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Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad mini

Posted on by Mike Evans

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A Bluetooth keyboard can be a useful accessory for an iPad or iPad mini but I have never found one that satisfies. Other than the Apple Wireless Keyboard, that is. With its full-size keys and conventional layout, it is a no-compromise solution. Although it is light, it is bulky. Especially so when paired with an iPad mini.

Many of the recent crop of accessory keyboards for tablets double as a cover and are intended to be left permanently attached. For me this isn't an option. Most of the time I want to hold the mini in my hands without the inconvenience of a keyboard flapping about. And I do not want a keyboard that acts as a cover because it makes the mini larger and heavier.

A friend gave me a Logitech iPad mini keyboard to play with. It had ceased working thanks to a carelessly spilled jug of milk. But I quite liked the form and the way it seems to complement the iPad well. So into the trashcan went the milky device and a new one was ordered from Amazon.

This is Logitech's official way of setting up the keyboard for typing. The mini sits at an angle in the slot just above the keypad.. Note how close the keyboard is to the screen

This is Logitech's official way of setting up the keyboard for typing. The mini sits at an angle in the slot just above the keypad.. Note how close the keyboard is to the screen

Build quality

The keyboard has a metallic back, made from aluminium, with plastic facing and keys. Overall, the impressions is pleasing and, when closed over the iPad mini, the cover matches perfectly. It doubles the depth of the device and adds 220g but that is to be expected.

At the top of the keyboard is a magnetic hinge similar to that found on the Apple Smart Cover. It clips to the mini in exactly the same way as a Smart Cover and, if anything, the magnetic pull is stronger. Despite this, because of the extra weight of the keyboard, it can come adrift more easily than can a Smart Cover. Owners of Smart Covers know not to rely on the magnetic attraction to lift up the device or to grab it in emergency. It will simply part company. This advice is even more valuable if you are using a keyboard as a cover.

When used as a cover, the keyboard switches the iPad on and off as it is opened and closed. Just like a Smart Cover. Immediately above the keypad is a groove into which the iPad mini can be slotted. It stands securely and at a reasonable angle for typing. There is no adjustment but I find it uncomfortable to have the screen so close to the keyboard. I found a a good solution which I will describe later.

The keyboard layout is unconventional and a cramped in comparison with Apple's exemplary Wireless Keyboard. In view of the overall dimensions, limited by the profile of the mini, Logitech have done a good job. The top row of keys is in minature but contains a full set of symbols (enabled by either the shift or fn keys). There are Mac compatible cmd and alt keys in the conventional position, without the need for a modifying key. A very useful feature is a home key on the top left of the board, helping to minimise touch actions.

The main annoyance with the layout is that the shift lock key doubles with the letter A. To enable shift lock it is necessary to use the fn modifier and press the A key. Since I seldom use shift lock, this inconsistency is no problem and soon forgotten. The one poor feature is that the key legends are applied by transfer instead of being engraved. Wear can be expected after some use. At the price, which is higher than that of Apple's Wireless Keyboard, this is a cheapskate choice.

My preferred option, retaining the Smart Cover as a stand and clipping the keyboard to the mini magnetically. It turns the mini into a sort of netbook  and is ergonomically preferable

My preferred option, retaining the Smart Cover as a stand and clipping the keyboard to the mini magnetically. It turns the mini into a sort of netbook  and is ergonomically preferable

Operation

The keyboard pairs with a mini (and presumably with a Mac, although I did not try it) quickly and reliably. Once paired it will connect automatically, which is not always the case with Bluetooth devices. Pairing is initiated by pressing a very small button on the top righthand side of the keyboard. Next to this button is a slider on/off switch which I much prefer to the single-prod button at the end of the battery enclosure on Apple's keyboard.

This small switch is very important since it makes it very easy to switch off the Logitech reliably when putting it back in a bag. In the past I have had many problems with the Apple keyboard continuing to send signals, even initiating phone calls, while in the bag.

Earlier I described how the iPad mini can be slotted into the groove immediately above the keypad. While it works well, the close proximity of the keyboard and screen is uncomfortable. Furthermore, I have a soft rubberised back fitted to my mini and it prevents use of the groove. I also use a Smart Cover to protect the screen since the tablet is used far more often without a keyboard than with one attached.

My compromise, which works exceptionally well, is to leave the Smart Cover attached and fold it in the normal manner to allow the mini to stand at an angle. I then simply push the keyboard towards the bottom of the screen (in landscape, of course) and the magnet clips on securely. The resulting unit looks just like a netbook and is perfectly serviceable. The extra inch or two between the screen and the keyboard makes for much more relaxed typing.

The typing experience is good once you get used to it. It is nowhere near as satisfying and accurate as the Apple Wireless Keyboard. After all, the Apple device adopts a no-compromise approach while the Logitech is squeezed into the footprint of the iPad mini. All things considered, it is a brave attempt and is certainly much preferable to managing with the virtual keyboard. Not only does it permit quicker and more accurate typing, it allows the screen to display the full document instead of having to share between input window and keyboard.

At first it is disconcerting to lose the spell checking, auto completion and auto capitalisation that we are used to with the iOS virtual keyboard. In this respect, however, the Logitech is no different to a full-sized external unit such as the Wireless Keyboard.

Verdict

If you have the space in your bag and do not mind the extra bulk and depth of the Apple Wireless Keyboard, you will prefer using Apple's device. It is cheaper than the Logitech and offers a no-compromise full-sized-keyboard experience. On the other hand, if you value space and want a keyboard perfectly to match the iPad mini, I can thoroughly recommend the Logitech. It is small, light and more easily packed. And the fact that it clips securely to the mini to create a tiny laptop is a big bonus.

I bought my keyboard here at Amazon:

by Mike Evans, 27 May 2013

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