Someone can easily love their Apple iPad mini without being fond of typing with the on-screen keyboard. That's where the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini comes in -- it adds a physical keyboard to this tablet without adding a lot of bulk.
I have the full-size version for my iPad and I have always been pleased with it, so I expected big things of the mini version. For the most part it lives up to my expectations.
Build and Design
The size of Apple's tablet sets the constraints for this keyboard -- you don't want to carry around an accessory that's wider than the computer it's meant to be used with.
The iPad mini is obviously small, so this add-on has to be as well. This means that there isn't room for a full-sized set of keys like you'd have for a PC, or even a laptop. It's about 80% of the size of a typical keyboard.
This might cause issues for those who have big hands, as they're going to find this keyboard a bit cramped. But I could say the same thing about the iPad mini itself -- if you have hands that are well above average in size, perhaps the full-size version of Apple's tablet might be better for you.
To save even more space, Logitech combined the function of some keys. The only one of these I found even mildly vexing is that TAB is Fn-Q.
But not every corner was cut, not by a long shot. There's a full row of dedicated number keys, as well as a set of directional keys. Punctuation keys are arranged just as they are on a full-size keyboard, so you won't be hunting for the Question Mark.
This accessory has "Ultrathin" in its name for a reason: it really is slender. It isn't going to add a lot of bulk to your tablet when you're carrying it around.
To further save on bulk, it connects to the iPad mini with magnets. You just put the tablet on the keyboard and they will hold themselves together. There is a small hinge along one side for a bit of extra stability.
The downside of this is that this gadget is not designed to protect the tablet. It offers some protection from scratches on the screen when the two are being carried around, but does nothing for the back, nor would it be any help if the tablet is dropped.
More magnets alert the tablet when the keyboard is locked on. Attaching the keyboard puts the iPad to sleep, while removing the keyboard wakes it up.
When in use, the iPad mini fits into a slot that runs just above the top row of keys. It's held in with even more magnets so it's not going to fall out. But keep in mind, it offers only one viewing angle. It's a fine angle, but there's no way to adjust it besides tilting up the entire keyboard.
The iPad mini's on-screen keyboard is fine for short messages, but a physical one is so much better when doing serious writing. The fact that the screen has no "give" is hard on the fingertips after a while.
I also find it much faster. I've never met anyone who can successfully touchtype on a virtual keyboard, but it is possible with this accessory. It's a bit cramped, but it's doable.
Another thing that's fast and easy is setting this accessory up. It communicates with the tablet over the short-range wireless standard Bluetooth, and Apple's iOS offers built-in support for external Bluetooth keyboards, so no software has to be added to the tablet. All that's necessary is to pair the two devices, a process that takes about 15 seconds total.
The battery life on the Ultrathin Keyboard mini is more than generous. I've had it for a week and, even with extensive use, is still on its first charge with no signs that it's running out.
This isn't surprising -- the full size version can go months on a single charge. I expect its little brother will as well.
The Ultrathin Keyboard mini is a handy bit of kit for those who want to turn their tablet into a miniature laptop. Its keyboard is quite good, even for extended use. Far better than typing on a screen.
At $80 it's not cheap, but it's probably worth it for those who want to make their iPad mini much more productive.
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