Kensington has released its fair share of keyboard cases in the past, including three last fall. But KeyFolio Thin X3 for iPad Air ($100) is the first from Kensington — or any other company we’ve covered — to feature a backup battery for an iPhone as well. Designed as an otherwise standard folio, with a shell for the tablet and the keyboard inside the front lid, the case is packing a 1650mAh battery that powers the keyboard and can juice up an iPhone at full 1-Amp speeds. To do this, a male Micro-USB to female USB adapter is included. You simply plug the adapter into the charging port, attach your own Lightning cable, and connect your iPhone. Of course, a Micro-USB cable comes with the case for charging the keyboard, which connects to the same port.
Set up in the traditional folio-format of most keyboard cases, KeyFolio Thin X3 is plastic, covered almost entirely with a black fabric material. The shell that holds the iPad offers the level of protection we’ve come to expect: border coverage, but openings for the headphone port, microphone, Sleep/Wake button, side switch and volume buttons, speakers and Lightning port. To preserve battery life, the keyboard only turns on when the iPad is nestled into a ridge above it, which holds it at a 55 degree angle with magnets maintaining the position.
The keyboard itself is virtually identical to those on the last batch of Kensington keyboards we covered, which is a good thing. Narrower than a standard keyboard, and with smaller keys, it’s still large enough that the typing experience isn’t uncomfortable or cramped. In our experience, one critical factor is key layout, and Kensington got that aspect totally right. All of the keys are where we’d expect them to be, including the apostrophe, which for some reason, seems to be the one that’s moved around the most by competitors. We were able to type fluidly by touch, which can’t be taken for granted with any iPad-sized keyboard. iOS function keys spread across the keyboard are useful in quickly activating features such as Spotlight and app switching.
Again, the most noteworthy part of this accessory is its charging capability, which Kensington dubs PowerLift. The adapter included for this purpose is short, measuring 5.75” from end to end, and you must provide your own charging cable. Once it’s hooked up though, it works well. Kensington notes its “PowerLift feature will be disabled when the battery level is less than 20% to preserve power for keyboard use.” We were able to charge an iPhone 5 to 84 percent in one test before the battery switched off, and 79 percent in a second test.
We applaud Kensington for trying something new in a saturated field. This is certainly a stronger accessory than any of the three from last year, earning our strong general recommendation. It functions perfectly as a keyboard case, without extra bulk, and the addition of the outward charging is a plus. The price could be more appealing, but there’s not too much to complain about here.
Company and Price
Model: KeyFolio Thin X3
Compatibility: iPad Air