I am a huge fan of writing via my iPad. Since I rarely sit at a desk or table except at work, I love the flexibility of writing on the go or from my couch. Basically, I’m the perfect candidate for something like the Griffin Slim Keyboard Folio for the iPad Mini. But will it dethrone my existing keyboard options?
Currently, I use two main bluetooth keyboards. At home, I have a Logitech tablet keyboard, and at work I use the Kanex Multi-Sync Bluetooth keyboard to control both my work PC and my iPad. I also use a folio-style case on my iPad Mini, so the Slim Keyboard Folio replaces both keyboards AND my case. Let’s look at the folio aspect first, and then we’ll get to the keyboard.
As a case, the Slim Keyboard Folio is fantastic. It fits the iPad perfectly, and all the cutouts line up quite nicely. It has magnets for automatic on/off, and the material feels quite nice. It’s slightly grippy, and with the lid closed the iPad is reasonably well protected against bumps and objects, especially if it’s riding in a bag. The frame around the iPad keeps it secure but does not interfere with reaching the top or sides. My biggest issue with the case is the stand that pops out the back; it only holds the iPad at one angle, and being brushed can cause it to collapse and flop the iPad backwards, so it needs a hard surface to really keep it sturdy. If this were just a traditional folio, I’d be extremely happy, as it ticks all the boxes I look for in a case-low profile, holds the iPad nicely, looks great, and has on/off magnets.
But this isn’t just a traditional folio, as they’ve managed to fit a bluetooth keyboard into the Griffin Slim Keyboard Folio. When the case is set up with the stand flipped out, the combination makes it look almost like a netbook. And just like a netbook, the keyboard is quite cramped to fit everything into a tiny footprint. Many everyday punctuation functions get relegated to FN commands, and it takes a few typing sessions to remember and adjust for that. I found that the smaller keyboard definitely slowed me down, mainly because I couldn’t quite touch type on it. Too many keys were pulling double duty to remember them all without looking, and I kept hitting the wrong letters as my fingers tried to adjust to the size of the keys. Some of this is just the learning curve with a small keyboard, and I think Griffin did a decent job of cramming a fully functional keyboard into a very small space. Key travel was good, and the keys felt nice to touch, they were just on a smaller scale. The keyboard can be charged with a regular mini-USB cord, which is handy, and the battery life seems quite robust.
Where I struggled with the Griffin Slim Keyboard Folio was in figuring out when and how someone might use it. If you’re doing an extraordinary amount of writing on an iPad, and you strongly desire a case/keyboard combo, AND you want to do it all on an iPad Mini instead of a full size iPad, this is a great case. But how many people are going to fit that niche? Personally, I fit the “writes on an iPad Mini” category, but I like having a slightly bigger keyboard. An all-in-one solution would be attractive for travel, but the floppy nature of the case’s stand means you need a table or tray to write. If I need that much space, I might as well carry my Logitech keyboard and have a more comfortable typing experience. Alternately, my Surface RT with Touch Cover has almost the same depth profile as the Slim Keyboard Folio, though obviously it is wider and taller-but it fits in the same cramped footprint without giving up a larger keyboard. If the hinge and stand were stiffer, and you could use this comfortably on your lap, that would greatly improve the reason to sacrifice keyboard space. But unless you’re looking for the absolute smallest bag space footprint possible, a lightweight separate keyboard still offers a better experience.
I really wish the hinge and stand system were better on the Griffin Slim Keyboard Folio. I loved the construction of it, I thought the keyboard was tiny but usable, and with time you’d adjust to the size and quirks. But if I need to use a larger space to balance it comfortably, I’m not gaining much over a separate keyboard and a slim non-keyboard folio case. The final measure: I wrote 90% of this review without using the Folio, because everywhere I was writing (at a desk, on the bed and couch) I had better options. For the right user, though, this is a great case…you just need to decide if it fits your needs!
What I Liked: Folio portion works great; fits a fully functional keyboard into a small space; battery life for the keyboard is excellent.
What Needs Improvement: Stand is too flimsy; keyboard has an adjustment period due to the cramped size; sacrifices a larger keyboard but the fully extended stand+keyboard takes up as much space as a larger setup.