When it comes to keyboard cases for the iPad, these two are the big boys in the mainstream market. Both work on the same principle: a keyboard case which uses the iPad’s magnets utilizing the auto-wake feature. So which is best? ZAGG’s aluminum bodied PROplus, or the beautifully simple and elegant Ultrathin Keyboard cover by Logitech?
The two keyboards may look identical from the outside, but, once you flip them over in to typing mode, they’re like chalk and cheese. Closed up, both have a brushed aluminum surface on the outside, designed to fit in with the design of the iPad. And both should be commended for it. But even then there are immediately apparent – but subtle – differences. The ZAGG has a well positioned lip which surrounds the iPad when closed. The Logitech doesn’t, and that’s for one main reason: they use different methods of attaching to your tablet. The Ultrathin has a hinge similar to that found on Apple’s own Smart Cover. The PROplus’ designers opted against this method, and has four magnets embedded in each corner of the case to hold your iPad tightly when closed. Out of the two methods, the hinge is much more practical and useful. Opening and closing the Logitech feels more natural and needs virtually no rearranging. On the other hand, the ZAGG needs some coaxing to lie back down in the right position again. Saying that, the ZAGG does have a neatly placed indent to make prising it open a little more convenient.
Although it may seem like a minor detail, ZAGG’s ridge surrounding the iPad makes a difference in a couple of ways. Firstly, It makes the iPad more secure when being lugged around as a “laptop”. Secondly, it ensures that once the iPad is standing upright in the keyboard, that it sits perfectly where it should. With the Logitech I often found my OCD not coping well with the tablet’s edges jutting out the sides of the stand by a couple of millimeters.
On the inside, these two are vastly different. The Ultrathin is all plastic (available in white, black or red) and doesn’t try to disguise that fact. It’s shiny, and plasticcy. It also feels like there’s a lot of wasted space on it, thanks to not having a dedicated row for numbers. The iPad sits about a pinky’s width further forward than it does in the PROplus, and there’s nothing behind it but a flat black plastic surface with some Logitech branding. ZAGG went with a different approach entirely. The inside surface is covered with aluminum. It’s very Apple-y and it has a 6-row keyboard, exactly the same as you’d get on a full-size “proper” keyboard. In terms of design, that means much less wasted space behind the iPad, and it does help give it a more natural laptop feel when in use.
In another stroke of genius, the PROPlus also has some easily accessible buttons on that surface. “Pair” and “OFF/ON” buttons sit within easy reach just behind the iPad, and thanks to their texture, size and being placed in neatly indented places, you don’t need to fumble around like a Buffoon trying to find the right one. The Logitech – on the other hand – has the tiniest, most fiddly power and Bluetooth pairing buttons imaginable. I’m not kidding when I say anyone with regular sized hands and fingers will struggle to switch the keyboard on or off with it lying flat on any surface. There is one negative to the ZAGG’s metal chassis: weight. The PROplus is noticeably heavier than the Ultrathin. This – needless to say – makes the Logitech a more portable solution.
Both keyboards contain a full selection of dedicated iOS buttons. Functions like activating the onscreen keyboard, changing volume, copy, cut, paste, Spotlight and even a Home Button are all catered for. But, it’s the aforementioned extra row on the ZAGG which gives it the edge. While the PROPlus has each of these on its own bespoke button in the top row, the Logitech requires you to use the Function key. And, instead of having the dreaded function key in the bottom left hand corner, the ZAGG has a very useful battery status button. Press it, and the light flashes 1,2,3 or 4 times depending on the level of juice left in its inbuilt battery.
The PROplus also has a slightly nicer typing experience in general. Although key sizes are very similar, there’s much more space in between buttons on the ZAGG. And, although the Logitech doesn’t feel completely cramped, it did take a little while longer to get used to the slight lack of space compared to its competitor. That said, in terms of feedback, both are fantastically tactile. The Logitech’s keyboard is a little more texturized, and the ZAGG’s keys were a less “grippy”.
There’s one fairly big plus to having the Logitech: it has magnets built in to the stand. Once your iPad is in place and ready for typing, it won’t go anywhere. In fact, if you pick it up by the top edge, the keyboard cover comes with it. ZAGG – no surprise – went with a different approach. Instead of going with magnets, it lined the edges of the stand with rubber and made the groove slightly deeper. It holds well, but if you push it too hard it can fall out.
Battery life is adequate on both. As a matter of fact, it’s so good, you really needn’t be concerned about it. Either can go days of full-time use without needing to be plugged in to a power outlet. The PROplus does have a secret weapon though: backlit keys. The added thickness has enabled its designers to squeeze in some LED lights underneath the surface of the keyboard, and their brightness level can be changed.
On the surface, these two cases should have been very similar, but each made design choices which hindered and helped. Compromise is evident on both. While ZAGG went with a premium aluminum finish all over, it compromised by being heavier. The Logitech went thin and light, and compromised by using plastic and condensing the keyboard in to a smaller space. I love the Logitech’s magnetic stand and hinge, but those are really the only two features of the Ultrathin giving it a benefit over the ZAGG. In comparison, I prefer the aluminum finish (despite the added weight), I love the placement of the power and paring keys, the extra row of dedicated keys and the OCD-curing lip around the outside of the ZAGG. The backlit keys are a bonus too.
In all honesty, neither of these cases are bad. In fact, both are excellent options for anyone. If you want a power-horse that’s easy to adapt to and has a stylish finish: ZAGG. However, if your priority is to have a thin and light number, you should look no further than the Ultrathin.
Cost-wise you’re looking at $99.99 for the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (available here). The ZAGGKeys PROplus comes in at $139.99, but if you can do without the backlit keys you can pick up the ZAGGkeys PRO for $109.99. Hit the ZAGG Online store to order or to find out more.