Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air: Yep!

And the pendulum of gadget satisfaction has swung the other way. Previously, I dismissed the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air for its flimsiness in typing mode and its bizarre key-conflations. Still determined to find a suitable external keyboard for my beloved electro-slab, I decided to try out something familiar, Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.

This, unlike the Folio, is not a “case” for your iPad, something that would cover it front and back, but more like a faceplate with keys, attached by magnetic hinges like the Apple Smart Cover. When in typing mode, the iPad docks into a magnetic groove, tilted at a slight angle, just above the keys. I owned the previous generation of this keyboard cover for my earlier iPad, and liked it quite a bit, even though it didn’t get all that much use. When I absolutely needed a physical keyboard for longform writing, it was just fine.

Utterly disappointed by the Folio for the iPad Air, I was a little reticent about the Cover. Surely there would be sacrifices that Logitech had to make in order to fit an iPad that is “full size,” but still significantly smaller than its predecessors. I feared it would be cramped, and perhaps flimsier or feel more, well, cheap. It’s clear that both the Folio and the Cover were made before the Air was even finalized, as the marketing materials for both products note them as being compatible with “iPad 5,” which of course is not what this iPad turned out to be named. (The packaging has the “iPad 5” language artfully labeled over with the correct iPad name.) So there was some trepidation.

I’m pleased to say that not only is the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover working out, but it’s been a delight to use.

First and foremost, it’s a very good keyboard generally, for a “case” or otherwise. I’m typing on it right now to write this review. While it’s certainly a bit more cramped than the official Apple keyboard, it’s not badly so, and the keys feel more solid and responsive than they did on Logitech’s Folio version. This is about what I remember from the previous generation Ultrathin Cover, though it may be a touch more compact. If so, I can’t really tell from memory. I wouldn’t use it for my MacBook’s external keyboard, of course, but it’s a perfectly acceptable keyboard overall.

One thing I particularly liked about the previous generation keyboard cover was that I could, somewhat precariously, use it on my lap. It wasn’t entirely stable that way, but if I stayed mostly still, I could do some prodictive typing from the couch. With this iteration being smaller and lighter to suit the Air, I presumed the experience here would be as good or perhaps a little worse.

Wrong. It’s better – far better. I’ve got the thing on my lap now. Okay, I’ve got it on my lap all the time. It’s perfect for couch use. It’s almost as stable and still as my MacBook Air on my lap, even though the iPad plus the keyboard cover together are lighter than an 11″ MacBook Air. The magnetic groove on this cover doesn’t hold the iPad Air quite as firmly as the previous generation held iPads 2, 3, and 4, but it’s still much better than the Folio’s crummy, non-grooved magnetic strip. Still, it means that the functional angles at which you can work are more limited. For example, the keyboard essentially needs to be flat or angled upward on your lap, as opposed to having the keys tilt at all toward you, or else the iPad could flop out of the groove. But this has yet to be an issue for me.

One notable drawback from the previous version: iPads 2 through 4 were actually fairly stable in the docking groove even in portrait mode, straight up and down. It didn’t “click” in, but it set deeply enough into the groove to be usable. This is not really the case with the iPad Air version. You can prop it up that way for casual viewing on a table, perhaps, but you likely won’t get much done that way, and certainly not on your lap, before it topples over. This is really a landscape-only situation.

Meanwhile, the magnets on the hinge in “cover mode” are incrediby strong – almost too strong, as I sometimes worry it pulls the iPad to it with too much force. So far, no problems, though. But ideally, I’d like to see a tiny bit less magnetic pull from the hinge in cover mode, and a bit more strength on the docking groove.

Speaking of “cover mode,” I have a small concern about using this as my primary cover for my iPad for travel. Normally my iPad lives in an STM Cape, which is mostly fabric and perfectly safe and protective. With the Logitech Cover, I perceive a little bit of give toward the middle of the cover, such that if you squeeze them together a bit, the keys looks like they could mash up against the iPad’s screen. The cover has little rubbery feet that lift any hard pieces away from the screen normally, but it looks like even a little bit of pressure might mean trouble for the screen. Obviously, I’m not willing to test this possibility on my device, so I suspect that for anything other than a quick jaunt to Starbucks, I’ll travel with my iPad in my Cape, and simply carry the keyboard cover as an extra accessory. It’s not exactly obtrusive.

One other nice thing about this being a cover versus a case, is that it wouldn’t be at all odd to separate the saucer section, as it were. You can dock the iPad into the cover, or prop the iPad up with another case or stand you prefer, and still use the Logitech keyboard to type. They don’t need to be physically attached to work together.

And another nice thing, which is thanks to Control Center in iOS 7. There’s now much less friction when switching between docked typing and handheld tablet use. With Control Center being accessible at any time, I can disable the keyboard and Bluetooth without going through the morass of menus from previous versions of iOS. Now I just undock, flick up control center, and turn off Bluetooth. Done.

To sum up, it’s really only as a long-term protective cover that I’m at all iffy on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air. Around the house, it’s fine, but I wouldn’t put it in a tightly-packed carry-on for a flight. But as soon as I’m situated, I’d probably pop it right out, and dock my iPad into it forthwith.

This has turned out to be a great purchase, and I find myself docking my iPad into it regardless of whether I plan on doing any significant writing, for even if it’s just for tweeting, email, or browsing, this keyboard cover is a great overall augmentation to my favorite object.

See my original review of the iPad Air, and my follow-up

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