Talking tech since 2003

Three days ago, my laptop’s power supply sparked and fizzled out, leaving me with about three hours of battery life. The cheapest power supply I could find at a retailer was $50 — no joke. So I opted to buy one for $8 on Amazon and pay $3.99 for one-day shipping.

Along with that power supply, I also bought the product that I’ll be focusing on in this review. You see, I didn’t want to be stuck without a keyboard-equipped device in the event my laptop’s power supply — or the laptop itself — met an unfortunate fate. So I decided to nab a tiny keyboard for my iPad mini, and here we are.

The Sharkk brand isn’t one a whole lot of people are going to be familiar with and that’s okay. Unless you’ve browsed Amazon looking for low-cost alternatives to popular phone and tablet accessories, you’ve likely never seen the name before.

Going with such a relatively unknown brand would usually deter me, but there were a couple of features about Sharkk’s product that interested me over folio keyboard cases and the gorilla in the mix, Logitech’s Ultrathin keyboard.

First off, Sharkk’s product acts as a protective enclosure for both the front AND the back of the iPad mini. Logitech’s Ultrathin model leaves the back of your iPad mini exposed, so if you drop it on its back, the actual device is taking the brunt of the impact.

The Sharkk keyboard also allows you to adjust the viewing angle for your iPad mini, and the prop mechanism on the keyboard provides enough stability that you can actually use the iPad mini and the Sharkk keyboard on your lap if you so choose. This makes your iPad mini more like a really tiny laptop than a tablet inside a wobbly, fold-up case.

Sharkk’s keyboard lets you use your iPad mini in landscape or portrait.

And if you’re not a fan of typing in landscape, fear not — the section of the keyboard that your iPad mini snaps into can be rotated, so you can set your tablet up in portrait mode and type away. The keyboard is a bit less stable in this orientation, but if you pull the extendable arm of the product all the way out, it should provide enough support for the iPad mini to stand tall.

The process of pairing the keyboard with your iPad mini is extremely simple. You simply turn the keyboard the switch on the device, tap the “Connect” button to make the keyboard discoverable, and then open the Bluetooth section in your iPad mini’s Settings menu and tap on the keyboard’s name. You’ll need to enter a four-digit number on the keyboard and press “Enter” to complete the process.

The keyboard comes somewhat charged, but it might be a good idea to charge it anyway. A full charge takes three hours. You should get 60 hours of use from the keyboard once it has enough juice.

Is the Sharkk all good vibes and fun times? Not entirely, though some of the product’s faults may not be poor design as much as they are harsh realities of designing a keyboard for the iPad mini.

It would be easy to point out that the keyboard is very small, but I’m sure you know that. It’s a tight fit for the important keys that you use on a regular basis, so you can imagine how difficult it might be to use less-common keys like quotation or question marks. Many non-letter and non-number keys require a press of the “fn” key in order to be typed, and that can really break up your flow when you’re typing on this keyboard.

One that has really tripped me up is the apostrophe. It isn’t a main key on the keyboard and requires that “fn” key in order to be pressed. Another victim of the keyboard’s size, the backspace key, is actually located on the second row of keys underneath the dash and +/= keys. Almost every attempt to hit the backspace key results in an equal sign for me and, due to the fact that I use a much-larger keyboard most of the time, I doubt I’ll ever learn how to hit that backspace properly.

The Sharkk keyboard’s width compared to a pen.

Almost all iPad mini keyboards have to endure design flaws due to the small size of the tablet, so in the end, you have to find one that makes the best of the small footprint and adds interesting new takes. I’m not ready to say that the Sharkk is the best product out there — to be honest, I think Logitech’s Ultrathin did a better job with the actual keyboard portion of the product. But Sharkk’s front-and-back case and extendable rotating mount bring some fresh new ideas to the table.

At $33.99 on Amazon, it’s worth a shot. If you don’t like it, you’re at least out a lot less than the $79.99 Logitech charges for its keyboard case.

Have you used this device or do you have one you like more? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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