MiniKey, which comes only in black, starts with a simple plastic shell at its base, fully exposing the top and bottom edges. While we don’t like shell-style cases, they’re pretty much the norm when it comes to keyboard-equipped options. At 0.66” thick, it just more than doubles the size of the iPhone 5. The keyboard is on rails, and easily slides in and out from the left side. It’s the same width as the device in landscape orientation, while extending 1.25” below it. Nuu doesn’t list the battery life for the keyboard, but does say that it’ll recharge in about three to four hours using the included Micro-USB cable.
The keyboard can be turned off and on with the small slider to the left of the keys, and there’s a pairing button above. While backlighting was previously handled by the switch, it’s now a function on the left arrow key. As for the typing surface itself, it contains 48 keys—Nuu lists 42, which is how many the iPhone 4/4S version had. New additions include home screen and locking buttons, caps lock, alt, and more. The space bar is also longer, and the enter key taller. Although the keyboard as a whole is wider, there are now 13 columns of keys instead of 11, so the individual keys are about the same size.
Many of the keyboard’s features, including numbers and symbols, are secondary controls accessed by holding down the function key and then pressing the appropriate button. You can also do multi-key functions, such as cut, copy, and paste. We found typing on MiniKey to be good, but not great. You must become accustomed to some relocated keys, such as the comma, which is to the left of the space bar, and the fact that there’s only one shift key, which makes capital letters on that side of the keyboard somewhat tricky. The major advantage is being able to see all of the screen, rather than having it covered by the keyboard.
Two years out, we expect more from a keyboard case than the addition of just a few keys and a small drop in the price. Overall, it’s a pretty positive experience for someone who demands physical keys, or needs more room on the screen while writing. We found typing to be accurate, although somewhat slow. It’s really a compromise, and not one that only a select group will need to make. Yet, among the options we’ve seen, it’s still the best. No one has figured out the style any better, so for $59, MiniKey is currently the way to go if you demand physical keys for your iPhone 5. It earns our general recommendation.
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