Logitech Ultrathin Folio for iPad Air – Beautiful and durable, but with compromises [Review]

In just a few short weeks since the iPad Air launched, all the major players in the keyboard making market have released a host of options. I’ve already tested and reviewed the ZAGGkeys Folio, and now it’s time to get to grips with Logitech’s direct competitor: The Ultrathin Folio.

Logitech’s Ultrathin Folio features the usual folio style case with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard. The outside is covered by a water repellent material, it feels almost tacky (as in sticky – not cheap), it’s a fairly soft touch material but is incredibly durable. On the inside is a similar material, but in a different color. I went with the navy blue/red combination. On the design front, it is one of the best looking keyboard cases I’ve used. If I used the word “cool” to describe its aesthetics, I’d be as close as possible to nailing it on the head. It looks sporty, durable, and like it’s designed to be grabbed and taken about anywhere.

To add to its almost athletic design, it has a small fabric tag sticking out the side with Logitech’s brand name on it. What really impresses me is how un-plastic it is. Despite the cover being reinforced with a thin internal layer of plastic, the outer material gives it a much more premium look and feel than the ZAGG competitor.

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Talking functionality, the iPad is held in place by two grips on the right hand edge. Thanks to the cover being a ever so slightly flexible, you can clip it in place just by pushing down on the two corners. Those of you worried about keeping your iPad protected from knocks and scrapes will be glad to know that the Folio cover’s edge is between 5-10mm outside the bottom, top and right edges of the iPad, providing a reassuring buffer. There is an indent large enough at the top of the right hand edge to give easy access to the volume and mute/orientation switch.

Its design and protective qualities are far and away the best I’ve seen in a keyboard case. It combines the durability and protection with the style and life, even a sense of verve. And just as a bonus, its flexible build means you can fold the back cover and cover the keyboard while still using the keyboard. Sure, it’s not as comfortable as just holding the iPad bare, but it sure as heck beats having to unclip the iPad every time you don’t want to use the keyboard.

Holding the iPad in typing mode is a magnetic strip running horizontally above the top row of keys. It has its positives, in that it’s very easy to attach and detach the iPad to set up or stow away. It holds well too, and will not give up its attachement to your tablet’s left edge without you pulling it. On the downside, since there’s nothing holding your iPad at a rigid angle, it’s a little disconcerting to feel the iPad push away every time you have to press the screen. It’s also too close to the keyboard for my liking. If the strip was pushed about an inch backwards, it would not only sit the screen at a more comfortable distance from my face, it would also add some rigitidy by straightening out the cover a little.

To power it up, you press flick the on switch, which resides on the right edge on the keyboard, next to the Bluetooth pairing button and micro USB port. Once you’ve hit the pairing button you can search for it from your iPad’s Bluetooth menu and connect without needing to punch in PIN. Sadly, unlike some other keyboard cases, the magnetic strip does not automatically power the device on and connect to your tablet. But with a battery life of a few months, it doesn’t exactly need any extra power saving options.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 17.21.29And we get on to what really matters: The Keyboard. You’ll be delighted to know that the keys are pretty much all full-size. Each individual letter key is as large (if not larger) than the keys found on the full-sized Easy-Switch keyboard I currently use as my daily driver. And still, they’re generously spaced apart for an accessory of this size. This is down in part to the slightly wider size of the case (adding protection and key space). It’s also down to the reduction of some less important keys, like the semi-colon and apostrophe keys and the merging of the CAPS lock and A key.

Keys respond well to being pressed, and provide adequate feedback, but I wouldn’t call the keyboard a pleasure to use. Instead of being concave, they’re convex, and they felt quite unusual to me in that regard. I had a couple of issues with it. Firstly, because the convex shape naturally pushes your finger away from the middle of the key and towards the edges, I missed more buttons than I normally would. The second issue is down to my own poor habits. I learnt to use the CAPS key instead of shift for changing between upper and lower case. So, having it share a key with the letter ‘A’ led to some interesting typos.

As for bespoke iOS control buttons like play, pause, home and lock, they all share buttons with the numerical keys. Although I’d love for them to have their own dedicated row, they work well and aren’t constantly required.

All in all, it’s a solid entry to the market from Logitech, but there are compromises. It’s durable, looks fantastic, and the keys are a great size. But, for a touch typist, and one with my bad habits, I found it more difficult to get used to the different placement of certain keys than what I was expecting. Shift, Z and the apostrophe key were uncomfortable to use. But that is very much me nit-picking. For myself, personally, I need more of a workhorse keyboard and can’t help feel this is a little more form over function. Still, it’s a great keyboard case and one you should definitely consider when searching for your iPad companion.

US product link – http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/ultrathin-keyboard-folio-for-ipad#
UK product link – http://www.logitech.com/en-gb/product/ultrathin-keyboard-folio-for-ipad#

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