Review: Logitech Fold-Up Keyboard for iPad 2
Our recent focus on iPad keyboard cases isn't intentional: there have just been a ton of new options released for the iPad 2 over the past couple of months. Among the most unique options we've seen is Logitech's new Fold-Up Keyboard for iPad 2 ($130). It's drastically different from even the company's earlier Keyboard Case -- this time, the case's big trick is a transforming keyboard that folds in and out of a hard plastic shell as needed.
Like its predecessor, Fold-Up Keyboard forgoes the traditional folio-style design; this one does it in a different way, though. It’s made of hard plastic and has a recessed area on top to hold the iPad 2 in place, face up. The tablet snaps into place, which is made possible by a portion of the top edge that has a little bit of give. Once in place, the openings for the headphone port and Dock Connector port are recessed, but should accommodate most plugs, Apple-sized or otherwise. The Sleep/Wake button, side switch, and volume rocker aren’t quite as convenient to use: because of the case’s flat back and the iPad 2’s curved one, it’s more difficult to get through to these than it otherwise would be in a contoured shell. In a decision that some users will appreciate more than others, Logitech left most of the left edge exposed to allow the use of Apple’s Smart Cover. Other than screen protector film, this is the only practical way to protect the front of your tablet when using Fold-Up Keyboard, which adds additional expense to this solution. The Fold-Up Keyboard is also heavy and relatively large: it weighs 1.3 pounds on its own, and is just under an inch tall.
These inconveniences are generally justified by the Fold-Up Keyboard’s signature trick: when it comes time to type, you press the button along the left edge of the case, pull up, and voila—two halves of the keyboard pull out from underneath the two sides, meeting each other in the middle. Doing so also instantly powers up the keyboard; it turns off while folded to preserve battery life. Pairing is just as easy. There’s a big round button in the top right corner, above the keyboard, that’s clearly labeled “Connect.” When fully extended, the keyboard has almost the exact same dimensions as Apple’s Wireless Keyboard. The layout is pretty much the same too, save for the missing top row of keys. Instead of dedicated buttons for iOS-specific features such as Spotlight and track control, these functions are mapped to become secondary features for the number keys. The iPad 2 rests at an angle of about 135°; it’s a little bit deeper than what some keyboard cases offer, but is entirely fine for entering text.
Typing on Fold-Up Keyboard is about as good as it gets. The keys are full, hard plastic, scissor-style buttons that have the kind of kinetic feel and responsiveness one would expect from a desktop keyboard. We were instantly typing at full speed as we started our first typing session, and the only thing that came close to slowing us down was the division of the space bar. Once or twice we’d hit the bar right in the middle, missing the press. It’s almost a non-issue, though, as most peoples’ thumbs will be wide enough to hit one side or the other. That tiny issue aside, we really appreciated the full-sized keyboard.
Battery life is a bit of a question. Logitech’s instruction manual at one point claims 500 hours of typing from a single charge—a number that dwarves most other keyboard cases. However, the company also says that if the battery if less than 5%, you’ll only get about an hour of typing time, which suggests closer to 20 hours of active use, enough for several marathon typing sessions before a recharge. One neat touch: when the keyboard is folded up, there’s a small hole that allows the charging indicator to shine through the shell where the iPad 2 would normally sit. The battery charges via an included Micro-USB cable.
Logitech definitely got the keyboard component of this solution completely right: it’s large, feels great, and the transforming is undeniably cool. By comparison, the iPad 2 shell here is only okay; there should have been better access to the buttons on the top and side, as well as something to protect the front screen, omissions relative to the best keyboard cases we’ve tested. Fold-Up Keyboard’s biggest problems are its size and price. With the iPad 2 in place, Fold-Up Keyboard feels heavier and thicker than a MacBook Air—roughly the same thickness as a MacBook Pro. It’s going to be up to individual users to choose whether a really nice keyboard is enough to justify the added size, weight, and expense. Once you throw in a Smart Cover to protect the screen, an iPad 2 with 64GB of storage is around the price of an 11” MacBook Air with similar capacity—you could alternately buy an Apple Wireless Keyboard plus virtually any iPad 2 case of your choice for the $130 asking price. For these reasons, and despite our love for the keyboard that Logitech’s using here, the Fold-Up Keyboard merits a limited recommendation and B- rating. If you’re willing to put up with the size, cost, and limited front protection, you may very well like the great typing and cool tricks that it pulls off.