Last year I did a keyboard shootout on the fullsize iPad Keyboard. The winner was a ZAGG keyboard (rebadged by Logitech). That keyboard has been fantastic -- I can type on it just as quickly as I can on my laptop, allowing me to bring my iPad + keyboard to meetings and be super productive. (Click here for a related post on hyper productivity on the laptop).
As the iPad get smaller, I realized it was time for me to do a new review, this time with smaller keyboards made for the iPad Mini.
These keyboards are only 7" inches across, not 9" like the fullsize iPad keyboard, and I was curious to see what losing 23% of the keyboard space would do for my productivity. Since I haven't yet purchased an iPad Mini (waiting for Retina display!), I used the fullsize iPad to run the tests, which was fine since I was just focused on the speed and usability of the keyboards.
I tested four different keyboards:
The way I ran these tests was by benchmarking how long it took me to write the following block of text on each keyboard:
This is a keyboard test for the iPad Mini. Let's see how quickly I can type these words. Today is 2/13/13. I am going to copy this last sentence and then paste it in. I am going to copy this last sentence and then paste it in.
To write that block of text successfully, I had to be able to bold text, to copy & paste text, type numbers, and access special characters like / and '. I first conducted the test using the fullsize Logitech keyboard that won the fullsize iPad challenge. I was able to complete that test in 36.5 seconds, setting the standard for the mini keyboards to beat.
Here's a video showing the setup and benchmarking:
The ZAGG 7 and 9 keyboards are similar, with one exception: The 7 is two inches narrower than the 9. I was able to complete the benchmark text in almost exactly the same time using the ZAGG 9 keyboard as the fullsize Logitech keyboard -- 37 seconds vs. 36.5, which makes sense because the ZAGG 9 is the exact same keyboard as the Logitech, just re-badged. On my first try, I was able to do the text on the ZAGG 7 in 1:26, or about 3x slower than the ZAGG 9. At that speed, I would pick the ZAGG 9, even though it's bulkier. But with just 5 minutes of practice, i was able to complete the text in 0:47 using the ZAGG 7 (picture above), so I'm confident that with a bit of use I could achieve almost as much efficiency on the ZAGG 7 as the ZAGG 9, so I'm calling it the overall winner of the contest. Here's the ZAGG product link (just select 7 or 9 in the dropdown), and here's a video:
Value Award: 2:26 for Amazon's Poetic Generic Brand Keyboard
It seems that Amazon has created a generic no-name brand keyboard for the iPad mini. Strangely, I ordered two that had different names but were exactly the same (The other one was called the QQ-Tech). I wouldn't recommend this keyboard if you're looking for speed -- it took me 2:26 to complete the text, and it was painful. That's almost 5 times longer than with the benchmark keyboard. However, if you're super price sensitive (or another way to say it -- if you value your dollars more than the efficiency loss you'll experience with this keyboard) then you might consider it. Here's a video:
And now, the worst: 3:54 for the Sharkk Keyboard (save your money)
I wouldn't recommend this keyboard on my worst enemy. It was unusable, taking me eight times as long to stumble through the text block -- and even then I couldn't fully complete it because the keyboard is missing copy & paste keys. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can watch the video:
MAJOR UPDATE!!! After a few months of using the ZAGG keyboard, I got really frustrated with the permanent way the iPad is encased in the keyboard. While it's great for protecting the iPad, the setup makes it hard to impossible to use the iPad + keyboard on anything but a flat surface (like a table). Typing by resting the keyboard on your knees is completely out of the quesiton. Plus, the whole setup is super bulky. So while the ZAGG keyboard itself is good, I decided to look for a better alternative.
And I'm happy to report that I found a much better option: The Logitech iPad Mini keyboard. It's fantastic. The keyboard itself is actually better than the ZAGG keyboard was. On the ZAGG keyboard I really missed having an "option" key. OPTION+Arrow means you can move word by word (and when you hold shift down, too, it highlights the words as you move). If you're not a keyboard shortcut fanatic like I am then you won't miss this functionality. But if you are, then the ZAGG keyboard will drive you crazy. (For more on keyboard shortcuts and using technology efficiently generally, check out http://go.danielodio.com/
The Logitech iPad Mini keyboard has its downsides: The iPad is exposed and it'd be easier to damage. However, I'm willing to deal with that in exchange for a much slimmer profile. And, since it's magnetic, the iPad attaches well to it, and it turns on when I open it, and turns off when I close it (another thing the ZAGG keyboard didn't do). I've been using this Logitech keyboard for about a month now, and I absolutely love it.
Check out the jorno. I might get one when they come out to use with my Note II.
I want to know what are the advantages of carrying an iPad with a keyboard with you instead of just using your laptop. It's not that much lighter than a Macbook. I've had the full-size iPad for 10 months now, but it's still just a consumption device for me.
Perhaps it's the lack of distractions and the ability to only do one task at a time? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this.
@Emil, the Macbook (Air specifically) is a very good alternative to an iPad + keyboard, especially if you just want to use it as your primary (and possibly only) device.
However, I use a 15" Macbook Pro because I do a good amount of processor and RAM-intensive tasks, so an Air won't work for me as my laptop. And I don't really want to have two laptops -- I like the iPad for many things other than taking to meetings, so having an iPad is generally useful for me.
If you didn't have those constraints then I'd absolutely recommend a Macbook Air as a top option.
However there is one other thing: As iPads get smaller (like the mini), the differentiation grows. The mini is substantially smaller than both the regular iPad and the Macbook Air. And at some point this year it'll have a retina display (which is what I'm waiting for before buying one). So an iPad mini with a retina display + a good keyboard would trump all other options in several important ways:
I agree about iPad Mini becoming more popular than the full size iPad. I think it already is, but Apple doesn't release these stats as far as I know.
The full-size iPad is just to heavy for one-handed use. I might sell my iPad 3 and go for Mini with Retina display when it comes out.
I recently wrote about how I've swapped PowerPoint out for something I call PowerPinch (a term I made up).
When it came time to make a demo video for Socialize, I wondered if I could use PowerPinch to make the video, and then somehow capture what was happening on my iPad. It turns out, you can. Here's the finished video, and below is how I did it.
First, I made the demo video using my PowerPinch process. To learn more about that part, read this blog on PowerPinch.
I recently wrote about how I've swapped PowerPoint out for something I call PowerPinch (a term I made up). When it came time to make a demo video for Socialize, I wondered if I could use PowerPinch to make the video, and then somehow capture what was happening on my iPad. It turns out, you can. Here's the finished video, and below is how I did it. First, I made the demo video using my PowerPinch process. To learn more about that part, read this blog on PowerPinch. Then, I made a script for the video using Google Docs (pic at right). Once I was ready to capture, I bought a BlackMagic H.264 Pro Recorder box from Amazon, an HDMI cable, the HDMI iPad 2 Connector, and a mini USB cable. That's all the hardware I needed to connect my iPad to my Macbook Pro and start recording the content of my iPad screen. The BlackMagic box comes with its own capture software, called Blackmagic Media Express, which was perfectly sufficient for the job. I then read the script into a pair of Logitech USB Headphones and used audio editing program Audacity to splice the audio together the way I wanted it. I imported both the video and the audio into iMovie, and exported an .mp4, which I then uploaded to Vimeo and YouTube. Presto! The video isn't as smooth as I'd like, but for a $500 hardware budget, I'll definitely take it as a v1. It's more polished than anything I could've done without having to whip out AfterEffects. Plus it's kinda cool to have done it on the iPad. If you do have a $5k+ budget to spend, I'd recommend a company like DigitalFlair, which made our AppMakr demo video. I'd love any ideas you have to improve on this v1 -- at some point I'll try making another one based on what I learned from the first go-around. So if you have any thoughts or any questions on how I did it, please leave them in the comments below.
This won't quite be the Apple bashing that people probably expect. To start off, I don't hate Apple. I think that they're a spectacular company that does a lot of very smart things. I think that they build relatively high quality products and do a good job of supporting them.
Even if I don't buy any of their products, I'm glad that Apple is around. They're responsible for pushing forward a lot of technologies that are later adapted and improved on by companies I do buy things from.
I also think that Apple makes the right product for a lot of people, maybe even you. An iPod is probably the right music player for more people than any other music player. The average consumer will probably do better with a Mac laptop than the average PC laptop.