When using a iPad in business or education, an add-on keyboard can be very useful, as it turns the tablet into a 2-in-1: a device that combines the best features of a laptop and a tablet. A good, simple option for iPad Air users is the KeyFolio Thin X2 from Kensington.
It sells for $89.99, but is available for a bit less from some online retailers.
Build and Design
This accessory functions as both a case and a keyboard. The tablet is held in a rigid polycarbonate enclosure that protects it on three sides, and this is attached via a flexible hinge to a QWERTY keyboard that also serves to protect the screen when the two sections are clamped together.
The flap that acts as a hinge is flexible enough to allow the keyboard to be placed behind the screen, so the iPad can still be used in tablet mode. This is especially handy when one wants to use the device in portrait mode.
The KeyFolio Thin X2 is very easy to remove. This means that it can be used at the office or in class all day, but then quickly popped off in the evening when its time to play games or read ebooks.
The shell is rigid enough to offer some additional protection in case of accidents, but is not as protective as cases designed specifically to allow tablets to be used in hazardous conditions. This is the sort of case that can be a lifesaver if someone accidentally sit on their tablet, but would be little use of they drop it down a set of cement stairs.
There are openings in the enclose to give access to all the iPad Air’s buttons, ports, speakers, and the microphone – these are very handy but mean that this case offers little protection against liquids.
Kensington did a fine job of designing the KeyFolio Thin X2 to live up to its name: it adds a minimal amount of bulk to this tablet. With iPad inserted, the combination weighs under two pounds and is slightly more than twice as thick as the Apple device on its own.
Deploying the keyboard just requires opening the clamshell and inserting the bottom of the tablet into a channel that runs just above the keys. As soon as the iPad Air is in this channel, the keyboard will be activated, and removing it automatically deactivates it.
Opening the clamshell also turns on the tablet’s display, while closing it turns the screen off.
The KeyFolio Thin X2 can only be as wide at the iPad Air, so it can’t include a full-size keyboard. The one it does have is about the size of a typical laptop’s keyboard. This still leaves plenty of room for a full QWERTY layout with good key separation. However, the desire for thinness means that there is only marginal key travel.
The keys are very quiet, and the general feeling is one of quality. This seems like a keyboard that will last through years of heavy use.
Kensington built in six rows of keys, with the top row being a set of iOS function keys. The most useful of these is a pair of replacements for the Home button. Pressing one of these sends the iPad back to the home screen/app launcher, while the other opens the list of currently-running applications.
There is also a set of multimedia controls, as well as button that turns the screen on or off.
Apple built support for Bluetooth wireless keyboards like this into iOS, so no additional software or drivers are required to use it. This also means that there are no performance issues: keystrokes are registered onscreen as soon as the key is touched, just as they are with wired keyboards.
There is an initial setup process to get the iPad Air and keyboard communicating with each other, but this is simple, takes just a few seconds, and only has to be done once.
Bluetooth keyboards like this one require very little power to use. Kensington does not make a claim as to how long the KeyFolio Thin X2 will last on a single charge, but we’ve been testing a unit for several weeks without needing to recharge it. If this model is anything like similar accessories made by this company, it should last for months before needing to be plugged in again.
The Kensington KeyFolio Thin X2 for the iPad Air is a well-designed keyboard case. It’s about as small and lightweight as this type of accessory can be, and has a very functional keyboard.
It has almost no downsides. The closest it comes to one is that this is a basic, no-frills device, while there are rival models that have some additional features. For example, Kensington offers a similar keyboard case with a built-in battery that can be used to recharge the user’s tablet or phone, there are several models with backlit keys, and a rival company has an add-on keyboard with a built-in speaker. These cost more than the KeyFolio Thin X2 does, however.