Logitech released an Ultrathin keyboard for the Apple iPad Air last year, and now the company has introduced a new version that is thinner and lighter, and includes a flexible slot that can hold the tablet up at range of angles.
There is also a smaller version available designed for the first- and second-generation iPad mini.
Build & Design
Like its predecessors in the Ultrathin line, this accessory fits over the screen of the tablet when the two are being carried around. In use, the case is set on a table or lap and the iPad is inserted into a slot that’s just above a QWERTY keyboard.
This is a design that emphasizes portability and keyboard use over protection. The screen is covered to prevent scratches, but that’s as far as saving the iPad from damage goes. One of the advantages of this is the two can be easily separated when the keyboard isn’t needed.
At 11.4 ounces, the second-generation iPad Air Ultrathin is about half an ounce lighter than its predecessor, and the previous version is 0.3 inches thick while the new one is 0.25 inches. These changes really aren’t noticeable, as Logitech’s original was already slim and lightweight. Still, even marginal decreases in size are welcome.
Logitech did a decent job of matching Apple’s design esthetic, so the iPad Air and this accessory don’t look like they are made by different companies but appear to be a single unit. The keyboard is plastic, but there’s metal back plate the same color as Apple’s tablet.
What really sets the 2014 Ultrathin apart from earlier versions is the new flexible slot that holds up the tablet, so instead of offering just one angle the iPad can be moved over a range of angles, giving a more laptop-like experience. The range is fairly limited, but it does allow the iPad to lean back farther than before — a welcome improvement.
To change the angle, insert the tablet into the slot and then push the top back. To flatten the slot (a necessary step before placing the cover over the iPad) rotate the tablet until it’s held vertically, then push down on the slot. Alternatively, move the tablet out of the way and then push downward on either end of the slot.
The slot was designed to be used with the iPad in landscape mode. While the Ultrathin can technically be used with the tablet in portrait mode, this is not secure and is not recommended.
The keyboard Logitech used in this accessory is roughly the size of the ones found in laptops, which means there’s enough key separation that it’s comfortable to type on. There isn’t much key travel, though. Typing is fairly quiet.
The layout of keys is the traditional one, so there’s no learning curve. The closest thing to a non-standard element is bumpers on the bottom left and right to hold the tablet up off the keyboard, which required the designers to move the arrow keys a bit to left.
Unlike the previous versions of the Ultrathin keyboard case, this one has six rows of keys, so in addition to a full set of number keys there’s also a row of function keys. This has not just a set of media controls but also button to take a screenshot, a alternate Home button, and even one that brings up the application switcher.
This accessory isn’t ideal for typing when held in the lap. It can certainly be used that way, but with the iPad in its slot the combination is top heavy and there’s a tendency to shake whenever a key is pressed.
When the iPad and case are being carried around, the two are held together with a hinge that contains magnets that interact with magnets built into the edge of the tablet. These magnets aren’t quite as strong as the ones in the first-generation Ultrathin keyboard for the iPad Air, but in TabletPCReview‘s testing they appear to be strong enough to keep the accessory and iPad together.
The Ultrathin’s hinge has been redesigned so that it lies flat when not in use, a definite improvement in aesthetics.
The first iPad Air version of this keyboard has a rubberized strip across its middle to keep the keyboard and screen from touching. Unfortunately, this strip also leaves a line on the display that can be distracting unless it’s rubbed off. The new version does not have this strip.
Apple includes the software necessary to use an external keyboard like this one in iOS, so no driver has to be installed to type on the Ultrathin, and it can be used with any app.
There are no performance issues with iPad external keyboards: they can keep up with even the fastest of typists, and the software doesn’t crash.
The tablet and accessory communicate over Bluetooth, so it is necessary to pair the two before use. Still, this is a process that takes just a few seconds and must be done only once.
Logitech promises that the rechargeable battery built into this product is good for up to three months of use. That’s believable, as all its predecessors have gone for months on a single charge.
This accessory is charged through a micro-USB port on one side. It is bundled with the necessary cable, but charging also requires the power supply that came with the iPad.
Anyone who has installed Apple iWork or Microsoft Office for iPad on their tablet could probably use an external keyboard, as this makes entering large amounts of text much easier. Students who need to take notes could find one useful as well. The redesigned version of the Logitech Ultrathin for iPad Air is certainly one of the best options available.
At $100, it is competitively priced with other high-end keyboards for tablets.