I love my iPad. It’s probably the single most useful device I’ve ever owned. But it’s useless for one thing: typing any serious amount of text.
The on-screen keyboard just doesn’t cut it. It’s good enough for editing, responding to e-mails and so on – but trying to write anything of any length is nothing short of torture.
(I’ll deviate a little here. I think this is my generation’s hang-up – and that future novelists will have no problem with an on-screen interface, or dictating via Siri – or even ‘thinking’ a novel direct from their minds. After all, standing behind us are writers who used pictograms, longhand, typewriters and word processors – each probably swearing by their method.)
So, while my iPad might go with me almost everywhere, it seldom gets used for any substantial typing. Until now.
That’s because I’ve just got myself the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. Which isn’t just a keyboard cover: it’s a keyboard, too.
I’ve had a couple of iPad keyboards in the past but not really got on with them. Apple’s own solution was a Frankenstein-like combination of dock and the company’s normal Bluetooth keyboard. It worked (and, since the keyboard is a joy to use, is productive) but it’s hardly portable. Wandering around with an iPad, keyboard and dock is just stupid. And the whole combination wobbles like crazy if you attempt to do anything as audacious as work on a train. The final blow is that you look like an utter berk when you’re using it.
Likewise, other keyboards have been too cumbersome or didn’t integrate that well with the iPad.
Not so, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.
It’s exactly the same size as the iPad for a reason – when not in use, it becomes a screen cover. It attaches using the iPad’s internal magnets – the ones used for the official Apple iPad Smart Cover. This makes it easy to attach, detach and carry around. It adds a little bulk to the iPad, but not too much. A neat trick here is that the iPad ‘knows’ when it’s been attached or detached and turns itself on or off accordingly. It works so well that it feels as though it might be a piece of Apple kit.
The back of the cover is aluminium, so it’s also a perfect visual match for the iPad. It’s not that scratch-resistant, but that is the nature of the material.
You charge the keyboard via your Mac or PC’s USB port – and a charge (apparently) lasts for months.
To use it as a keyboard, you simply remove it from the iPad and slot the iPad into the groove above the keys – which gives you a decent viewing angle, albeit one which can’t be adjusted. It connects via Bluetooth – and, once slotted in, you’re up and running.
The keyboard itself is a touch cramped, being about 10% narrower than a real keyboard. It’s nothing you can’t get used to, though touch-typists will find themselves stumbling at first, especially with the outer keys. Once you get used to it, you can get up a fair lick of speed. The keyboard’s action is nice – not as good as Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard, but positive enough. The keys – like the inside of the cover – are plastic – but they don’t feel cheap.
There are also some iPad-dedicated function keys, so it’s easy to call up spotlight, switch applications, copy, paste, set the volume level or even lock the iPad. The level of integration is lovely.
There’s no software to install – you just pair it as a Bluetooth device and that’s it.
In terms of compatibility, it works with the iPad 2 and the third generation iPad. My guess is that it would function with the original iPad, but the iPad itself would slip out of the groove that’s engineered so well to hold the later iPads in place.
Downsides? It’s not quite the build quality of iPad, but it’s pretty good. It’s expensive – around £70 currently. I’m no expert on what it costs for these things to be made, but I’d say the price point really needs to be below £50 for a peripheral like this.
Overall, I’m sold on it and really liking it. There are going to be plenty of instances where I’d previously have taken my MacBook Pro where I’ll now be more than happy with the combination of iPad and Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.
The bottom line: I’ve not seen or used a better iPad keyboard.
This review was written using an iPad and the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.