I’ve written a lot of words championing the use of the iPad as a productivity tool. What I do most of -- for the Internet, school, or otherwise -- is write, and the iPad is terrific at helping me do just that. The one-app-at-a-time-in-full-screen approach in iOS is great because it allows me to better focus on what I want to say, with a minimum of distraction. Byword, Poster, and Dropbox are all the software I need to get work done. This, coupled with the iPad 3’s Retina display and slim profile, have caused me to abandon my 11-inch MacBook Air, a machine whose original purpose was to be for writing. But I don’t need another full-sized Mac to satisfy my workflow, so the Air -- no doubt, a great little dynamo in its own right -- is left to collect dust, as it were. Put another way, the iPad is my laptop.
For most of last year, I used an Incase Origami Workstation paired with an Apple Bluetooth keyboard. The setup worked well, but I always found it somewhat annoying to have to carry both my iPad and the Origami + keyboard in my bag. So, after reading good things from Shawn and Stephen over at Tools & Toys, as well as MG Siegler, I decided to get a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. I got it on the cheap for Christmas via Amazon Prime, and have been using it with my iPad ever since. Suffice it to say, I very much like my new rig, and don’t foresee myself switching back to the Origami.
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I mentioned that I got the Keyboard Cover on Amazon. I did so for around $85 plus free two-day shipping thru Prime; this made me a very happy nerd, as the regular price for the thing costs $100. (I cannot speak highly enough of Amazon Prime. It’s such an awesome service that I often wonder how I did without.) The lower price point and the free shipping only helped to strengthen my resolve in liking the keyboard, as I was already impressed by the stellar reviews. I was greatly looking forward to receiving it.
The hallmark feature of the keyboard is that it uses magnets to affix itself to the iPad, in a way not dissimilar to Apple’s Smart Cover. The only difference is that Logitech’s solution uses a plastic hinge, as opposed to the Smart Cover’s aluminum one (for the full-sized iPad). I have a black leather Smart Cover for my iPad and, while nice, I wasn’t fond of the little scuff marks the thing left after prolonged use. By contrast, the plastic hinge on the Logitech leaves no such damage, for which I am happy because I hate seeing blemishes on my devices. Another similarity that the Logitech keyboard borrows from the Smart Cover is the automatic sleep/wake feature, although since I usually power down my iPad when travelling, this is something I rarely (if ever) notice.
I very much enjoy the compactness of the iPad + Logitech rig. To my eyes, it resembles that of the Surface RT with Touch Cover. The keyboard and surrounding area is encased in black (or white, if you prefer) plastic, while the outer part is made of aluminum to match the iPad. The iPad rests in a magnetized white strip that runs horizontally above the actual keyboard, at an angle that I find most comfortable to type, etc. The keyboard itself is quite small, akin to a netbook’s, but as someone with small hands, typing isn’t a problem. In a tactile sense, typing on the Logitech feels just as comfortable as typing on my MacBook or Apple’s Bluetooth one. The experience isn’t as crisp insofar that the keys don’t depress and release as smoothly, but it’s nonetheless workable and, again, comfortable.
Another win for the footprint of the iPad + Logitech is how remarkably well it travels. When attached, the thing is effectively the same size and weight as my forgotten 11-inch Air; it fits beautifully into the iPad Cache that goes with me in my Tom Bihn Cafe bag. This rig’s profile is a huge reason why I prefer it to the Origami, because it consolidates everything into essentially one device, and even looks like a laptop when pulling it out of the case.
The keyboard has a set of specialized keys (found within the number row) that correspond to different functions in iOS. So, for example, pressing 1 will take you to Spotlight, while pressing 3 will bring up the soft keyboard. There’s even a dedicated Home key to the left of the 1 key that mimics the Home button on the iPad. Pressing it will, obviously, take you back to the Springboard. Truthfully, I haven’t used these keys very much, if at all, so I’ve had to acquaint myself with their functions. Still, they’re nice touches by Logitech, and I’d probably utilize them more if I could manage to remember what each key does. (Another nice touch: pressing the spacebar wakes the iPad from sleep.)
Speaking of keys, I really like that the Logitech has one for Command. What this allows for is the use of such Mac-centric keyboards such as ⌘-C/V for copy and paste, respectively. As someone who works with a lot of text (naturally), I use these shortcuts all the time. My only quibble is that ⌘-L, which I use all the time in Safari on the Mac to highlight the address bar, doesn’t work with the Logitech. I’m unsure if this is a fault of the keyboard or simply a limitation of iOS, but I find that it slows me down when surfing the Web. My hope is that more support for commonly-used shortcuts is added in the future.
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If I were forced to come up with things that I don’t like about the Logitech keyboard, it’d likely be a pretty short list -- a trivial one at that. The truth is, I really, really like the thing, so my beefs come down to aesthetic design. For one, while I got the black model because it best matches my black iPad, it’s not the prettiest looking thing. Compared to the uber-slim, aluminum-clad Apple Bluetooth keyboard, the Logitech looks like something ripped out of a netbook. (I know, obsessing over the looks of something so utilitarian as a fucking keyboard is kinda lame, but there it is.) For another, I’m not a fan of the plastic interior. I expect the key caps themselves to be plastic, but I don’t see why Logitech didn’t go with aluminum, especially considering the outside of the thing is metal. Maybe this is the problem of all first-world nerd problems, and maybe I’m just spoiled by my Apple gear being clad in aluminum and glass, but the plastic just doesn’t sit right with me. It feels cheap, at least psychologically, even though the thing is, in reality, well made.
Another gripe is the power switch is awfully hard to get to and flip. This is probably my fault, as my dexterity sucks, but it leaves me wishing Logitech would’ve opted for a pressable button, a la Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. But, again, a trivial gripe, and pretty low on the nits to pick.
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So it’s taken me almost 1,300 words to say that I am a fan of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, and heartily recommend it. I take mine with me everywhere I go, and can honestly say it’s one of the best iPad accessories on the market. Logitech makes good products, and this one doesn’t disappoint.