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Logitech's Fold-Up Keyboard brings comfortable typing to the iPad 2

If there's a complaint I have about the many keyboard folio cases for the iPad, it's that the keyboard is sized to match the long dimension of the device. What that means is that the keyboard is usually quite cramped, and a fast touch-typist like me finds that he or she is constantly making errors. Up to this point, I haven't found a keyboard, other than Apple's Wireless Keyboard, that's even remotely usable with the iPad. Now Logitech has introduced the US$129.99 Fold-Up Keyboard, a full-sized comfortable Bluetooth keyboard that protects your iPad 2 as well.

Design

Think of the Fold-Up Keyboard as a Smart Cover-compatible back shell for the iPad 2 and you're halfway there. Now add a full-sized keyboard that magically pops out of the back of this device and swivels into place in front of the device as a prop holds it up, and you have the Fold-Up Keyboard.

The keyboard features pretty much all of the keys in the places that you'd expect to find them on the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Rather than a separate row of function keys, however, the fn key works with the number row of the Fold-Up Keyboard to provide iPad-specific functions. Those functions are home, search, slideshow, toggle onscreen keyboard on/off, rewind, play/pause, fast-forward, three volume buttons (mute, middle, loud), and enable lock screen.

There's only one button on the keyboard that is used to put it into discoverable mode for Bluetooth pairing. Three tiny LEDs near that button indicate that the keyboard is charging or has a low battery, that the keyboard is pairing with an iPad, and that the keyboard is in caps lock mode.

Logitech includes a standard USB to micro-USB cable for charging. The keyboard takes about three hours to charge, but lasts for about 500 hours of typing. No AC adapter is included, which means that you either need to use your iPad's adapter or another USB adapter for charging.

Functionality

Putting the iPad 2 into the Fold-Up Keyboard is a cinch. Unlike most back shells that I've used, the Fold-Up Keyboard actually has a mechanical latch that locks the device into place. Once it's in there, all you need to do is press another little button that unlocks the keyboard and start unfolding the "stand." As you do that, the keyboard halves swing into place and form a wide and comfortable keyboard. Opening the keyboard also powers it up; closing the device turns off the keyboard. Be sure to check out the gallery below for images of the keyboard folding into place.

Closing the device is just a matter of grabbing the ends of the keyboard and pushing them towards the iPad. As the keyboard folds back, the stand slides down and the entire thing folds into a somewhat thick (.75 inch) package. If you already have an Apple Smart Cover for your iPad 2, you can use it for full protection of your device.

As for the keyboard itself, it has about the same amount of key travel as the Apple Wireless Keyboard and a similar feel. The keys are about the same size as those on the Apple keyboard and as mentioned earlier, they're in pretty much identical locations. That means that you don't have to think about what keyboard you're using, as the keys are where you'd expect them to be.

When the iPad is in the "locked and upright position" in the Fold-Up Keyboard case, the entire assembly is surprisingly rigid. That makes it quite easy to use the Fold-Up Keyboard and an iPad 2 as a pseudo-laptop without a desk.

Logitech always does a pretty good job of including well-written documentation, and the Fold-Up Keyboard comes with a small booklet that describes exactly how to set up and use the device. Note that if you use the rear-facing iPad 2 camera often, you will need to remove the Fold-Up Keyboard to use it as there is no hole in the case for the camera.

Conclusion

While it's quite expensive -- you could almost purchase two of Apple's Wireless Keyboards (US$69.99) for the cost of the Logitech Fold-Up Keyboard -- this is the most comfortable iPad-specific keyboard I've had the pleasure to use. Making a full-width keyboard fold into the dimensions of an iPad was an engineering feat, and Logitech did it perfectly.

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