Review: Incipio Steno Ultra-Thin Bluetooth Keyboard Folio for iPad Air
Continuing to expand its product lineup to include more electronic accessories in addition to protective cases, Incipio has released its Steno Ultra-Thin Bluetooth Keyboard Folio for iPad Air ($100). The first keyboard case from the company, it includes some nice touches, but no huge surprises. It uses a standard hard plastic folio design, locating the keyboard inside the front cover. Incipio promises long battery life, but doesn't specify exactly how many hours of typing time users should expect.
As with many similar cases, the iPad Air snaps into a hard plastic shell, which is found on the right side of Steno. It’s covered in faux leather, and doesn’t include any button protection, but is a little taller than some similar cases because there are rubber bumpers along the inside edge at the top and bottom. When the case is closed, embedded magnets automatically lock the tablet, but it’s important to make sure the front and back are lined up properly. If not, the iPad’s screen may not turn off, leading to battery drain issues. Once closed, the lid doesn’t move up or down, but there’s nothing holding the lid against the screen.
One key difference between Steno and other keyboard cases is that the keyboard is meant to move. When it comes time to type, it can slide about 1.75” towards you. A ridge along the top matches a rubber bumper along the iPad’s left edge, with the two pieces incorporating magnets to hold the typing position. With the keyboard fully extended, that’s about a 50-degree angle, although it can be pushed back about to rest at roughly 56 degrees.
The keyboard is fully up to par with top models we’ve tested. While smaller than those on a standard desktop keyboard, the keys are still well-sized, and the layout is correct. We found ourselves adapting to it very quickly, and we were able to type without missing keys or making any serious errors. Importantly, the apostrophe and semicolon keys are where they’re supposed to be; when they’re not, it can be a big problem. The top row includes function keys, such as brightness, volume, and even a screenshot button.
Steno is a totally solid keyboard case, but doesn’t have much of a “wow” factor. You turn it on and it works well, which is as much as one should expect. The only major fault we found was with the screen not always locking, but that didn’t turn out to be a big problem. Today, $100 is at the higher end of what a good keyboard case costs, but it’s not unreasonable. That’s why Steno earns our general recommendation—it’s a good product from a reputable company, but not a best-in-class device.