keyboard

Product Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air

When I was looking for a new case for the iPad Air, I decided that I wanted a keyboard. While I do use the Apple Wireless keyboard with my iPad, it is more often connected to my Macbook, along with my wireless mouse. Also, Apple's wireless keyboard isn't as convenient to use when traveling, or when you're not sitting at a desk.

There were a number of different options when I was looking, and all were in the same general price range. Some, like the ZAGG keyboards, provide extra features like keyboard illumination. This seems a little frivolous, as in most cases, the keyboard is going to be at least partially illuminated by the screen itself. Secondly, I'm a touch typist, so actually being able to see the keyboard isn't really all that high on my list of priorities. There does have to be some raised bumps so that I can distinguish between keys to find my place of the home row.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air

So what features are important for me? Perhaps the biggest one is that I need to be able to switch between keyboard mode, and tablet mode, without having to remove the iPad from the case. A few of the cases only work in a laptop style mode, which just isn't going to work for me. If I was only going to use the tablet in laptop mode, why wouldn't I just use a laptop? What I'm looking for is flexibility, without having to remove the tablet from the case.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio serves the requirements reasonably well. It can work in either keyboard mode, or tablet mode relatively easily. The keyboard is rather thin, so it still doesn't feel as bulky as my old first generation iPad. While the case doesn't fully protect the sides of the device to the same extent as one of Apple's smart cases would, it seems sufficient for normal use. I would suggest not letting children use an ipad with this case, however. Thankfully, I have older devices with more protective cases to entertain kids with.

They keyboard itself feels decent. The keys are easy to type on, with a few notable exceptions:

  1. The tab key requires the use of the function key in conjunction with Q.
  2. The number keys are shifted one digit to the right to accommodate the iPad menu button.
  3. There are a few other keys which also use the function key. The backtick (`) and tilde (~) are above the bracket keys. The iPad specific functions (lock, Siri, Keyboard, and media keys) are also function keys, paired with the number keys. None of these are a problem for me.

Of these two, I find the number keys to be a notable problem. While I don't always type numbers, I'm a touch typist, so when I try to type 1, I end up going to the home screen. When I try to type a time, like 2:35, I end up typing 1:24. They're just not the right size, and it's irritating.

For comparison, look at the photos, of the Apple Wireless Keyboard, and the Logitech. There are clearly compromises being made with the Logitech. Is it the right keyboard for you? That depends. For the most part, I'm really happy with it. If I did more numeric entry, this keyboard would quickly drive me insane. As it is, it's something that I can live with. The compromises made are easier to live with than most of the other keyboards in the range.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air, Carbon Black can be purchased from a number of places like Amazon, or a local brick and mortar store like Best Buy.

Writing with the iPad

The iPad can be one of the most frustrating devices to write with. It also has the potential to be one of the best, under certain circumstances. I've had the device for a few months, and in this time, it has been used primarily to consume media. It's quite easy to load TV and movies from my MacBook, and there are a number of addictive games, such as Plants vs. Zombies, and Angry Birds available. The web browsing experience is a little lacking. Pages take longer to load than expected, and the cache is small. Switching tabs in the mobile browser often results in a fresh request to the server, adding extra delays. I've found that on some websites, scrolling just doesn't work.

As the iPad doesn't support flash, many of the richer web experiences, as well as numerous flash games, don't work. While I can certainly appreciate the processing requirements of flash -- I often disable flash on the desktop -- the fact remains that there is a great deal of content, including puzzle games, only available in flash.

The on-screen virtual keyboard is functional, though awkward to use. I believe that there is a special place in hell reserved for those brilliant engineers who inflicted the iPad with the horrendous auto-replace functionality. Without tactile feedback, one is forced to watch where your fingers are typing. Because I'm watching my fingers, I'm often not watching the little popup dialog elsewhere on the screen, warning me that the system is going to replace the awesome word I just typed with nonsense. Maybe it actually corrects far more than it wrecks, but the experience can be frustrating.

Still, the keyboard is functional, especially for short notes and emails. Where it is entirely unsuitable is for longer writing sessions, or for speed. Forget about using the virtual keyboard for in depth course notes. Try and type as little as possible in these situations. You're lucky if you can get down meaningful point form notes.

Until the iOS 4.2 update, I had been able to connect a USB keyboard to the iPad using the camera connection kit. While the system claimed that the device was unsupported, it still performed admirably. With iOS 4.2 however, the hardware handling has changed, and the iPad no longer recognizes USB keyboards. I suspect Apple has adjusted the USB voltage, or something else of that sort.

As such, I purchased an Apple Wireless Keyboard, which uses bluetooth. Thankfully, this keyboard is much smaller than the older USB keyboard I had been using, and better still, the bluetooth functionality allows me to charge the iPad while typing. Pairing the keyboard with the iPad is simple, and the keyboard is only slightly wider than the iPad itself. With the keyboard, my typing speed should be about the same speed as on a desktop system. Also with the keyboard is the quick ability to cancel an autocorrect suggestion by using the escape key. As such, it becomes much easier to allow the autocorrect to fix words you misspell, while avoiding any undesired changes.

One clear advantage the iPad provides when writing, is the single-task nature of the iPad. As the iPad only presents a single window, it enforces a single-track mentality. There are no bouncing dock icons, no web browser or twitter to distract you. Just you and your text editor, unfiltered. Much better for concentrating on writing.