Review: iGear iPad Flip Turn Case for iPad mini
We rarely receive products for review without knowing who they're from, but iGear's iPad Flip Turn Case for iPad mini ($69) is one of those rare exceptions. Arriving in packaging with no branding, and text referring to "mini tablet PC and mini tablet PC Retina display," it's obviously an OEM accessory -- not until we opened up the box did we see an iGear logo, printed directly on the Bluetooth keyboard case. But it's actually a really nice case. While it shares problems we've seen in other iPad mini keyboards, the overall build quality is much better than we would've expected. No battery life expectations are given, but a micro-USB cable is included for charging.
On the outside, the plastic iPad Flip Turn Case is covered in soft-touch material, providing a smooth, matte finish. It’s made up of two segments — an iPad shell and the keyboard — and roughly doubles the thickness of the tablet. The shell is pretty standard, with properly centered openings for each of the ports and buttons. We’d prefer button coverage, but we don’t generally expect it on shells. One opening from speaker to speaker also exposes the Lightning port, meaning you can use adapters and third-party cables with no issues. Magnets in the lid automatically lock and unlock the tablet.
The shell is attached to the keyboard cover via a rotating, single-point hinge. It snaps into place in 180° increments, allowing the iPad to face towards the keyboard, or away from it. In the latter orientation, the tablet can be laid completely flat with its back against the keyboard, to be used in the standard tablet form factor. This particular implementation works better than many of the implementations we’ve seen. Of course, you can also twist the iPad around to set up a typing position relative to the keyboard.
Because of the hinge, the iPad can be positioned anywhere from 45° to 90°, and there’s enough tension that it’ll stay at whatever angle you put it at in-between. Bluetooth pairing is about as easy as it gets, with an on-off switch and a large, dedicated pairing button next to it, both found on a glossy border above the keyboard. Then there’s the keyboard itself. Laid out with five rows, it has numbers combined with secondary iOS-function keys, and then a QWERTY collection of keys beneath that. The keys are physically very small. Although we expected typing to be limited due to cramping, however, we actually found ourselves moving pretty quickly, without much of an issue in accuracy. If there’s any problem, it’s with the apostrophe: instead of having its own dedicated key in-between the colon and return, it’s mapped as a function of the L key. This means a two-button combination needs to be used for every possessive or contraction, which is a big drawback. Otherwise, we’re happy with the layout.
iPad Flip Turn Case certainly exceeded our initial expectations: the materials and build quality are pretty impressive, so it feels solidly built, and the hinge system works just as it should. There are really only two drawbacks: one is the size of the keys, which turns out to be manageable, while the other is the apostrophe, which is a bigger problem. The price is very aggressive though, and everything else is done well enough that the iPad Flip Turn Case merits our general recommendation. If you’re willing to deal with the apostrophe key, this one is a strong contender.