Since the release of the iPad, I’ve been searching for a way to completely rid my daily life from laptop use, instead replacing it with a tablet and some sort of physical keyboard. Hardware additions like Logitech’s Tablet Keyboard are a start, but they don’t cover all the bases. To make a tablet replace a laptop requires the right mix of hardware and software, and so far neither is there.

But the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a real start in the right direction on the hardware front.

Three things make the Ultrathin work wonders: magnets, solid build, and good typing. Like the iPad smart cover, the Ultrathin connects to the iPad 2 or iPad (newest, 3rd generation) magnetically. This makes it act like a case, cover, and provides very solid protection to the screen with an aluminum back that can withstand any damage you can throw its way. And when users are ready to type, just disconnect the magnet and place the iPad into the white slot on the keyboard, which snaps the iPad into place, again, magnetically.

The flush design is simple and unobtrusive. It’s small, so for larger fingers or bigger hands this keyboard may not be the best choice; it’s as wide as the iPad, so if you couldn’t use a netbook, you won’t like the Ultrathin any better. I have no problem with the smaller keyboard except for a few of the keys, like the tiny delete key and the very small arrow keys. All of the number keys have secondary functions, like search, cut, paste, and media controls. There’s also a home button, which while unnecessary because it could just be pressed directly on the iPad, is extremely helpful. When your hands are on the keyboard, it’s much easier to leave them there then otherwise.

Typing on the Ultrathin is very good, better than on the Tablet Keyboard but not as good as Apple’s Wireless Keyboard. The keys are rubber, and it’s noticeable, but they are low-profile and very easy to press, and have a nice bounciness to them. They also feel slightly clicky, which makes button presses feel more natural and more definite. Some of the keyboard shortcuts aren’t all that useful however, especially since iOS already utilizes Mac shortcuts like CMD+C for copy, and because the pop-up tools are very quick. I almost wish those keys could be assigned, but there’s no way to realistically do that.

Because the Ultrathin is a Bluetooth keyboard, it has a rechargeable battery that, according to Logitech, should last six months per charge. I don’t know if that’s six months while remaining on, or six months of actual use (meaning turning the keyboard on only for use). Still, that’s a long time, and the rechargeable battery can be charged with a MicroUSB cable.

One more thing: the magnet that keeps the iPad in place when typing (middle magnet for typing, not rear magnet for case use) conveniently, and very smartly, clicks when the iPad is connected to it. A small metallic flap, the actual magnet, is visible when the iPad isn’t in the slot (see picture below). When the iPad is placed in the slot, the magnet jumps up to meet it and clicks. When removed, either by yanking the iPad out or by pulling it forward, it clicks when disconnected. This intelligent design makes it very easy for users to know whether the iPad is secure or not.

That security is the number one feature of the Ultrathin. I’ve completely replaced my Smart Cover with the Ultrathin, and while (ironically enough) it doubles the iPad’s thickness, I feel much more secure about the iPad in my bag. I treat my gadgets and hardware with respect, but my bags with none, even if there are gadgets inside. I can’t say I’ve broken anything because of it, but we all know the feeling of exasperatingly throwing a bag down after a long day, and remembering as it’s an inch away from striking the hardwood at full force that oh, my laptop’s in there! I’ve done that a few times, and have worried about several things I carry about, but never once the iPad. And it has the battle scars to prove it.

There is one thing I’d have liked to see differently with the Ultrathin: instead of two magnets and a slot to hold the iPad, a single magnet that both holds the iPad in place and acts as the cover. It would work like a laptop hinge. There are obvious design problems with such a system, but it would simplify the system so users don’t have to detach the first magnet and place the iPad in the slot every time.

It’s also comfortable to rest on your legs, like a laptop, when sitting without a tabletop or when leaning back. The design fits very comfortably, both because of the minimal weight and the better weight distribution, which wouldn’t be possible if the Ultrathin had a hinge design. So I’d say it’s a give-and-take scenario. I almost wish the Ultrathin had a backlit keyboard as well, so that it would be visible in the dark. That may be an excessive feature, but with how long the battery lasts already, I see no reason not to include it for night use.

I’m very impressed with Logitech’s work on the Ultrathin Keyboard cover. They built a very simple keyboard that takes advantage of the magnetic sides of the iPad to properly secure and manage the iPad in place, keep the screen protected, all while offering a very strong keyboard. It’s more expensive than some Bluetooth keyboards at $100, and it should be. The Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is the best overall typing experience for the iPad.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★½

Excellent

Bottom Line: A smartly-built iPad keyboard that doubles as a cover, is supremely comfortable, and isn’t too expensive.

Pros:

  • Smart magnetic design for the cover flap and as a stand
  • Very solid typing experience with low-profile rubber yet clicky keys
  • Long battery life that’s rechargeable, and Bluetooth makes it work for all devices
Cons:
  • Some of the secondary function keys are useless
  • A backlight would have been nice to have



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.