The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (UKC) for the iPad fits over the face for travel and opens to create a stand and keyboard. The design is elegant, the keyboard is terrific, but there are just a few compromises and limitations. Overall, it's still a great product for the price.
It's a fact. There are some people who need a really good keyboard for their iPad when on the move. Even though Apple doesn't provide one and has opted to retain a vision of a pure tablet for its millions of customers, there are those who still desire a keyboard. When it closes up to protect the iPad and matches its style, so much the better.
For more on this philosophy, see the recent review of the Brydge.
The gist here is that we're interested in how well the product performs and what its features are -- without regard to thoughts about whether one should be even using a physical keyboard. It's a matter of need and taste, so let's get on with the review.
The UKC is a flat keyboard assembly that has magnets on the edges. When the iPad (2,3 or 4) is brought into close contact, in preparation to cover the iPad, the rear magnets grab the iPad, and then the remaining magnets keep the duo securely closed up.
However, when the iPad is opened and still connected with the virtual hinge on the back, there is nothing to hold the iPad at any given angle. The iPad must be pulled away, and then placed in the special gutter. That constrains the iPad to stand at a fixed angle, 30 degrees from the vertical. Some users may find that annoying; I did.
Next to a 2011 13-inch MacBook AIr
You could insert the iPad in portrait mode, but it becomes a bit top heavy and seems to put some stress on the gutter. It's really designed, it seems, to be used in landscape mode. Neither Logitech's marketing images nor the manual suggests use in portrait mode.
When the iPad is in place, the gutter keeps it positioned fairly well. However, there is no positive, secure fit. Even though I was able to lift the duo by the iPad, and they stayed together, a slightly stronger jostle will separate them. As a result, I judge that the best use of the UKC is on a desk. If you do decide to sit with the assembly on your lap, I think it's possible that the iPad could topple out and fall to the floor if nudged strongly. In contrast, the Brydge can much more safely be used as if it were a MacBook on one's lap.
The UKC comes in a white or black face and keyboard to match either the white or black iPad. In either case, the back is a thin layer of aluminum that matches the color and texture of Apple's iPad. The plastic keeps the weight down, and the UKC weighs only about 11 ounces. However, the price paid is a certain amount of strength and durability compared to solid aluminum.
Aluminum back matches iPad.
Unlike the Brydge, which has a MacBook-like notch on the front edge of the keyboard to enable a convenient opening pry, there is, instead, a slender gutter in front of the spacebar. When closed securely by the magnets, it takes just a little bit of extra prying to get the iPad pulled open and away. This is an observation, not a complaint.
Like Apple's Smart Cover, the iPad will wake/sleep when the UKC is opened/closed.
Setting up the UKC
As with just about all keyboards of this type, the connection to the iPad is via Bluetooth. The UKC remains in discovery mode for 15 minutes after you turn it on. If necessary, there's also a Bluetooth connect button on the side next to the on/off switch. Then, as usual, you go to the iPad's Settings -> Bluetooth to pair them. The Bluetooth connection is for the keyboard only; there are no built-in speakers.
Logitech says that a full charged battery should last about six months if used for two hours a day. A strong plus for this product is that the battery is user replaceable. Unfortunately, Logitech provides a paper manual that describes the process but doesn't state what kind of battery to use. So you'll find out when you pry the unit open with a screwdriver. (I tried to pry it open, but didn't have the right size screwdriver and just succeeded in scratching the case.)
Out of the box, I was immediately put off by how short the micro USB cable is. I was hard pressed to reach the USB hub on my desk that sits right under my iMac's display. It's 16 inches (40 cm.) long, and that sounds adequate, but it really isn't when you need to place the iPad and UKC in a convenient postion on your desk during charging.
Using the UKC
The first thing one notices is how good the keyboard looks and how good it feels. The spacing between key centers is 16 mm, the same as the Brydge, but the keys action is just slightly softer. Personally, I like that because keys with a soft action allow me to type faster for some reason. (I'm typing this, however, on an Apple aluminum keyboard for publication.) I judge the key action/feel to be excellent, almost as good as any dedicated keyboard you might buy.
There is no LED for the caps lock.
The next thing I noticed, to my great joy as I wrote notes to myself, is that the Delete key is protected. That is, you must first press the Function key to lock the iPad's display. There are no worries there, and that's great foresight and thoughtfulness. The Home key, which will kill an app, is also thoughtfully placed out of the way on the far left above the Tab key.
The keys are gorgeous, crisp but soft feel
At first glance, I had a hard time finding the back-tick and tilde keys. On this keyboard, they're more or less hidden away over the bracket/braces keys and must be accessed with the Function prefix key. Once you know where these seldom used keys are, it's not a problem.
Overall, this handsome product is a joy to look at and use. One must be aware of its limitations, however. The fixed tilt angle and the susceptibility to accidental separation from the iPad are serious considerations.
Due to the design and placement of the gutter, there is no wrist rest at all. But then, considering that it's best used on a desk anyway, that may not matter.
Packaging and Documentation
The UKC comes in a very thin box but with a cardboard tray and plastic to protect it during shipping. Included is a cleaning cloth, a booklet with warranty and safety information, a 10 page user manual, and the micro USB cable.
The manual is complete and well written, except for battery information. However, I was endlessly amused by the fact that the manual itself (on page 1) shows a picture of the manual and has a call out that explains that it (the picture of the manual) is the manual. Logitech has a wry sense of humor.
Custom laser engraving is available. Just enter the text when checking out on the Logitech website.
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a handsome, well-priced product and has a keyboard any novelist could live with. It's well laid out and just gorgeous. The soft feel may or may not appeal to users, but if you like the Apple aluminum keyboards, you'll like this one.
While it's mostly plastic, it doesn't have a cheap plastic feel. The fit and finish are excellent, and it matches the look of the iPad perfectly. I do, however, worry that one will scratch the case prying it open with a screwdriver to replace the battery. A compartment latch/detent would have been a nice touch.
For some, the way the iPad sits in the gutter may not be a secure as necessary for some conditions, and the fixed 30 degree tilt from the vertical may not be acceptable. Also, the opportunity for stereo speakers was bypassed, presumably to keep the cost down. However, if this doesn't affect you, and your principal consideration is low weight and the Logitech brand and reputation, then it's a winner.
For those who want to compare this against the Brydge, recently reviewed, here's a comparison chart.
|Caps Lock light||No||No|
Micro USB cable
w/ iPad 3
|17.5 mm||16.5 mm|
|Prot. DEL key||No||Yes|
|Tilt Angle||Infinite 0-180 deg||
Fixed (30 deg