Belkin FastFit Keyboard Case review: Small keys for big fingers

Summary:The FastFit Keyboard Case is the thinnest and lightest model yet for the iPad mini. How well does it work as a keyboard for text entry? Check the review for the answer.

Open for typing
Credit all images: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The small form of the iPad mini doesn't seem it would be well-suited for use with a keyboard, but accessory makers have proven that's not the case. Belkin has produced a new case for the iPad mini that might be a good fit for those with small hands.

The Belkin FastFit Keyboard Case is the thinnest keyboard case and at only 7mm thick it is even thinner than the svelte iPad mini. It is not a case that completely covers the tablet so if that's important to you look for a folio style case. The FastFit is a single piece that forms a cover to protect the iPad mini screen when clipped into place. The whole assembly forms one of the thinnest and lightest units for transport.

See also: 5 best iPad mini keyboard cases  | Galaxy Note 8.0: Still the best small tablet  | Two keyboard cases for iPad mini change the game

The iPad mini detaches from the cover and is placed in a magnetic slot for typing. It only supports one viewing angle but it is easy to see the tablet screen. While the tablet attaches in the slot magnetically, it isn't strong enough to safely carry the assembly by grabbing the top of the iPad. The keyboard often fell off in our testing.

The FastFit has a unique magnetic hinge that makes it simple to attach to the iPad mini for closing. Just bring the edge of the tablet near the hinge and it raises up and attaches itself. The assembly is then closed like a book. Since the FastFit only covers the screen the back of the iPad mini is exposed. Like most covers for the iPad mini, the FastFit turns the iPad mini on/off by opening/closing the cover.

Typing experience

Keyboard closeup
FastFit closeup. Note odd placement of some punctuation keys.

The typing experience of a keyboard case is just as important as the case function, maybe more so. OEMs producing other keyboards for the iPad mini have taken a design approach that makes commonly used keys almost as big as a full-size keyboard, with other keys smaller. This yields a decent typing experience for touch typists.

Comparison ZAGG
L-R: FastFit, ZAGGkeys Cover -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Due to having to place the tablet in a slot away from the back of the cover, Belkin must have a smaller keyboard area than some competitor's models (see comparison above). The result is that most of the keys are very small, with some oversized keys, such as the Enter and two Shift keys. While it is nice to have these easy-to-hit big keys, the rest of the keys are too small for those of us with big hands.

Side view

Another concession Belkin had to make due to the small keyboard area is to move common punctuation keys to strange locations. Touch typing is greatly impeded due to stopping to look for those keys.

While writing this review on the FastFit, I found myself constantly wishing I was using my favorite keyboard, the ZAGGkeys Cover . I create typos on the FastFit too often to get going at a fast clip as a result of the small keys. This would likely not be the case for those with smaller hands.

The FastFit Keyboard Case connects to the iPad mini via Bluetooth, and pairing it the first time is accomplished by hitting the Pair key on the keyboard and then connecting the iPad mini in Settings. This pairing key should have been located on the side edge of the keyboard with other controls rather than waste a key that is seldom used. There is a power switch on the side of the keyboard, along with a microUSB port for charging with the included cable. Belkin claims 40 hours of use on a charge.

Conclusion

Those wanting a keyboard for the iPad mini that also functions as a case won't find one thinner and lighter than the Belkin FastFit Keyboard Case. It is easy to use and easy to pack up for transport when it's time to move. The keyboard is smaller than the competition and harder to use for those with big fingers.

The FastFit is available from Belkin for $79.99, and you may find it cheaper from other online retailers. When the little box arrives you may not believe there is a full keyboard in there, but rest assured it really is that small.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Reviews, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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