Review: Hatch & Co. 2-Skinny Keyboard Case for iPad 2, iPad (3rd/4th-Gen)
Hatch & Co. was early in taking a dramatically different approach to the keyboard case with its Skinny Keyboard Case -- a design was later licensed to other companies, including Kensington. Skinny was unique in that it had flat, non-moving keys, as opposed to the early squishy rubber ones, or more recently popular hard-plastic scissor-style keys. Unfortunately, we found that the keys offered little value over the flat virtual ones on the iPad's screen. Now the company is back again with another, obviously improved attempt: 2-Skinny Keyboard Case ($100) is compatible with the second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPads. Not only does it have a better tablet holder, but the keyboard is more attractive, and now backlit. Unfortunately, the keys maintain the same flat style, which continues to be a problem.
Whereas Skinny used a faux leather case with curled edges to hold the iPad in place, 2-Skinny has a proper soft touch-coated plastic shell. The shell nicely runs all the way up the tablet’s four edges, leaving cutouts only where necessary. There’s no button coverage; rather, the side and top buttons are exposed, just like the headphone port, microphone, iSight camera, Dock Connector/Lightning port, and speaker. Hatch & Co’s plastic design sits flush with the tablet’s screen, while a clip at the end holds the front cover shut against it. A fabric pull tab is used to lift up a six inch-wide stand, propping the iPad up in landscape orientation.
The lid is made from the same material as the shell, and has a keyboard inside. It’s less than a quarter of an inch thick, and altogether the whole case is less than three quarters of an inch thick—slender by keyboard case standards. Although Hatch & Co. lists auto-locking magnets as a feature, they didn’t seem to work in our review unit. The power switch and Micro-USB port are located on the underside of the case, to the left of the Dock Connector or Lightning port, and the company includes a cable for charging. Two beeps let you know when the keyboard is on, a nice touch that’s not commonly found in other keyboard cases. Battery life is listed at 68 hours with the backlight off, or a meager three hours with it on, while standby time is 45 days.
Aesthetically, the keyboard portion of the case has been improved from the last edition. It’s no long surrounded by faux leather; instead, it’s one flat sheet of plastic. The layout is very similar to the previous model: with the exception of the right-side command and option keys, it’s set up almost identically to Apple’s keyboards, which is generally a very good thing. Each of the letter keys is about 5/8” square, about the same as Apple’s, while the top includes iPad-specific controls, plus buttons for pairing, toggling keyboard clicking sounds, and activating or deactivating the LED backlight.
Aside from the genuinely cool backlit keys, the experience of typing on 2-Skinny is essentially the same as with Skinny, and this is the biggest strike against this case. Although each of the keys has a slight raised edge, accurate touch typing proved to be more difficult and less accurate than with raised plastic keys. We found ourselves missing letters too often. Slowing down and looking at the keys would certainly improve accuracy, but that kind of defeats the purpose, and makes using this keyboard no better than just relying on Apple’s built-in virtual keyboard.
Hatch & Co. improved the case side of this keyboard case, but not the typing experience. Ultimately, that’s the most important part of any keyboard case, and without a great keyboard, we can’t recommend an accessory like this. There’s no doubt that 2-Skinny is an attractive case, and that it feels solidly constructed. With legitimately great typing options already on the market, though, this one just doesn’t match up. It merits a C+ rating.