This is a review I really didn’t want to have to write, as I had high hopes when I ordered this product a few days ago. But after trying it out, I’m afraid I’m just going to have to send it back. It’s not Anker’s fault, really; it’s mine. I should have paid more attention to what I was ordering and not had such unrealistic hopes. Nonetheless, I have the product here and I’ve tried it out, and it’s time to review it.
Going by the redoubtable name of “Anker Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Wireless Aluminum Keyboard & Cover (2 in 1) for iPad mini 3 / mini 2 / iPad mini,” this keyboard also uses the moniker of “Anker TC830” but the only place you’ll find that is on your iPad’s Bluetooth connection dialogue.
Beginning with the positive, the keyboard is absolutely every bit as well-made as the two other Anker keyboards in my possession. It’s got a solid aluminum exterior and a keyboard with a decent amount of travel. It gets good reviews on Amazon, with an average of 4.5 stars over 653 customer reviews, and I know Anker’s a good brand. That’s why I choose to buy it over one of the more expensive Logitech models I looked at. But I apparently didn’t look closely enough.
It’s a rechargeable keyboard, with a battery built in; there’s a micro-USB port in it. If you have one of those wall-warts with two USB ports in it, it might be worth plugging a lightning cable into one and a micro-USB into the other to charge them both at once. Though, like my other rechargeable Anker, it should be able to go without for weeks at the least.
The keyboard attaches to the left side of the iPad with a rather neat magnetic clip design, which looks about like the design most such keyboard covers use. It works pretty well; often you don’t even have to line it up—just hold the iPad next to it and it snaps into place. (It doesn’t work on the right side, as it has the volume controls in the way.)
The magnet is pretty strong, too. I could hold on by either the iPad or the keyboard and lift, and the other half would dangle there. I didn’t have to shake it too hard to make it pop off, though, so I wouldn’t try it over a hard surface.
There doesn’t seem to be any sort of magnet or latch in the bottom to hold the iPad shut with it hooked on. It just folds shut, then you need to put it in a case sized to fit. Also, you can’t bend it 180 degrees around the back to hold it in place while you use your iPad as a tablet; it just pops off.
I had been going to complain that I had hoped it would have some kind of tablet-stand function built in, but the magnet hinge just lets it flop around. However, only after I’d written most of this review did I happen to notice that another iPad keyboard had a groove in it just like this one—and it turned out that it does have an iPad stand function, just not one you use while it’s attached by the magnet. Well, that’s something, anyway.
But the main issue that gives me trouble has to do with how sheerly tiny it is. (Which, of course, it has to be, to be able to fit a 7” iPad.) I didn’t think it would be such a problem when I ordered it, but it turns out size really does matter. The keys are so small, I would need freakishly tiny Donald Trump fingers to be able to use it easily. If your six-year-old knows how to touch-type, this would be just about their size, but I can’t see any way I could use it regularly.
An additional issue is that small size means some keys have to be dropped or doubled-up. In particular, the brackets, the apostrophe, and quotation mark are all accessed only with the aid of the shift-like Function key. That’s a dealbreaker right there. I’m a fiction writer as well as a blogger; I write dialogue all the time, with contractions and more importantly quotation marks all over the place.
I simply couldn’t use something like this even with full-sized keys; it would drive me to distraction. I should have looked more closely at the photos of the keyboard before I ordered it; if I’d noticed that, I certainly would never have ordered it.
(Ironically, a similar Logitech keyboard cover manages to keep the quotation mark, apostrophe, and brackets by making their keys half-sized, and instead doubles up the caps lock and tab keys at the other end of the keyboard. Assuming the freakishly tiny keys weren’t a problem there, too, that arrangement actually would work better for me. Maybe I should have bought that one instead.)
It seems likely that any iPad Mini keyboard cover I use would have that same problem, whether Anker made it or somebody else. A tablet the size of the Mini might be a great convenient carry, but it doesn’t offer much room to squeeze a full-sized keyboard in. When you get right down to it, this keyboard cover case was probably more of an affectation than I should have let myself order now anyway. I have two perfectly good, full-sized Bluetooth keyboards that I could use, after all—bigger ones than that cover. And it’s not hard to carry them with me in my gadget bag when I want to get out and do some typing.
I hate to send anything back to Amazon, partly because it’s so much extra trouble to go to and partly because if I do it too often they might lock my account out. But this keyboard simply isn’t worth $30 to me.
That being said, it might very well be worth $30 to one of you. All those five-star reviews on Amazon can’t be without reason, after all. This keyboard would be just right for someone who doesn’t do all that much typing and would like a well-made aluminum cover for their iPad Mini that has keys for those few times they do need to type things.
And, perhaps, someone who has very small fingers. Maybe the Donald Trump campaign would be interested.