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Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

I have either looked at or tried just about every major Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad, including the Targus Versavu Bluetooth Keyboard Case just a couple of weeks ago. However, none of them have caught my eye quite the way that the Logitech Ultrathin Bluetooth Keyboard Cover did when I saw a product announcement for it recently. I’ve gone back and forth between different cases at different times for my personal use, depending on what I needed and what I was working on at the time, but I had a feeling that this one would be different. The moment I saw the case’s thin profile and Smart Cover-style features, I knew I needed to take a look and see how it stacks up with all the other ones I’ve tried before.

So what exactly is a keyboard cover for an iPad? Well, there are several different types of Bluetooth keyboards available for the three generations of the iPad, and as I see it, they fit into three main types. First, you have stand-alone keyboards that either come with or have separately available cases. This group would include Apple’s Bluetooth Keyboard, paired with the Incase Origami Workstation, and also the Logitech Tablet Keyboard.

These give you a full-sized keyboard, but require that you carry your keyboard separately from your iPad, and that you have alternate protection for your iPad, as the cases only hold the keyboards.

Second, you have the traditional full-body cases that include a somewhat smaller Bluetooth keyboard, such as the ZAGGfolio, or Targus Versavue.

 

These cases offer integrated protection for both the iPad and the keyboard, and range from fairly durable to flat out rugged. On the down side, depending on the one you choose and how the iPad mounts in it, it may take a while to free your iPad for other uses. These cases also tend to be more bulky to carry. Another thing to keep in mind is that the keyboards in this category range in size, but tend to be more on par with what you would find in a netbook. However, full-body cases do offer the most versatility, offering protection and portability in a single package.

Last, you have the keyboard covers. These devices are not full body cases, but still offer a measure of protection for the iPad when they are put together. This category would include the ZAGGmate and Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case, as well as the new Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.

While the former cases have been around for two years now (they actually use the same external design, just for different versions of the iPad), and feature a high-quality keyboard in an attractive, aluminum package, Logitech’s new Ultrathin cover simply takes things to a new level, on all fronts.

This cover is definitely unique among the iPad accessories that I have tried. It’s as if Logitech took the aforementioned Bluetooth Keyboard Case that they licensed from ZAGG over a year ago (which they still sell, by the way), flattened it out, and then merged it with an Apple Smart Cover. That’s quite a mash-up, but it turns out as a great combination in the end.

So, what exactly is this new miracle iPad accessory, and what does it do? Well, first off it’s a decent sized and fully functional Bluetooth keyboard, and a very good one at that. Second, it’s an ultra-thin cover that fully protects the iPad’s screen, and looks good while doing it. Then lastly, it’s also part Smart Cover, with a magnetic hinge and on/off magnets, albeit a very different spin on the concept than Apple’s original design.

Looks- More than Just Skin Deep

As you can see, Logitech took a very simple approach with the exterior design, opting for only a medium-sized text logo, about 2/3 of the way down from the top. However, despite the very spartan design, the unadorned aluminum matches well and looks great when paired with either an iPad 2 or new iPad. The black magnet hinge also stands out nicely against the aluminum.

The keyboard side of the cover is actually an interesting study in contrast. Where the exterior has a very understated design, the keyboard stands out much more. The keys themselves are a fairly traditional looking flat black with white characters, but the surface around them and covering the rest of the keyboard side is a shiny black plastic. It is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but where this type of material often times looks very cheap, Logitech managed to avoid that here. I think the offset of the white logo and white-lined iPad dock, as well as the perfect seam on the sides where the plastic and metal meet pulls it all together into a very, VERY slick looking package.

Construction
We’ll cover the keyboard operation in a moment, but it is the construction and functions that make the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover really stand out from the crowd. While the majority of the full-body keyboard cases for the iPad are made with either a hard plastic shell, leather, or a synthetic material, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover’s exterior is a matte-finished, brushed aluminum, which brings it perfectly in line with the look and feel of the iPad.

Well, at least it does for most people. As I have mentioned in some previous reviews, I use Best Skins Ever front and rear skins on my iPad, so the difference in feel between the two surfaces is very noticeable. Considering that any aluminum surface is susceptible to scratches over time, I will probably pick up another rear skin to apply to exterior of my new Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. That, and I would much prefer that the two surfaces have the same feel when I’m carrying the pair together. Considering that the dimensions are the same, the fit should be close. However, since the iPad’s back tapers at the edges, while the cover’s is straight, I may have to trim a bit to make it work.

Considering that aluminum does scratch over time, Logitech should take a lesson from ZAGG and at least include four small silicone feet that the customer has the option to stick on the surface.

This would offer a minimal amount of protection with little effort required. Also, since the silicone is opaque, they shouldn’t stand out so much as to be a distraction from the cover’s good looks.

What really sets this cover apart is that it truly lives up to its name. It really is “ultrathin,” so much so that it is even thinner than the iPad itself.

Despite the diminutive size, however, this case should provide more than adequate protection for your iPad’s screen through average wear and even small drops.

The other notable design element of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is the full implementation of Apple’s Smart Cover tech. I’ve seen several cases, such as the ZAGGfolio, that include magnets on the right hand side to line up with the iPad’s on/off magnets. This allows these cases to turn your iPad on and off when you open and close it. This is one of the defining features of both the iPad 2 and new iPad, and its implementation has become so widespread that I am surprised when it isn’t included in products that I test now.

However, Logitech again took the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover to the next level, adding a magnetic hinge to attach the cover to the iPad, just like Apple’s own Smart Cover.

This was a brilliant design decision, because it really makes the ultrathin size possible. If it weren’t for having a magnetic hinge strong enough to hold the cover in place, there would have to be an alternate mechanism of some type to hold the cover snug to the iPad’s screen when closed.

For example, the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case and ZAGGmate both have raised aluminum edges and rubber gaskets that hold the iPad after you lay it flat and press it down on top of the keyboard.

 

While both of these covers are smaller than most full-sized iPad keyboard cases, those raised edges make them bigger and less comfortable to use than the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.

While the magnet hinge on the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is similar to that of a Smart Cover, it is noticeably larger.

This is only natural, since this cover obviously weighs quite a bit more than a Smart Cover. I actually much prefer this larger hinge, as it quite literally makes attaching the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover to the iPad a snap. Once you line them up together, the magnet jumps right into place with a click.

The cover’s hinge is also a one piece design that moves together, which again, I much prefer to that of the Smart Cover.

Apple’s design has a brace in the middle that can rotate independently of the hinges, which can be more cumbersome, and downright annoying if it gets stuck in the wrong spot. The hinge on the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is just easier to operate since it always moves together.

Another benefit of having the cover attached with a magnetic hinge is in one-handed use, which is either awkward or impossible with a lot of other iPad keyboard cases.

 

It may not be the perfect, but at least with the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover you can open it up with the hinge still attached, and hold the pair like a book while you use your iPad. I have found this very handy in situations where I didn’t have a good place to sit the cover down if I detached the cover to use my iPad. For those times when I just want to look up something quickly, it is great to not have to detach this cover to do it.

The Ultrathin Keyboard Cover’s svelte profile is obviously one of its primary selling points, and really sets it apart from anything else that I’ve used. However, there is one drawback thanks to the size and material. Even though aluminum is a very strong material, even at lighter weights, it can still bend and flex when it is this thin. I came across this issue when, without thinking, I accidentally picked up the case around the front of the keyboard with the iPad still docked. This meant that the cover was especially back-heavy, as that’s where the entire weight of the iPad sits.

I didn’t immediately notice an issue, as this didn’t cause any horrible or pronounced damage. However, a couple of days later I was showing the case to someone else, and they asked if the included Smart Cover style front magnets held the case closed. While checking this, I noticed that the front edge of the case didn’t line up with my iPad anymore. When I picked up the case with the iPad’s weight sitting on the back, the aluminum under the front of the keyboard flexed slightly. It wasn’t enough to notice while using the keyboard sitting on a flat surface, but it was definitely noticeable when the case was closed.

Thankfully, with a little bit of gentle pressure in the right places, the case now lines up perfectly again. However, due to the thinness of the metal, be careful to always pick up the case underneath the iPad with two hands if it is docked for keyboard use. This is definitely not a design flaw or an issue that would keep me from buying the case, but simply a trade-off to be aware of because of how thin this cover is.

The Keyboard
The coolest, most awesome looking cover in the world wouldn’t matter much if the keyboard was a piece of junk. That certainly isn’t the case here, as this is without a doubt, my current favorite iPad keyboard. I absolutely love it, and have been carrying it pretty much everywhere since the day I got it. Considering that I have hardly parted with the ZAGGfolio since it was released last year, that is definitely an accomplishment.

The Ultrathin Keyboard Case’s keys have great spacing, and are around the same size as the ones on the ZAGGfolio and Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard Case (which have the exact same ZAGG-designed keyboard).

Considering that these keyboards still currently come in a very close second in my book, Logitech is definitely doing something right here. So, how did they pull this great keyboard off with less room to work with? Instead of having a dedicated row of special function keys, like so many other iPad keyboards, this one integrates special commands keys under the standard number keys.

These functions can be accessed by simultaneously pressing the fn key and the corresponding number key. The included functions are Home,Search, Internet, Software Keyboard Toggle, Text Select Left, Text Select Right, Cut, Copy, Paste, Media Play/Pause, Mute, Volume Down, Volume Up, and Screen Lock. Out of these functions, only the Home command is accessible independently, without pressing the fn key.

I have to say that, after reviewing the Targus Versavu Keyboard Case a couple of weeks ago, I much prefer Logitech’s design decision here. Targus made a smaller keyboard with less space between keys, and some non-standard key placements, while including dedicated special function keys.

Ultimately, those function keys mean a lot less to me than the overall key size and spacing. This is just my personal preference, but I would be legitimately surprised if the majority of mobile keyboard users didn’t feel the same way. After using both keyboards extensively over the last month, I much prefer Logitech’s.

The docking mechanism of the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is also a very strong feature, as it provides both stability and a comfortable viewing angle in landscape orientation.

Even though the cover is back-heavy with the iPad docked, as I previously mentioned, the balance and stability are perfect while typing. The cover’s dock does this while adding very little impact to the overall design.

 

The reason for this is because Logitech went to the additional trouble of putting a magnet that attaches to the hinge magnets on the left side of the iPad in the dock. Genius. I haven’t seen this done before, but it is just a great idea for making certain that an iPad is stable when docked. Another aspect that I always appreciate in any dock is that, just like with the magnet hinge attachment, you hear an audible click to let you know that your iPad is securely docked. I guess I find the occasional mechanical sound comforting in such an electronic world.

While the dock is designed specifically to be used with the iPad in landscape orientation, you can use it in portrait, as well.

It isn’t quite as stable or secure since there is even more weight put on the back, and there aren’t any magnets for the dock to attach to in the bottom of the iPad. However it does work on a flat surface, or even in a lap, if you keep your legs straight and level. I wouldn’t recommend picking up the case with the iPad set up this way, though.

The controls for the keyboard are typical of what you would find on other products, but true to the rest of the cover’s ultrathin form, are just a bit smaller.

The micro USB charging port, on/off switch, and Bluetooth discovery mode button are on the right-hand side of the cover, behind the iPad while it is docked. The power and charging light is located between the keyboard and iPad on the right hand side.

Just like any good Bluetooth keyboard, the controls are easy to use, and pretty much foolproof. Thankfully, so is the Bluetooth pairing process with the iPad, as well. And, as I’ve come to expect from the best Bluetooth keyboards, the battery life is good that you don’t even think about. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that I have to remind myself to write about it in my reviews. In my experience, battery like is judged in months, rather than days or hours.

Conclusion
Not too much drama here. Just a truly excellent product. This is definitely my favorite iPad keyboard case or cover out of all the ones I have ever used. Even after finishing this review, I will be carrying it around in my tablet gear bag on a daily basis. There may be some occasions when I pull out the ZAGGfolio when I need something a little more durable, but the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover will be my go to keyboard for the foreseeable future.

To me, this product strikes a perfect balance between form and function. You get full screen protection, flawless Smart Cover style operation, stability, and a great keyboard with plenty of space and responsiveness. All this, and you get great looks and style, to boot. If full iPad coverage and protection are a necessity, or if you prefer dedicated function keys on your keyboard, then this probably isn’t the device for you. However, for pretty much anyone else looking for a quality iPad keyboard, look no further than Logitech’s new Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. You won’t be sorry.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is available at a MSRP of $99.99.

 

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover was provided by Logitech for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

 

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  • JR

    Wonderful review. Thank you!
    I’ve been wanting a keyboard case but have been less than thrilled with the current offerings.
    This is the one I’m getting 🙂

  • jhrogersii

    Thank you for the kind words, JR. It was my pleasure. If you are looking for a light weight keyboard cover, you can’t go wrong with this one. It is just perfect for what I need 95% of the time.

    With that said, I will be also be reviewing Logitech’s new solar powered, fully enclosed iPad keyboard case in the next few weeks. If you want more protection, and like what you see from Logitech on the keyboard side, you might also take a look at this case, as well. Just FYI.

  • JR

    I’ve waited this long…what’s a few more days/weeks.
    Solar sounds interesting. Thank you!!

  • Tammy

    Great review. I was looking at the Adonit Writer+, but this one sounds really nice. So you have any comments comparing these two?

    Thanks!

    • jhrogersii

      Thanks Tammy. I’m afraid that I don’t have any hands on experience with the latest Adonit Writer 2, but Thomas wrote up an excellent review a little while back. You’ll find it here:

      I can say that I have always heard great things about Adonit’s keyboard cases. Also, bear in mind that these are two very different products. The Adonit is a full case that completely encloses the iPad. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover just protects the screen, but is also smaller.

      Hopefully this helps.

  • an

    Greetings! Great review.

    Just got the Logitech keyboard case home and see it says for iPad2. I have an original iPad – is it worth me taking it out of the box and charging it up etc??

    • jhrogersii

      Unfortunately not. The original iPad does not have the Smart Cover magnets necessary to make this cover work. Also, because the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is specifically designed for the iPad 2 and New iPad, the keyboard dock will probably not fit the original iPad either.

  • Jeff Perren

    Very helpful review.

    The detailed look at the hinge and the careful comparison (both written and photographic) with the earlier Zaggmate/Logitech keyboard/cover were especially useful.

    Thanks!

    • jhrogersii

      Thanks For the kind words, and for reading, Jeff. Glad I could help.

  • Doug

    Will it work with a case that protects the back of the iPad?

    • jhrogersii

      Good question. It would be difficult to find, but it is possible. This cover sits flush with the iPad’s edges all-around, so any cover would have to not stick out any past the screen of the device. Most that I have seen have a small lip on them that helps hold them in place, which would get in the way of the cover.

      If you are just looking for scratch protection, a skin works great paired with this device. Good luck in your search. Let us know if you find one.

  • Abbey

    I tried using a keyboard a bit like this for my iPad but I found I kept using hte onscreen one instead – it made it too bulky. So I’m sticking with my Snugg case, which is just as good as it was the first day I got it 🙂 I

    • jhrogersii

      Hello, and thanks for reading Abbey. As far as on-screen keyboards go, the iPad’s is about as good as it gets. I uses to use it all the time, and didn’t mind typing on glass. I just found that I was more productive with the actual physical keyboard. But, these accessories certainly aren’t for everyone. They are more of a luxury for those of us who need to type out a lot of email, letters, articles, notes, etc, and prefer the instant on/off and interface of the iPad to a laptop or Netbook. To each their own.

  • Kathy Berger

    I have had the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard cover for almost 2 weeks now, and am thrilled with it. I had a Zagg keyboard case on my iPad 2, but when I got my new iPad, I found that the magnets were in the wrong polarity to turn my iPad off/on automatically. I ordered a new case, supposedly for the new iPad, but its magnets didn’t work either. After much iteration with Zagg, and some frustration, I eventually decided to go with this keyboard, and do not regret the decision at all. I have found that I actually prefer having the function keys operated with a key-combination rather than by a single key stroke (I used to turn my screen off all the time when I would try to hit the delete key), and I definitely do not miss the aluminum ridge around the keyboard; this is a lot more comfortable to type on. The keys are very responsive, and spaced fairly well for a keyboard of this size.

    I do a fair amount of HTML and was going crazy with the number of taps necessary to get to the “” characters, so a physical keyboard has been a sanity-saver. This keyboard is more than that… it is a joy to use. And it is a wonderful screen cover, too!

    I have to say, though, that my favorite feature is the magnet lock in the docking mechanism. I only wish it were possible to lock in the portrait orientation as well, since I do use that frequently with Pages. It is amazing how much more stable the iPad feels with the magnetic lock than without!

    All in all, I have to completely agree with your well-written and thorough review. This is a great little keyboard in a well designed cover, and it looks just wonderful with my iPad!

  • Incredibly thorough review, thank you very much for the detailed info! Helped give me the push I needed to invest in the Logitech Ultrathin.

  • zahadum

    0) nice review!

    — except for two important details:

    1) mechanical stability.

    there is NONE in portrait mode!
    the ipad just tumbles backwards out of the cradle & thuds on to the table —
    which is an invitation to a cracked screen depending upon your relationship with Mr. Murphy’s tender mercies! 🙁

    the fact logitech couldnt put in better magnets in the centre of the cradle – or at least work with apple to get these added to the ipad4 before it was released – shows that this company STILL does not “Get It” when it comes to designing for the Apple marketplace: they just dont sweat all the details … they are (still) limited to harvesting only the easy pickings from the low-hanging fruit 🙁

    (The fact that they are even in the exotic end of the keyboard business to begin with is only a function of the the product engineering experience they garnered from LICENSING from people who do have top-notch industrial design DNA – in this case (no pun): from their successful OEM relationship with ZAGG)

    2) illuminated keyboard

    it is just ridiculous that a premium product ($120) cheaps out on such a crucial typing feature!