mini, I recommend the Mini 9, or simply toting a standalone Bluetooth keyboard and a separate case—you can find our favorite iPad mini cases here. I’d also wait to see if Zagg ports over the design of the ZAGGkeys PROplus or if Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover makes its way to the iPad mini.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc