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Issue 15.4 ('Xojo in Germany')
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Logitech Slim Combo Keyboard Case for iPad Pro

Issue: 15.4 (July/August 2017)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 8,878
Starting Page Number: 12
Article Number: 15402
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There are a lot of arguments about whether Apple's iPad Pro line (especially the 12.9" and the new even better versions just released in June) qualifies as a laptop replacement. I think that's as silly a comparison as saying that a pickup truck cannot be used for a grocery run or that you can't ever use a car for moving furniture. There are disadvantages in either scenario, but it doesn't necessarily mean either is impossible or inappropriate.

But there is one area that we can agree upon: to really use an iPad for work, you need a hardware keyboard. There are many ways to do this, from cases with keyboards built-in, to external Bluetooth keyboards. Which is best for you depends on how you use your iPad.

(Apple released their own soft keyboard case for iPad Pro, which struck me as the worst of all worlds: the ultra-thin hardware keyboard isn't great for typing and it adds extra weight to the iPad even in tablet mode. Logitech's Create keyboard was a better keyboard, but even heavier and bulkier.)

One of the first things I did after getting my iPad Pro 12.9" in 2015 was to buy Apple's Smart Cover. I did this not because I wanted a case to protect my iPad, but because the Smart Cover is easily foldable into a stand. With the size and weight of the big iPad, I found I wanted a stand available to me at all times. I take the iPad around the house and it's really convenient to be able to stand it up at a moment's notice so I can read while I'm busy with my hands or watch/listen to a video in the kitchen while fixing supper.

In general, the Smart Cover with an external Bluetooth keyboard was not a bad way to go. The keyboard didn't add any extra weight to the iPad itself, the way a keyboard case does, but Bluetooth can be fiddly and the two piece system did not at all work for lap use (you must have a flat surface for typing). The Smart Cover also doesn't really offer much protection (most of the time I kept the cover flipped to the back, which kept the metal from being scratched but left the front screen vulnerable).

Now Logitech has released a new keyboard case called the Slim Combo. (I'm reviewing the 12.9" version, but there's also one for the new 10.5" iPad Pro.)

Right away I was intrigued because the keyboard is detachable. This means that I only need to connect the keyboard when I'm traveling or want to type. The big question was how heavy the other half of the case made the iPad.

I am pleased to report that while it is slightly heavier than an iPad Pro with just the Smart Cover, it's only noticeable if you have two to compare at the same time.

The Logitech case is hard plastic and adds thickness to the iPad, but it also offers a lot more protection. All the corners are covered while cutouts leave room for speakers, wires, and camera use. The edge of the case is extended just a hair so that if you dropped the iPad on its face the glass won't be in contact with the floor. It's not rugged protection, but it's vastly more than I had with the Smart Cover. And after more than a week of carrying it around in the case, I don't notice it being that much heavier/bulkier than with just the Smart Cover.

The pull-out kickstand, while it feels cheap and flimsy, seems to do its job very well. It's adjustable to many angles (Apple's keyboard case only has one) and you can even extend it fully and use the iPad in portrait. I'm slightly worried the hinges aren't that strong or that it'll eventually lose the ability to stay in various angles as it's hard to tell without extensive use how durable it is.

The keyboard portion of the case attaches to the iPad via magnets and connects via the Smart Connector. The connection is via a thin strip of cloth-like material. It seems pretty sturdy, though, so unless you abuse it, I think it'll be fine. The main thing is that the magnet connects quickly and easily, being secure enough to stay together but removable when you don't want the keyboard.

Since the keyboard uses the Smart Connector, not Bluetooth, there's no pairing, no lag, and no batteries. The thing just snaps on and you can start typing. There's not even an on switch. Logitech says the keyboard uses about 1.6% of your iPad's battery for each hour of typing—but that's with maximum keyboard backlighting. If you turn backlighting down or off, it's as little as .3% of your battery per hour. Since most of us are rarely typing non-stop all day long, I'd guess that all-day use of the keyboard wouldn't use more than 10% of your iPad's battery, which is almost nothing.

As far as the feel of the keyboard, it's excellent. Granted, I am accustomed to the low-travel keyboards of Apple's 12" MacBook and the new MacBook Pros, but the Slim Combo keys travel further and it has a very nice feel. I had zero trouble adjusting to it, sitting down and typing rapidly without any problems (this whole review was written on my iPad Pro with the Slim Combo keyboard).

Best of all, it has a normal inverted-T arrow key pad, unlike the abomination that Apple has forced upon us on their keyboards (after two years using the MacBook keyboard, I am still stumbling every day when I have to use the arrow keys). There's a row of media keys across the top that lets you control backlighting, screen brightness, sound volume, media playback, keyboard display, Home button, and so on.

Now the Slim Combo, since it is two pieces, is not the most solid piece of kit. It's not exactly designed for use on a lap, but I found it actually works fine, especially if your legs are flat out in front of you (like in a recliner or on a bed). It's definitely better than the Smart Cover + bluetooth keyboard I used to use, which didn't work on the lap at all.

You can also fold up the keyboard onto the screen where it acts as a front cover to your iPad. I was really surprised how compact this felt. Though the combined weight of everything is 3 pounds, more than a MacBook, it doesn't feel that way at all. It's just a nice solid object, weighty, but with good balance.

I would never carry it around the house that way, but it's great for traveling and protecting your iPad while giving you a handy keyboard when you need it. I love that it's trivial to disconnect the keyboard if you want a more portable iPad use in just an instant.

The Slim Combo isn't cheap, though it is competitive with other solutions. If money is a concern, you can certainly buy a generic Bluetooth keyboard and a cheap stand and save $120. But with the Slim Combo you get an all-in-one solution: better iPad protection, a backlit keyboard that never needs to be charged, and a compact case for travel.

I wouldn't call it essential, especially if you only need an external keyboard occasionally (such as a few times a year when traveling), but it's a really nice design and I like the integrated feel. It's less haphazard than my previous approach and I recommend it, though, like all keyboards, it is best to try it in person or at least make sure you can return it if it doesn't agree with you.

End of article.