Due to the sheer size of Apple's following, the iPad mini offers the greatest choice of tailored keyboard cases of any 8-inch tablet. Demand for iPad mini keyboards has evidently persisted since launch, because new products from reputable companies have continued to hit the market in the past six months. This includes a miniature version of the ClamCase Pro, which was the winner of my full-size iPad keyboard roundup last year and which can bend backwards to work as a stand. There's also now an intriguing rugged keyboard from ZAGG, which has a magnetic hinge allowing you to quickly detach the tablet section from the keyboard. I've spent a few weeks with both of these, as well as with a more lightweight ZAGG keyboard for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, in an effort to acclimatize to what are inevitably more-cramped conditions.
These accessories may be small, but none of them are half-hearted add-ons -- something that is reflected in both their designs and their price tags. Crucially, all three keyboards have nicely spaced chiclet-style keys, and they also have proper hinges to replicate a laptop-style experience. The ZAGG keyboards even have backlit keys. In other words, if fast, comfortable typing is ever going to be possible on this sort of accessory, these examples probably stand the best chance of making it happen. What's more, with all these cases, the combined size, weight and cost of the tablet-plus-keyboard combo is significantly less than a MacBook Air or Microsoft Surface Pro 3 -- which is a key reason to be interested in this sort of solution in the first place.
(Incidentally, I haven't been able to find any similar hinged cases for 8-inch Windows 8 tablets like the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 or Dell Venue 8 Pro. For now, it seems, those tablets are stuck with more casual folding cases that prop the tablet up at an angle.)
Let's start with the most important statistic: words per minute. I define "touch-typing" as typing without looking at the keyboard, rather than following any sort of specific method taught at a secretarial school (do those things even exist anymore?). So all the numbers in the table below reflect typing while mostly staring at the screen, and with all errors corrected on the fly in order to produce a clean passage of relatively complicated text (which included some large numbers, special characters and people's names).
As you can see, I wasn't able to match my natural typing speed (69 wpm, as achieved on a 15-inch MacBook Pro) on any of the 8-inch accessories. The closest I came was with the ZAGG Rugged Folio, which yielded 56 words per minute, with the ClamCase Pro not far behind at 53 wpm. These latter two products honestly felt about equal to me in terms of typing comfort, and their sensible layouts actually allowed me to type just as fast as on a 10-inch iPad keyboard case -- in other words, trading down from a full-size iPad to a mini didn't seem to come with a huge sacrifice in potential typing speed. That was quite a revelation.
Meanwhile, the ZAGG case for the Galaxy Note 8 produced a slightly slower speed for me, which was mainly due to the fact that it occasionally produced false presses -- where I'd hit a key once and see the letter repeated five times in succession on the screen. Hitting backspace to correct this inevitably slowed me down. Even worse, hitting backspace sometimes exacerbated the situation, where I'd accidentally wipe out a whole line instead of just a few characters -- although this didn't happen often, and I suspect it maybe an issue with Samsung's software rather than with ZAGG's hardware.