There are things in life that one can become accustomed to, and for some, tap typing on the screen of an iPad can become one of them. For me, not so much. I can type with some speed, but my accuracy can be poor, and then there are the special characters, which require odd keyboard cycling to find them. Probably the biggest problem is the loss of screen space, since the onscreen keyboard takes up a large portion of the display. For serious work, I need a real keyboard with cursor keys! The trend over the last few years has been to move away from physical keyboards, which I can understand from a pure mobile portability standpoint, but it’s this missing aspect that makes it hard to abandon a real laptop.
The idea of a portable keyboard isn’t new, I had a portable keyboard when I had my Apple Newton Messagepad 110 back in 1994. It hooked up to the Newton through an ADB port on the side and gave a real productivity boost to the device. I even had a cool bluetooth folding keyboard by Targus (the Stowaway) for my Compaq iPaq Windows CE Portable Data Assistant (PDA), and I still use it to a limited extent on my iPad. But the main problem with many of these solutions is the lack of it being integrated or easy to carry along. Granted the Targus Stowaway wasn’t that hard to carry along, but it was something I had to think about, and I sometimes would forget it or was lazy about taking it out of my bag, unzipping it and unfolding it. It was still a process. It wasn’t something as mindless as my laptop – Flip screen up, start typing.
When the iPad first appeared some companies, like Zagg came up with a small keyboard that was made like a cover for the first generation iPad, the ZaggMate. I tried it out, and it wasn’t bad, but it offered only screen protection, and required the iPad to be without protection on the back. It was a noble effort, but it didn’t work out for me. Zagg now has the ZaggFolio case, which has an integrated keyboard made into a complete wrap around case for the iPad2 and New iPad, but it was the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover that caught my attention. Why? Because more than any other, it enhances on what Apple’s Smart Cover offers. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a keyboard that snaps onto the side of the iPad2/New iPad like the Smart Cover, and folds over the screen to turn on and off the iPad. Because it is a cover, and not a complete case, it isn’t restricted to an orientation, but it does prefer a naked and landscape iPad. The fact that the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover takes the place of my Smart Cover, it feels more integrated, and something I’m not likely to forget someplace.
Physically, the build quality is excellent, something that is to be expected from Logitech. The back is a brushed aluminum which matches nicely to a naked iPad. The interior is a glossy black plastic, and the chicklet keys rest in a channel that keeps the keys from pressing up against the screen when closed. The click distance of the keys feel pretty good, and even though it’s a bit cramped, I was able to adjust to it pretty quickly. The glossy black interior, while nice looking is a serious finger print magnet. There is a white channel that runs through the upper half of the cover, this channel is for your iPad, and it also has some strong magnets to hold the iPad in place. The magnets are even strong enough to hold an iPad with a thin shell, but slightly thicker ones like my ZeroChroma Vario-SC or Speck Smart Shell won’t allow the magnets to work. The only ports on the side of the keyboard is a micro-usb charging port, an on/off switch and a sync button.
The keyboard uses Bluetooth 3.0 and effortlessly synced to my New iPad. My older Stowaway had me type in a pin number before syncing (which I believe is necessary with Bluetooth 2.0), the Ultrathin didn’t need anything it just automatically synced. It powers on fast, and establishes a link to my iPad very quickly when turned on. Logitech claims 6 months on a single charge if used for 2 hours a day.
As good as this keyboard is, it’s not without it’s faults. The first, although a bit nit picky, is the keys are not backlit, offering this option would have really been a nice touch. There is no magnetic clasp to hold the keyboard on the iPad when closed. I haven’t found this to be too much of a problem, but the keyboard will fall open if you’re not careful. The bottom is also just bare metal, with no feet of any sort, so I worry that the back of the cover will get scuffed up over time. The lack of feet also means it can slide around. I suppose a work around would be to go to your local hardware store and buy some felt or rubber feet to stick on the bottom. Once again, these two issues haven’t bothered me much. Some people might find the added height and weight problematic, but I think the sacrifice is worth it. The combination makes the iPad look more like a laptop, and teamed up with the BoxWave Evertouch Stylus, I now have something that I prefer to take with me instead of my laptop.
Below is a video review and an image gallery, check them out, and please send me feedback!