I am not generally a fan of Bluetooth keyboards for iPads. The few I’ve had (including the first generation Zagg for the original iPad) always seemed a poorly designed supplement to the iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I think an iPad desperately needs a keyboard. But their beauty is raw by comparison to the refinement of the Apple devices.
That changed when I got the chance to try New Trent’s Airbender Mini NT31B. When I slipped the iPad Mini into the Airbender Mini case a few weeks ago, I never removed it. The adjustable clamshell-looking case and keyboard are a near perfect design and fit. Quite simply it is one of the best products I have reviewed.
There are three pieces to the Airbender design: the iPad Mini case, the Bluetooth keyboard, and the unique armature that connects those two. Each have extremely high points with only a few lows.
1. iPad Mini Case
The case is a hard plastic case with a clear glossy plastic screen. Normally I don’t like plastic screens covering an iPad, but for some reason I’m undisurbed by the Airbender’s. Maybe it’s the perfect fit – with little-to-no gap beneath the plastic and iPad surface. Maybe it’s that the tactile sensation of using the iPad is almost imperceptably noticeable. Whatever it is, it doesn’t diminish using the Mini.
The hard case is then shrouded in a soft, supple, neoprene rubber that is somehow velvety – even after weeks of use and travel. With built-in coverings for lock button, home button, mute button, and lightening charging port, this cover protects the iPad from minor encounters with moisture. The only uncovered area is the camera.
The other half of the “clamshell” – the Bluetooth keyboard – is what you would want in a responsive keyboard: just enough give and pressure to effectively trim in the space between your fingers to still type efficiently. It is a demure keyboard, after all, so it’s to be expected that you can’t flail your fingers around in typing as your would a fullsize keyboard. Like the top “clamshell” of the iPad case, this keyboard is also wrapped in same smooth (removable) neoprene rubber that prevents slipping on a tabletop or other surface.
My only minor complaint about the keyboard is the location of the single quotation key: it requires a Fn+O key combination. I don’t know what other alternative there is since there is only one key on either side of “home row” – the CapsLock on the left, and the Enter on the right.
3. The Armature
The magic of putting these two quality pieces is the stupendous design of the device that connects these two “clamshell” halves. To connect on the keyboard side, the flattened, ratcheted, armature slides into the keyboard. This let’s a user pull the iPad screen closer, or push the screen further away. If it get’s out of balance by pushing too far away, simply slide the armature out and set it on any surface.
The hinge of this brace-like armature has “just enough” resistance to angle the iPad screen without it drooping. The hinge is also where the light plastic, ratcheting portion of the brace meets sleek aluminum.
The cool factor – and I mean stinking cool – is how the aluminum brace connects to the rear of the iPad Mini case: a circular, rotating connector. This 360-degree latch means a user has the freedom to rotate the entire iPad Mini to use in portrait. Start an app that can only be used in landscape? Rotate the iPad again.
And if that wasn’t cool enough, the circle connector is a latch so that with a pinch, it releases the iPad Mini into your hands. Genius design… simply genius.
Is there anything wrong with it?
Beyond the occasional unusual key layout, there is almost nothing I can find I would change. From weeks of use, I see no wear and have only charged the keyboard battery once. If I were to make improvements, it would only be to correct the sagging neoprene on the long sides of both the keyboard and the Mini’s clamshell case. Also the rubber closure tab doesn’t fit really well so I don’t use it… nor do I need it since the hinge keeps the clamshell closed fairly well.
The Airbender Mini NT31B was provided for review on iSource.com. For questions regarding our review policies, see the About tab.