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Three great new iPad keyboard folios from Logitech

If there's one accessory manufacturer that seems to be doing everything correctly at this point in time, it's Logitech. The company apparently realizes that not only is the future pointing away from PCs and toward more portable devices like the iPad, but it's also creating many new accessories specifically for Apple products. The new FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad (US$149.99), Keyboard Folio for iPad mini ($89.99) and the full-sized Keyboard Folio for iPad ($99.99) are recent additions to the Logitech line that have just started to appear in stores in the US, and today I'm taking a look at all three of these attractive and useful Bluetooth keyboards.

FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad: Design and Functionality

I'm going to start with the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad first, since it's probably the iPad keyboard that has garnered the most interest lately. You know those odd looking cloth-like keyboards that you see on ads for Microsoft Surface? Yea, that's what this keyboard looks like.

From the feel of the keyboard, it appears that Logitech is using the same key mechanism found on the other keyboards. The difference lies in the material that covers the keys.

For those who like to sip on coffee or other beverages while typing on an iPad keyboard, you're going to love the FabricSkin. It's water resistant, so spills just wipe right off.

The exterior of the case is either a matte finish plastic material or cotton fabric that has a bit of grip to it. Your iPad is held into place by a plastic frame that completely encases the back and sides. There are holes for the ports and speakers, pass-through switches protect those on the iPad from damage. The rear-facing camera is exposed through a small hole on the back of the case.

How about typing on this keyboard? Well, strangely enough I felt that the keys were too far apart! The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is still my favorite iPad keyboard as the spacing and size of the keys are similar to those on the Apple Wireless Keyboard. Here I just felt like there was too much room between the keys, which is not what I expect from an iPad keyboard. As such, my fingers occasionally hit the wrong keys -- especially when I was trying to type a "1", in which case I usually hit the Home key ans was bumped out of my current app. Logitech refers to this new keyboard layout as EasyType, and it may take a little getting used to.

The keys require a bit more pressure than those on the Ultrathin keyboard and many other "standard" keyboard designs, but are much more normal than the dreaded "chiclet" keyboards that some companies have released.

There's one thing I was absolutely thrilled about with this keyboard: it automatically turns itself on and connects to your iPad when you snap the device into typing position. If you decide to use your iPad as a tablet and fold the keyboard underneath, the keyboard turns off by itself. That not only saves you from accidentally typing as you mash the iPad against a leg or desk, but it saves power as well. The company says that the battery should last for about 3 months of use at 2 hours per day -- that's equivalent to about 182 hours.

The FabricSkin Keyboard Folio comes in four colors and finishes in the US. First, there's Carbon Black, which uses a matte leather finish with a white keyboard. There's also Mystic Blue, which also has a matte leather surface and a blue keyboard with white letters -- red accents really make the design pop. If you're a fan of red, Mars Red Orange is going to be your favorite for the FabricSkin -- it has a white keyboard. Finally, the Sunflower Yellow case uses a fine-weave cotton exterior and khaki keyboard. Other markets will also get Electric Blue and Urban Gray color options.

Now here's a quandary... With the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio installed on your iPad, the total weight of the unit is 2.69 pounds. An 11" MacBook Air weighs less at 2.38 pounds, while a 13" MBA is just a tad heavier at 2.96 pounds. In other words, if you're thinking about using an iPad and one of these keyboards as a lightweight laptop replacement, think again.

The FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad is extremely well-designed and constructed, and is worth the premium price that Logitech has given it. If you can adjust your typing to the slightly wider key spacing, it may end up being your favorite keyboard for any device.

Pros:

  • Keyboard is splash-resistant
  • An extremely stylish and protective case
  • Automatically turns on and off based on iPad positioning
  • Can be flipped completely for "tablet-only" use
  • Excellent battery life
  • Fast initial pairing with iPad

Cons:

  • Installed on an iPad, it's heavier than an 11" MacBook Air
  • EasyType key spacing may not be to the liking of all potential users; like any iPad keyboard, try before you buy

Keyboard Folio for iPad mini: Design and Functionality

A few years back I made the grave error of purchasing a PC netbook and converting it to a Hackintosh. Why was it such a mistake? Because of the keyboard! I spent most of a trip to Africa cursing at the thing simply because my muscle memory was looking for keys in certain places where they actually weren't.

No such problem with the Keyboard Folio for iPad mini. The keys are all pretty much in the correct places, although some of them have been scaled down in size to allow the keyboard to be exactly as wide as an iPad mini is tall -- a tad under 8 inches. By comparison, the standard Apple Wireless Keyboard I use most of the time is a full 3 inches wider.

So it was with a great deal of surprise that I found that I could easily touch type on this tiny keyboard at my usual fast rate of speed. My fingers got used to the spacing and location of the keys in minutes, and I actually wrote the complete draft of this post on the iPad mini with little fuss. On occasion my little finger on my right hand hit the Return key instead of the half-sized apostrophe/quote key, but the placement of the keys in general made it easy to recover from those mistakes.

The case is wrapped in a dark blue (a light blue is also available) cloth-like material that gives it a smart book appearance. The iPad mini is slipped into a plastic frame that gives just enough to make inserting or removing the tablet a piece of cake. On the back of the case, there's a hole for the mini's camera. A powerful magnet holds the mini in place in a typing configuration, and there are other magnets in the cover to turn the device on and off. Unlike the FabricSkin, this keyboard doesn't automatically turn itself on when you move the iPad mini into typing position, but a simple tap on any key will wake it up.

All of the new folio type cases from Logitech feature a little cloth "tab" that sticks out from under the keyboard, and it didn't make sense to me until I went to open up the case. That tab helps you get a good grip on the cover to open it up and turn on the iPad mini. That tab took a little getting used to when I started typing, as it bumped up against my hand. I got used to the tab fairly quickly, but some people may decide to take the scissors to it.

In case you're curious about how much typing you could do on a single charge, Logitech says that a full charge will take you through 3 months at two hours average use per day. There's a USB to micro-USB charger cable included for those rare occasions where you need to top off the battery.

When you just want to play a game or browse sites on your mini with the Keyboard Folio attached, the keyboard portion folds underneath the body of the tablet. With the Keyboard Folio, you're going to want to shut the keyboard off before folding it under or you may find that you're accidentally typing.

I measured the Keyboard Folio's weight to be 0.86 lb; that's actually more than the weight of the iPad mini (at 0.68 lb) and puts the entire package at a little over 1.5 lbs. While that sounds "heavy", it's still less than the weight of an 11" MacBook Air at 2.38 lb. The 11" MacBook Air gives you the full notebook computer experience, but anyone looking at the ultimate lightweight computing experience should give the Keyboard Folio/iPad mini combo a try.

Pros

  • Excellent key spacing and feel for an iPad mini keyboard
  • Stylish and protective
  • Long battery life
  • Fast initial pairing with iPad

Cons

  • Doesn't have that wonderful auto-shutoff feature of the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio
  • EasyType key spacing may not be to the liking of all potential users; like any iPad keyboard, try before you buy

Keyboard Folio for iPad: Design and Functionality

Take the size of the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, remove the "fabric" covering on the keyboard, and you have the Logitech Keyboard Folio for iPad. It's basically the same as the Keyboard Folio for iPad mini, all grown up into the full iPad size. It comes with a correspondingly higher price tag: $99.99 compared with $89.99 for the mini version.

There are some major differences between the FabricSkin and the Keyboard Folio for iPad. First, the Keyboard Folio doesn't have that wonderful auto-off feature that is so useful on the FabricSkin. Next, without the fabric covering on the keyboard, the Keyboard Folio loses the splash resistance of the more expensive model.

One real negative: the weight of the Keyboard Folio is actually heavier than that of the FabricSkin. The Keyboard Folio weighs in at 639 grams (22.5 ounces or 1.4 pounds); the FabricSkin alone weighs 2 ounces less at 565 grams.

I won't belabor the features of the Keyboard Folio for iPad, as it is virtually the same as its little brother except for the larger size and colors. The full-size version is the CMYK of iPad keyboards, coming in the famous subtractive color model hues of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Battery life is listed as the same, and all three keyboards in this review come with a USB to micro-USB cable for recharging when necessary.

Pros:

  • An extremely stylish and protective case
  • Can be flipped completely for "tablet-only" use
  • Excellent battery life
  • Fast initial pairing with iPad

Cons:

  • Even heavier than the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio
  • Key spacing may not be to the liking of all potential users; like any iPad keyboard, try before you buy
  • It's also missing the auto-shutoff feature of the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio

Conclusion

Logitech has produced three protective, flexible, and eminently usable keyboards with the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad, the Keyboard Folio for iPad, and the Keyboard Folio for iPad mini. Without a doubt, the auto on/off feature of the FabricSkin is the winner here -- this is a feature that every iPad keyboard should have, and strangely enough Logitech doesn't even mention it on its website.

As for iPad mini keyboards, the Keyboard Folio for iPad mini is tops in its class. It truly turns the diminutive iPad mini into a typing powerhouse and the lightest "notebook" in the Apple family.

Giveaway

We have both versions of the Keyboard Folio (iPad and iPad mini) available for a giveaway!

Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
  • The entry must be made before May 13, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Two winners will be selected. One will receive a Logitech Keyboard Folio for iPad valued at $99.99 and the other will receive a Logitech Keyboard Folio for iPad mini valued at $89.99.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.

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