Touchfire for iPad Mini adds keyboard functionality without the bulk

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/ Updated: October 9, 2013 4:39 PM PDT
The Touchfire keyboard is thin, made of silicone, and easily attaches itself to the iPad Mini using magnetics. Josh Miller/CNET

When it comes to tablets, most keyboard accessories add weight and size to the device, however, the Touchfire keyboard -- now available for the Apple iPad Mini -- does no such thing. It adds a tactile overlay to the onscreen keyboard without adding any significant bulk.

The Touchfire keyboard for the Apple iPad Mini, previously only available for the iPad 2,3, and 4 , is thin, light, and extremely portable. When horizontally placed on top of the onscreen keyboard, strategically placed magnets easily align it with the tablet's bezels.

The iPad Mini Touchfire keyboard ships with a foldable case -- similar to Apple's Smart Cover -- that can be positioned at various angles for optimal ergonomic typing experiences. The keyboard easily attaches to the inside of the magnetic cover and, thanks to its flexible silicone body, the Touchfire molds comfortably to the curvature of the case without obstructing how it opens or closes.

When attached to the inside of the case's front flap, the keyboard can be easily pulled down for typing by using the small tab on the bottom edge. The case and keyboard go for about the same price as a case with similar functionality, starting at $45 on its Kickstarter page.

The buttons have concave circles in their centers that press the onscreen keys when you push down. Josh Miller/CNET

The keys themselves look like a side of a clear die and feel soft, smooth, and comfortable to the touch. When typing, I actually preferred the soft tactile sensation of the Touchfire keyboard over the hard surface of the iPad Mini's screen.

The keys are quick to respond when pressed, but simply placing your fingers on them won't result in activating the onscreen keyboard. Also, since the Touchfire covers nearly half of the screen when utilized, it helps prevent fingerprints and smudges that naturally occur when typing on the screen itself.

Typing with the Touchfire keyboard on the iPad Mini was comfortable, but that's easy for me to say -- I have small hands. Josh Miller/CNET

An Apple iPad 5-compatible version of the Touchfire keyboard is expected after the new tablet is released and, although there are no models available for Android tablets, the company hopes to launch a line compatible with Samsung Galaxy Tabs.

I was mostly impressed with how compact and mobile the Touchfire keyboard is; it can easily be folded and stored without taking much space, and its ability to conform to the inside of the included case renders it virtually unobtrusive when not in use. The Touchfire adds functionality without adding size and it seems like a useful accessory for those who want the benefits of a keyboard without any of the extra bulk.

The Touchfire iPad Mini keyboard is expected to ship in November and is currently only available online through the Kickstarter campaign. Check back with CNET soon for a full review of the Touchfire Keyboard for the iPad Mini.

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Touchfire iPad Mini keyboard

Part Number: tf-7125-bk
MSRP: $49.99 Low Price: $39.99 See all prices