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Sunday, August 18, 2013, 03:56 am PT (06:56 am ET)

Review: Belkin's FastFit Keyboard Case for iPad Mini

Belkin's FastFit Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard Case is well crafted and nicely designed, but can a QWERTY keyboard made to fit within the iPad mini's diminutive form factor be truly useful?

Belkin FastFit


Built to be beautiful



Unlike other keyboards, the Belkin FastFit uses premium materials. The back cover is made of aluminum painted to match the iPad mini's silver back, while the top case is finished in a black matte. Inside, the black, slightly textured chiclet keys sit in an almost edge-to-edge layout.

Belkin FastFit


The hinge is a single piece of aluminum containing magnets to attach to the iPad mini. In our opinion, this hinge is as good or better than the Apple SmartCover three-piece hinge. The keyboard has three rubber pads which protect the screen when used as a case. The case also has internal magnets situated beneath the keys that trigger the sleep wake behavior of the iPad mini.

Belkin intends the FastFit to act as a screen protector when closed, much like a fatter, rigid version of the SmartCover. When a user needs to type, the iPad can be detached and inserted into a slot at the top of the keyboard, where it will rest at an ideal viewing angle.

Belkin FastFit


A micro USB port is used to charge the internal battery, but the provided cable confusingly has a protective cap over the large USB A connector and not one over the more fragile micro USB plug.

Delightfully so



The packaging is simple, easy to open, and comes with an illustrated instructions card with the word "enjoy" printed on its reverse side. There’s something quite pleasant about removing the keyboard and being told "enjoy."

But how's it work?



All of the features described above are good, but Belkin simply can't overcome the one problem inherent in designing a keyboard for the iPad mini: size.

Belkin FastFit


With key pitch, size and placement all substantially smaller than a normal-sized keyboard, it is nearly impossible to touch type on the FastFit without error. Autocorrect helps a lot, but even with the aid of software, the number of mistakes is pretty large.

Due to the cramped layout, it is really easy to hit extra keys or to miss and hit near-neighbor keys, such as K instead of L. For example, we kept hitting the PAIR key when we intended to hit Delete.

We were able to type correctly if we adopted a non-touch type position. Two or three finger pecking seems to work with fewer errors. This can’t be what Belkin intends because the F and J keys have small raised underscores to help touch typists find them.

Belkin FastFit


Belkin advertises the keyboard as having:
  • Well-Spaced, TruType Comfortable Keys
    Function-specific keys for copying and pasting text, moderating volume and controlling music
  • Built-in stand accommodates the iPad mini in both portrait and landscape modes
  • Up to 3 months of battery life when on stand-by
  • Durable anodized aluminum construction makes it lightweight and protects from scratches and scuffs
  • 1-Year Limited Warranty
  • Pairs with iPad through Bluetooth
  • Sleek design to minimize bulk

And we cannot disagree with most of these. The battery is long-lived. The keys do have spaces between them and feature great shortcuts like Siri/dictation. They are comfortable to type on, but we still take issue with the meaning of TruType in that our error rate while typing was quite high.

We typed almost 750 words and had 46 errors, compared to almost none with a full size keyboard.

Belkin FastFit


Conclusion



While it’s a beautiful keyboard, and well-made in every respect, we cannot recommend the FastFit for iPad mini to all comers. It reminds us of netbooks and their cramped keyboards. In 2009, when netbooks were a successful category due to their inexpensive price, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs said, “We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA won't let us ship that.” He also said, “They're slow, they have low quality displays and they run clunky old PC software. They're not better than a laptop at anything, they're just cheaper: they're just cheap laptops.”

Using this beautiful-to-touch keyboard is a clunky experience. The FastFit is gorgeous to have as a screen cover, but its functionality as a keyboard is, for us, relegated to short messages and email. For serious writing we would have to recommend a separate cover and full size wireless keyboard.

Belkin FastFit


However, for those who want a nice looking cover that can double as a stand-in keyboard for the odd email or note, the Belkin FastFit Keyboard Case for iPad mini may be a good fit. Amazon is currently selling the FastFit for $79.99 with free shipping .

Score: 2.5





Pros:


  • Premium materials
  • Excellent hinge, magnets, and wake sleep magnet
  • Long-lasting battery

Cons:


  • Reduced size to match iPad mini is difficult to type on.