REVIEW: Sharkk Keyboard for iPad Mini
I love the iPad mini. It is a great size for bike touring and fits perfectly in a handlebar bag. On our current trip through California, I find myself pulling it out more often than my Mac Book Air. That said, it is a little challenging to type on the mini. When you bring up the virtual keyboard it takes up half the screen, leaving barely a quarter of usable space to compose and write text and see what you have written.
So, I began looking into keyboards. Since I’m already using a Gumdrop case to protect the Mini, I wanted a standalone keyboard that didnt have an integrated case that would add bulk. Also, since I’m on a budget, I needed something that wouldn’t break the bank. The first keyboard that seemed to fit the bill was the Sharkk Keyboard. It was small, light and inexpensive. Harnessing the magical powers of Amazon Prime, I ordered it at about noon and it appeared at around 3pm the next day. How’s that for instant gratification?!
The package came in a smallish padded envelope, which contained an even smaller box. When I pulled the Sharkk Keyboard out, I was surprised by its utter smallness. Its roughly the same dimensions as the Mini itself. It came with the keyboard, a white USB charging cable, an iPad Mini screen protector and a microfiber cloth.
The controls on the keyboard are pretty simple. There is an on/off switch and a “connect” button. There are also a pair of indicator lights. One that glows red when the keyboard is charging and another one to signify it is sending out Bluetooth vibes.
Haven’t found a good solution to prop the iPad, so just using impromptu stands for the moment.
It is designed to snap on to the Mini when not in use and acts as a quasi protective case. Since I already have the Gumdrop case (which I like very much), I probably wont use it that way. The keyboard also has a channel just above the top row of keys where a naked Mini is meant to slip in. (Again, I wont be using this feature since the Gumdrop case is incompatible. For the moment, I’m just leaning the iPad on random objects to keep it upright while I type.
The keyboard is your standard Qwerty layout, with the top numeric row assigned some iPad specific functions (volume, brightness, global search, home, etc.,) which are accessible via the function and control key. Its pretty straight forward to use so I won’t belabor you with those details. Pairing the keyboard and iPad are straight forward. Turn on the keyboard. On the iPad go to Settings>Bluetooth. Find the device and type in the 4 digit code and voila – mated. When you turn off the keyboard or iPad they will find themselves again so you will only need to do this once.
iPad Mini and Shaark Keyboard compared to a 11-inch MacBook Air.
The keys are quite pleasant to use with a slightly textured surface and a nice springiness when they return after being pressed. Overall the quality (so far) exceeds its $30 price tag.
The actual experience of typing on the keyboard is a little disconcerting at first since everything is in miniature. If you can touch type you’ll find yourself mistyping often at while your fingers learn the new Liliputian geometry. In comparison, the VR keyboard is actually larger and is in someways easier to type on. However, with the virtual keyboard you are constantly toggling between letters, numbers and symbols. On the Shaark, all those functions are easily accessible like on a normal keyboard.
Size comparison with 11-inch MacBook Air.
Another area where the Shaark shines is in selecting text. No longer do you have to select text clumsily with your fingers. You simply hold down shift and the arrow keys to select the text. This alone is an excellent benefit of using a keyboard with the iPad. It makes editing, copying and moving large chunks around easy.
But can you actually use it for a lot of writing and not just tweets? Well, I’m writing this entire review with the keyboard. Ive had it for only three days and I’m still getting acquainted with it. Afer a few hours of use, my accuracy is increasing and I am getting faster and more proficient with it and can nearly touch type with the keyboard. If you are a notetaker and NEED to touch type quickly, you’ll definitely want to practice before taking the show on the road.
If you’re composing emails or writing articles and can be a bit leisurely about it, the keyboard is a good fit. With practice and diligence I’m finding that I can type fairly fast. I have no doubt that after a few weeks of use my accuracy and speed will increase and it will be second nature.
So. The question is, “Is this keyboard right for you?” It depends. If you’re the type (no pun intended) to get put off by retraining on some quirky hardware, then probably not. If you don’t mind a little bit of a learning curve and putting up with some early frustration to get a physical keyboard on your iPad mini, then go for it. There aren’t a whole lot of cons to it other than it is small, but any other keyboard for the Mini will probably have the same dimensions. At a hair over $30 it is not a huge investment even if it turns out to be a lemon for you. Its light, a good travel friendly size and well built for its pricepoint!
Lightweight and small with no extra bulk
Great feeling keys
Doubles as a case
Some early frustration with mistyping