As the popularity and availability of tablets continue to grow so will the need more having a more precise and familiar way to get serious work done using them. And there’s nothing more serious than accurate typing, especially with competent document editors like Office, Pages, and Google Drive more available than ever before. This brings us to Genius’ LuxePad i9010 Mini Keyboard, the latest edition to their growing LuxePad series of platform-specific keyboards that aim to improve typing speeds and accuracy on those new-fangled tablets that people seem to go crazy over.
It’s a capable set of keys that connects via Bluetooth 3.0 to your device-of-choice, which in this case is probably Apple’s iPad mini. Can Genius bring accurate typing to this smaller-form tablet in a way that distinguishes itself from the scores of other options out there?
Generally, the LuxePad looks and feels much like any budget mini-sized keyboard, with a full assortment of QWERTY-style keys in miniature form. As it features a magnetic band to attach onto the iPad mini (like a SmartCover, even putting the tablet into Standby mode) its dimensions match the tablet, roughly 7.5” length x 5” wide, and weighing in at half a pound. The weight is important in that it nearly doubles the load you’ll carry when attached so you might want to take that into consideration.
The LuxePad’s back is made of aluminum that’s designed to match the iPad’s look and feel – though its clearly not made of the same high-grade material. Still, it’s a decent enough build and looks attractive when paired with its destined tablet. The actual keys are decent, though nothing special, offering the standard QWERTY layout for all the most critical buttons (alpha-numeric), and under them is a rubbery coating that tapers towards the bottom to let even clumsy fingers “open” it up for use when attached and closed.
Apart from the keys themselves the only extras are the On/Off slider and battery/charge and Bluetooth indicator lights. The only port is the single micro-USB charge port on the right side for easy access, though you probably won’t use it that much. Genius promises up to 180 hours per charge of usage. I’ll take their word for it, as during my week testing the LuxePad I never had to recharge.
A row of tablet-specific Function keys add some familiar additional functionality (natch) like Home, Search, music control (play/pause, back, forward), volume up/down/mute, and screen lock. Nothing too special, though I liked that holding down the Fn+Home key activated Siri, or that double-taps brought up multitasking. Unfortunately, a second set of Function-only keys – PgUp/PgDn, Home/End – didn’t seem to work at all, though I’d chalk that up more to the operating system than the keyboard itself.
Speaking of Function beefs, I’m aware that mini-keyboards often make compromises with their layout to squeeze a standard sized allotment of buttons into cramped spaces, and the LuxePad is no different. The biggest victims of this scaling-back are the ‘ and “ keys, which have moved up a row and now require pressing the “Fn” key in tandem to work. Less clunky, though still very much a bother, is the placement of the “?” button, now situated right next to the mini spacebar.
Decent build aside, there’s two design flaws right off the bat. First, despite how nicely the keyboard clicks and bonds with the iPad you’ll still have to physically detach and mount it (either in portrait or in the far more useful landscape mode) to utilize its “stand” function. The second is that once docked the iPad actually hides all the indicator lights and on/off switch from view; a small gripe but a gripe nonetheless.
And now to my biggest and most crucial gripe: I never felt comfortable using the LuxePad as a physical keyboard. The first half of this review was actually written using the keyboard, and that took a lot more patience and careful hunt-and-pecking than I’m used to. Not only are the stock keys far too small for fatter fingers (i.e. adult), but the relocated keys (see above) meant more mistakes and corrections even on second and third attempts.
To be fair, I generally dislike these mini-keyboards with their mini-keys that seldom take into account those of us with full-sized hands and digits. Younger and more smaller fingered typists seem to fair better with these micro-keyboards, so they may not suffer as much as those of us fatter and more adult-sized fingers.
There are far better, cheaper, and more versatile keyboards out there for your iPad mini – or any Bluetooth – keyboard needs than the LuxePad i9010 Mini Keyboard. Yes, Genius’ offering does look great when matched to the iPad mini, easily among the most attractive keyboards out there, but that means squat if it doesn’t deliver its token promise: to improve typing on the smaller-sized tablet. Maybe those younger typists or ones blessed with slender fingers will find these mini keys more to their liking, but most will only find frustration in mistyped words and sentences, to say nothing of the awkwardly relocated keys. Save your money and opt for a full-sized keyboard if you absolutely need precision.
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