Keyboard cases have proven to be one of the most popular accessories for Apple's iPad, and Logitech is consistently one of the top providers. Their new Ultrathin Keyboard Folio combines excellent protection for the iPad Air with a top quality keyboard.
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Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for the iPad Air

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While ZAGG managed to get their new ZAGGfolio out the door in time for the launch of the iPad Air, Logitech wasn’t too far behind with the release of the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio. I had already picked up the ZAGGfolio and started working on reviewing it when I saw this new keyboard on the shelf at BestBuy. Considering that these are the two top brands when it comes to Bluetooth keyboard cases for not just the iPad, but any tablet, it made since to pick one up and review it, as well.

I’m glad that I was able to review both of these new cases side-by-side, because they certainly are a study in contrasts. You wouldn’t think that keyboard cases for the same tablet would be so dissimilar, but these two products have taken very different paths to the same ultimate outcomes- protecting your iPad Air, while providing as good a keyboard experience as possible on a mobile device.

 

 

Video Review

Design and Construction

When I first took the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio out of the box, I was instantly reminded of Logitech’s older Solar Bluetooth Keyboard Folio for the iPad 2 that I reviewed a couple of years ago. While this new case has no solar recharging capabilities, it does share the same exterior material and a similar design aesthetic.

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While ZAGG went with plastic and faux leather on the ZAGGfolio, Logitech has used a thicker, but more flexible rubberized exterior. It makes the Bluetooth Keyboard Folio easier to grip, and provides more drop protection than its counterpart.

However, as with many accessory design decisions, there are always tradeoffs. In this case, the rubberized exterior and plastic rails that hold the iPad Air add both extra weight and thickness to the case. These increases are definitely noticeable in comparison with the ZAGGfolio. The choice between the two products in terms of design really comes down to which is the users’s primary consideration- protection, or size and weight.

As for the rest of the exterior design, it is minimalist but in a good way. The rails that hold the iPad Air in place are small, leaving your tablet relatively unobstructed.

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There is less protection for the tablet’s sides, but the case’s exterior material extends out beyond the edge of the iPad, making this less of a concern.

Because the sides of the device aren’t fully covered, there is little need for cutouts. The only one you will find exposes the rear camera, and it is perfectly centered. Also, since the iPad’s Sleep/Wake Button is underneath the plastic rail on the left side, Logitech added a secondary raised button rather than a cutout. It is easy to find and press, and worked fine in my testing,

One benefit of Logitech’s design is that protective skins are more likely to be compatible with this case than the ZAGGfolio, which fully covers the iPad’s back and sides and clips over its front edge. My nephew actually chose the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio over the ZAGGfolio for this reason after trying them both.

Another positive aspect of Logitech’s offering is the variety of color options available. While most of the competing keyboard cases only come in a limited number of colors, the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio comes in Black, Navy Blue with Orange interior, Orange with Navy Blue Interior, and Gray. I picked up the Navy Blue model for this review and must admit that I like the look.

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While the color contrast between the two sections of the case is pronounced, it isn’t gaudy or distracting. Quite the opposite. It’s actually very professional looking, but the color adds a little flair to the proceedings.

One very unique aspect of the Bluetooth Keyboard Folio’s design is the mechanism for holding the iPad Air in place while typing. While the ZAGGfolio has a rear hinge, and most other keyboard cases have a groove for the iPad to sit in, Logitech went a very different route with this design. Instead, the Folio has a magnet that holds the Air securely in place, just above the first row of keys.

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And when I say securely, I mean it. You can pick the case up by the iPad and shake it without it breaking loose. This means that your iPad isn’t going to flop around once you put it in place to type. It won’t move until you purposely take it off the magnet.

While this is an innovative, and certainly positive design feature, the downside is that there is no way to change the iPad’s viewing angle other than manipulating the flexible back behind the keyboard. Doing this while using the case in your lap might work, but getting consistent results on a flat surface might prove to be more difficult.

Another quibble I had with this setup is that the flexible material behind the Air has some give when you touch the screen. This is especially noticeable when using it in your lap, but it even happens to a smaller degree on flat surfaces. This certainly isn’t a major problem, but it detracts slightly from the feeling of stability you get from that secure magnet connection.

Logitech also included magnets at the front edges of the keyboard and on the rails that hold the iPad.

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These hold the folio closed, just like the magnet behind the keyboard. Even with a little shaking, the case stays securely closed, just as it should. This is a welcomed design addition, as the lack of a closure method was one of my few complaints with the older Solar Keyboard Folio.

Unfortunately, while the magnets do a great job of holding the keyboard closed, they do not work with the iPad Air’s auto on/off function. This is not listed as a feature, so I assume that they were not intended for this purpose, but only to hold the folio closed. However, they are strong enough and in close enough proximity to the iPad to occasionally turn it on or off.

Another positive design aspect of the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio is the ability to use your iPad normally without having to remove it from the case. With many of these kinds of cases, you are limited in what you can do without the keyboard, and in the case of the ZAGGfolio, there is no way to comfortably use the iPad in portrait orientation. This isn’t the case with the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio, since you have the option to lay the iPad down over the keyboard.

logitech-ultrathin-foldedThis design feature makes the Ultrathin quite versatile. It can be a real pain having to pop your iPad in and out of competing cases for certain tasks, but that isn’t a real issue here.

One other addition worth noting is the inclusion of a loop for a stylus or pen on the lower left side of the keyboard.

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While this is a good idea in theory, its placement is a little problematic. If you have a pen or stylus in it and open the case to do some typing, the stylus will be sitting right there at the base of the keyboard, likely in the way Also, there will likely be some contact noise if you put the case on a hard surface, such as a wooden desk.

 

 

Features and Keyboard Performance

Compared to the ZAGGfolio, Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Folio is pretty light on features. There’s no backlight. No dedicated row of shortcut keys. In fact, the only dedicated shortcut key is the Home button in the top left corner.

There are keyboard shortcuts present, but they all require you to use the FN key to trigger them. Most of the number row keys have shortcuts, such as device lock, Siri, your typical mute and volume adjustments.

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There are also cut, copy, and paste shortcuts on the X, C, and V keys, right where you would expect them. However, you can get the same keyboard shortcuts using the CMD button.

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The same is true of the select shortcut, which is located on the left and right arrow keys. I guess the design team at Logitech decided to print them on the keys and tie them to the FN key because so few users know about iOS’ baked in keyboard support.

One odd choice that Logitech made was making the Tab and Caps Lock keys shortcuts, rather than dedicated keys like on most keyboards.

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However, one good look at the surface of the keyboard will explain their reasoning. While other keyboard cases, such as the ZAGGfolio, have a more traditional key layout, the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio has made good use of the extra space gained from the Tab and Caps Lock keys. It has the largest keys and widest layout that I’ve seen on an iPad keyboard case.

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This keyboard also has the most ample spacing between keys out of anything I’ve tested, as well. What this case lacks in terms of features, it definitely makes up for in terms of pure keyboard layout and design.

The keyboard’s performance is also best in class, as I would expect from a Logitech based on their past performance with iPad accessories. As good as the ZAGGfolio’s keyboard is, this one is definitely has a step on it. The key doubling that I have experienced with recent ZAGG keyboard cases is nowhere to be found. Even with my hamfisted typing style, this keyboard takes anything I can dish out.

This keyboard’s action is just a tad stiffer than the ZAGGfolio’s, but that’s not a bad thing. The keys still have good feedback and don’t require excessive pressure to type. I also really like how solid they feel. The plastic seems to be more substantial than competing cases, and looks like it will hold up over years of use.

 

 

Conclusion

Another year. Another iPad model. Another Logitech keyboard case to go with it. And as with their previous generations of cases, the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio is a quality accessory worthy of the $99 retail price tag. While I wouldn’t personally call it “ultrathin,” it isn’t overly large either. And you definitely get the benefit of extra protection from the thicker exterior material. The included magnets both hold the case securely, whether the case is open or closed, and the ability to easily use your iPad Air normally without having to remove it from the case is also a nice bonus. I also really appreciate the color options that are available. Overall, Logitech’s design is solid.

The Ultrathin Keyboard Folio isn’t a perfect accessory, by any means. The iPad moves a bit while in keyboard position, there is only one viewing angle available while typing and the closure magnet occasionally triggers the tablet’s on/off feature. There also aren’t many extra bells and whistles here that competing products may have.

However, despite the small issues, Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Folio delivers by far the best keyboard case typing experience you can get for the iPad Air. The keyboard is wide, and the keys are well spaced, and they also have a nice action and solid feel. My heavy handed typing has caused problems for several other keyboards in the past, but not this one. It has taken everything I’ve dished out so far with no complaints.

In the end, if you are looking for bells and whistles or the thinnest keyboard case you can find, then the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio probably isn’t the right one for you. However, if the quality of the keyboard or device protection are your primary concerns when purchasing a keyboard case, then this is the one for you.

 

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for the iPad Air is available directly from Logitech and from electronic retailers for a retail price of $99.99.

 

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio was independently purchased by the post author in the App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

 

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