Belkin, one of the major Apple accessory makers, has now added a keyboard case for the iPad mini to its portfolio. Like its similar accessory for the full-size iPad, the Portable Keyboard Case for iPad mini protects the mini with a thin rubberized sheath. For $80, this case also doubles as a stand, though it could be easier to transform.
The Belkin Portable Keyboard Case's jet-black cover looks plain, but it feels good, thanks to a soft-touch finish. A magnetic closing flap keeps things simple, but reliable. The inside is lined with a black velvetlike material which we found to be a nice, classy touch.
At 1.28 pounds with the iPad mini inside, the Belkin case is the lightest keyboard case we've tested that completely encloses the mini. The rubber-coated ZaggKeys Mini 7 weighs 1.6 pounds, while the Kensington KeyFolio Pro 2 and Ionic Keyboard Tablet Case are 1.4 pounds.
The iPad mini slides into place -- landscape mode only -- via two rubber L-shaped holders on its bottom edges. A simple rubber clip fastens the top of the iPad mini when the case is closed. In work mode, that clip can be popped off so that a portion of the case may fold backward to create a triangular stand that supports the iPad as you type on the keyboard.
It took some tweaking to get the iPad mini to stand on its own. Nevertheless, we successsfully used the Belkin in our lap, which is something we can't say about most competing cases.
The Belkin Portable Keyboard Case includes a fair number of function buttons for the iPad, including search, copy, cut, paste and media and volume controls. There's a switch on the right side that turns the keyboard on and off, as well as a dedicated pairing button. Above these items, you'll find a microUSB port for charging. Belkin rates its iPad mini case for 155 hours of active battery life and includes a USB-to-micro-USB cable for recharging.
Using the Belkin's Bluetooth keyboard, we averaged 54 words per minute with 97 percent accuracy on the TapTyping typing test. That's a bit low, but it's not as low as our abysmal score of 45 wpm on the Kensington KeyFolio Pro 2. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini remains our high performer; we averaged 61 wpm on that keyboard.
Despite the roomy, island-style layout, a few things tripped us up on Belkin's keyboard. Feedback was slightly mushy, and both the space bar and Enter key are small.
Belkin's Portable Keyboard Case for iPad mini is a good accessory, offering full protection without the bulk. However, the typing experience is merely average, and it could be easier to engage the stand. While we prefer the layout of the ZaggKeys Mini 7's keyboard, that case is a bit heftier. For iPad mini owners who need an unobtrusively thin protector and a keyboard for taking notes, emailing and other tasks, the Belkin keyboard gets the job done.