Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
Bluetooth keyboard that also protects the screen of your iPad Air.
A few weeks ago I reviewed the iPad Air, Apple’s newest 10-inch tablet. The new design of the iPad Air means that the accessories I had accumulated for my iPad 2 won’t work with the Air; chief among them are my Bluetooth keyboards. While I appreciate the touch screen of the iPad, to unlock its true potential as a productivity tool a physical keyboard is a must. So I recently purchased my first Bluetooth keyboard for the new iPad Air—the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. Unlike many of the clamshell cases I reviewed previously for earlier generations of iPads, the Logitech case is more along the lines of the ZAGGkeys PROplus Keyboard for iPad 2, 3 and 4 I reviewed earlier this year, in that the keyboard attaches to the iPad with magnets and only offers protection to the screen and not the back of the iPad.
Just like the ZAGGkeys PROplus, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for the iPad Air is a one-piece unit. The backing of the cover is made of aluminum. Compared to a lot of other keyboards I’ve tested, the Ultrathin feels flimsy and, dare I say, cheap. Having never tested out previous Logitech keyboard covers, I don’t know if this is the norm or if they scaled back on materials to match the thinner iPad Air. Either way, I wasn’t overly impressed with the perceived build quality.
The keyboard cover measures 9.45 inches by 6.67 inches by 0.29 inches and weighs 0.73 pounds. So, when attached to the iPad Air, you are doubling its thickness to 0.58 inches and bringing its total weight to roughly 1.75 pounds. Personally, I think this is a small sacrifice to increase the functionality of the iPad as well as protect the touch screen.
Also in the box is a micro-USB charging cable—but no AC adapter—and a getting started guide.
The Ultrathin Keyboard Cover attaches to the iPad with magnetic clips on the hinge on the side of the cover. The clips work with the magnets in the frame of the iPad Air to align it with the case and to keep it firmly attached when you are carrying it or transporting it in a bag.
When you close the case, there are two bumpers in the outer corners and one that runs the width of the case to protect the iPad screen. However, I discovered that the bumper leaves a line across the iPad screen that I usually have to wipe off before using.
Compared to clamshell keyboard cases, keyboard covers such as the Logitech Ultrathin do not offer wrap-around protection. So when the cover is attached to the iPad Air and closed, the back of the iPad is still exposed to scrapes and scratches.
There is a slot that runs the width of the keyboard where you place your iPad for viewing, with a magnet in it to keep the iPad firmly secured. One advantage of covers over clamshell cases is that you can position the iPad in this slot in either portrait or landscape orientation. While I found the viewing angle to be good enough for typing and viewing, you cannot to adjust the angle to fit your preferences.
On the right side of the cover is the micro-USB charging port as well as the Bluetooth pairing button. In addition, there is an on/off switch, a feature I much prefer over a power button.
The greatest design flaw of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the iPad Air isn’t even Logitech’s fault. The iPad Air has a smaller bezel, or edge, surrounding the display compared to earlier models. This means its dimensions are smaller and, thus, covers such as this keyboard cover also need to be smaller. As a result, there is no gap between the top row of keys of the keyboard and the groove in which the iPad rests for viewing. This places the iPad in close proximity to the keyboard, making it very easy to hit the screen of the iPad and move the cursor while typing. This is especially the case for someone such as myself, who isn’t a true touch-typist and whose fingers stray from the “home keys.” This makes for an extremely frustrating typing experience. If there was any way for Logitech to move this groove further away from the keys, it would make the case much more user-friendly. However, I assume the groove is positioned to offer optimal counterbalancing. As it is positioned now, I found the keyboard to be all but useless, given my typing style and the mistyping it causes.
Pairing the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover with an iPad is a straightforward process. You begin by switching on the keyboard and turning on Bluetooth on the iPad Air. Next, press the Bluetooth connect button on the right side of the keyboard case so that the Bluetooth status light flashes blue, indicating the keyboard is ready to pair. Finally, go into the Bluetooth settings on the iPad Air and select Ultrathin Keyboard Cover i5 from the list of available devices, and the keyboard and iPad will pair. Once you have paired the two devices, they should automatically connect in the future when the keyboard and iPad are within roughly 30 feet of each other, as long as the keyboard is on and Bluetooth is activated on the iPad.
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover sports a full QWERTY keyboard with chiclet-style keys that are standard for most Bluetooth keyboards. To cope with the reduction in real estate due to the smaller size of the iPad Air, the keyboard’s number keys play double-duty as function keys. This has allowed Logitech to keep the key sizes roughly the same as other Bluetooth keyboards. The characters above the numbers on the keys are generated using the shift key while the functions indicated on the right side of the number key are performed by first pressing the fn (function) key. These function keys allow you to switch to the iPad home screen, lock the screen, activate Siri, switch between applications, play the previous or next audio track, and mute the volume. The popular cut, copy and paste functions are performed by pressing fn and the X, C or V keys, respectively.
Having used these types of keyboards for a couple of years, I have grown accustomed to the smaller keys. However, the keyboard itself doesn’t feel cramped when typing. It’s the proximity of the iPad to the keys that makes things feel cramped, diminishing the usability of the keyboard (at least for me). The keys themselves offer good tactile feedback, something I prefer in a keyboard. They are also quite responsive and are not at all soft or mushy.
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover does not offer backlit keys, a feature I have come to rely on with my other Bluetooth keyboards. This makes typing in low-light conditions, such as on a plane or train, much more difficult.
Bluetooth keyboards tend to offer extraordinary battery lives and the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is no exception. According to Logitech, assuming an average daily use of two hours you should be able to go roughly three months without needing a charge. However, I was not able to locate any information as to the capacity of the battery, so it is difficult to compare it to other Bluetooth keyboards.
Unlike previous Logitech keyboard covers for the iPad, this model does not automatically turn the iPad on and off when the cover is opened and closed.
On the surface, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air appears to be a functional Bluetooth keyboard and protective cover for the new iPad Air. The keys are well-spaced to avoid feeling cramped and the magnets keep it securely connected to the iPad for transit. While I wished the keys were backlit, this looked to be a good option for those looking to unleash the productivity potential of the iPad Air. Once I started using it, however, my opinion quickly changed.
In all the time I have been writing reviews for this column, I have come across very few, if any products, which I would deem unusable. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air is the closest I’ve come thus far. Sadly, it is really through no fault of their own. By conforming to the iPad Air’s smaller size, Logitech was forced to put the groove you use to prop up the iPad too close to the keys in order for the balance to be correct. The result is that, for non-touch-typists such as myself, you are constantly hitting the touch screen and moving the cursor away from where you are typing. While things got better over time with use, I still found myself spending a great deal of time having to delete text and reposition the cursor. While I haven’t yet tried out any other Bluetooth keyboards for the new iPad Air, I imagine I would be hard-pressed to find one that offers a more frustrating user experience.
$99.99 (Currently $79.99 from Amazon.com)