Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover
Whatever you think of the hoary old “the iPad is/isn’t perfect/awful for content creation” debate, there are few bloggers who’d argue that it’s a lot more practical for writing on when coupled to some sort of physical keyboard. The on-screen one is OK for modest amounts of text, but the prospect of writing a 5,000 word TUAW post by hammering my fingers against a unyielding pane of undifferentiated glass doesn’t fill me with joy. Plus, it takes up half the screen — leaving me feeling like I’m peering through a letterbox at my document.
I’m not going to do a full review of the keyboard here. For that, I’d recommend you read the excellent reviews by David Chartier or Steven Sande. These are just a few of my notes, elaborating on a few details I would have liked to known before ordering it.
Here’s the Ultrathin (bottom) compared to the iPad’s on screen keyboard (top) and the standard Apple keyboard (middle):
Clearly, key size alone is not a significant reason to pick the Ultrathin over the on-screen keyboard, as the keys are actually somewhat smaller than either of the other keyboards. In use, I must confess I have found the Ultrathin to feel a little cramped — both on the main keys and particularly on the half-width punctuation keys on the right hand side of the keyboard.
Size and weight
Many reviewers have commented that the Ultrathin is remarkably thin and light. Considering there’s a full keyboard in there, that’s definitely true. However, the Ultrathin is going to spend its life attached to your iPad, which is also very thin and light; so the important question is, how does it feel compared to the iPad itself?
Consider the size first of all. Obviously, width and height are indentical to the iPad. But what about depth? Here’s the Ultrathin, compared to the iPad itself and an Apple Smart Cover:
As for mass: my iPad (3rd generation, Wifi) weighs 655 grams. My Apple Smart Cover is 137 g — 21% of the weight of the iPad itself. The Ultrathin is 333 g, which is 51% as much as the iPad. That’s just a little less than the standard Apple keyboard — the smaller one, without a numberpad. At 355 g, the Apple keyboard is 54% of the iPad’s weight.
So, at 988 grams, an iPad plus the Ultrathin is still a bit lighter than even Apple’s tiniest laptop, the 11” MacBook Air (which weighs 1080 g). Unavoidably, however, it does feel significantly thicker and heavier with the Ultrathin attached.
The Ultrathin has a similar arrangements of magnets to the Apple Smart Cover. Magnets attach it to the side of the iPad via the same sort of hinge, and other magnets turn the iPad on and off when you open and close it.
The magnet attach mechanism means that, like the Smart Cover, attaching and detaching the Ultrathin is a breeze — just pull apart to detach, and wave the iPad vaguely near the hinge to reattach. Also, unlike the early Logitech iPad keyboard case design, there’s no irritating ridge around the keyboard’s outer edge.
There’s also magnets inside the slot that positions your iPad when you are typing on the keyboard. As long as you put the iPad’s left side into the stand, these magnets hold it into place very well. They prevent the iPad slipping sideways out of the slot if you are typing on an uneven surface like a lap, and they are strong enough so that if you pick the iPad up the keyboard comes with it.
On a flat surface, the keyboard is steady and secure, even with the iPad in portrait. Note that the bottom surface of the Ultrathin has no feet on it, though, so if you slide it around on desks you can expect its aluminium surface to pick up some scratches.
In my lap, I found the experience to be a bit more mixed. To balance the iPad, I found I instinctively moved the keyboard further towards me than I would with a laptop. The keys were about where the palm rest would be on my MacBook Pro. This then cramped my wrists uncomfortably after prologued typing. Plus, as its only eight or so inches across, I couldn’t make it balance very well across my thighs — I found it was always in danger of falling between my legs whenever I shifted in my seat.
My keyboard, which I ordered from Logitech’s UK site, came with a full UK key layout: shift-3 is £ instead of #, and (more importantly), it has a double-height Return key rather than a double-width one. Many cheaper iPad keyboards only seem to come with a US layout, and that’s what’s pictured on Logitech’s site, so this was a welcome surprise.
- Price: It’s not cheap in the UK; the $99 US price point somehow becomes £89.99. That’s a hefty 18% markup after you subtract VAT. Not cool, Logitech.
- Battery life: I have no idea. Logitech claim the integrated LiIon cell is good for about 350 hours of use, so I certainly haven’t managed to flatten it yet.
- Charging: It charges from a micro USB cable (included) connected to any USB charger (not included). If (like me) you now travel with these handy things that means it takes the same cable as the your Apple kit.
The bottom line
It’s not perfect. The keys are small, certainly. It’s not going to eclipse my aging MacBook Pro for in-lap use. It’s perhaps fractionally heavier and thicker than you might think from reading other reviews. It’s overpriced in the UK.
With those nits picked, though, I can safely say: it’s the best damned iPad keyboard I’ve seen yet. Recommended.