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Logitech Ultrathin Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad: A Review

While I generally don’t buy into the whole, “You can never be too rich or too thin” mentality, in the case of iPad accessories, it might just be true. Or at least, it’s certainly the case that the cost of Apple accessories can add up rapidly once you start to factor in cases, covers, dongles, adapters, and chargers. As for thinness, I’ll confess to being a sucker for those accessories that preserve the sleek Apple aesthetic. At $80, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Case for iPad (compatible with all iPads except the 1st generation and the Mini) does just that and manages to pack quite a lot of features into an attractive and compact package.

I began to integrate the iPad 2 into my academic workflow over the summer of 2011. When the fall semester started, armed with Gradebook Pro and iAnnotate, I began to attempt a paperless classroom, or at least paperless grading. There was much to like about these new practices for both my students and for me: the students weren’t forced to decipher my increasingly illegible handwriting, and I loved not having to carry stacks of paper around. Nevertheless, I became more and more frustrated at my clumsy typing on the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard. The touchscreen would often not recognize my thumb taps on the space bar, somycommentstostudents oftenended uplookingsomethinglikethis. Usually, my word clusters were beyond  the powers of auto-correct, so I was left with two options: I could either manually insert the spaces or delete and try again.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, I began to consider pairing the iPad with an external keyboard. But most of the ones I saw negated much of why I loved grading on the iPad in the first place–they were clunky and often heavy, and I had to grade at a desk or table rather than in my favorite grading chair. The elegant user experience that I enjoyed so much in other applications was compromised by many of the standalone keyboards I had examined, and the keyboard cases I looked at often added as much bulk and heft to the tablet that I felt like I might as well use my laptop.

All of this changed a few months ago. On a weekly trip to Costco, a new display caught my eye in the electronics section: the Logitech Ultrathin Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad 2 and 3. I had come close to buying a different keyboard case just the week before, so I couldn’t help but stop and give this product a closer look. The first thing I noticed was its size. It is the same size as the iPad, but it also weighs less. The Costco display had a keyboard out of the packaging, so I could not only see how the keys were arranged, but I could also type on it (or rather, I could approximate typing with the hunt and peck technique I’ve developed over the years). Of course, there was no iPad with the sales display, just a cardboard mock-up, but I was happy enough with the experience to take one home.

I was still a bit unsure about the purchase, since the keyboard was $80, not an insignificant amount for most of us, and I really wasn’t sure how much I would use the keyboard.

Three months later, I can confidently say that I recommend this keyboard without reservation (and those of you who follow me on twitter know that I’ve done just that more than once in the last few weeks!).

Pros:

Lightweight and compact but with a keyboard that is almost the same size as the one on my 13″ MacBook Pro.

Impressive battery life. The keyboard puts itself to sleep (and wakes again with the touch of any key) to conserve battery life. Logitech claims that the keyboard can go for 6 months without charge based on a 2 hr/day use. I haven’t tried to go quite that long (I generally charge it overnight before traveling), but I have probably charged mine four times in three months and never come close to running out of juice.

Brushed aluminum back panel that both matches the iPad itself and has provided good protection for the device while in transit. I do not use a separate case, though the keyboard case and iPad together fit into a 1st gen iPad leather sleeve that I picked up at a discount store. I have not felt like I needed the extra padded in my daily usage.

Like the Apple branded SmartCover, the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard case has magnets on the hinge that serve to both attach the keyboard to the tablet when closed (unlike the Apple cover, you cannot fold this keyboard behind the tablet), and these magnets also put the iPad to sleep automatically when you close the case. I got very used to this feature with the Apple case, and drained my battery more than once when I tried to switch to a different iPad cover that did not offer it.

The magnetic dock for the tablet allows you to set the iPad at either portrait or landscape mode and holds it firmly in place during any touchscreen navigation. In fact, the magnets are strong enough to keep the keyboard attached if you choose to pick up the iPad alone (or to prevent mischievous kittens from dislodging the iPad with their headbutts).

Cons:

This keyboard case lacks a wrist guard, so it you are accustomed to having a place to rest your hands on the keyboard itself or in your workspace, there may be an adjustment period.

As a human who shares her home with several furry friends, I have become dependent on keyboard covers. I have not yet found one to fit this keyboard.

It’s rare to find an accessory capable of revolutionizing one’s workflow, but this keyboard case has done just that for me. It’s possible that many of these effects are simply the function of having a physical keyboard, any physical keyboard, to use with the tablet, but the magnets, both on the hinge and the dock, are invaluable features. When combined with the battery life, this well-designed keyboard case is hard to beat.

How about you? Do you use a physical keyboard with your iPad? Are there other accessories that have helped improve your workflow or productivity? Please share with us in the comment section.

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