It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a big, big fan of my iPad. I’ve been a die-hard iPad fan from the beginning; I’ve owned multiple and reviewed multiple, and while some people see them as an unnecessary “third device,” I find its position in the personal device space to be very unique. It’s also no secret that Apple does tablets better than most (if not all) other manufacturers.
For those of us who are big fans of the iPad, one of the things that’s always been near and dear to us is the idea that it could someday replace a laptop. Now, I recognize that Apple had a huge marketing push to make that a reality not too long ago, but at the end of the day, iOS just wasn’t going to get us there…that is, POSSIBLY until last month when iPad OS (iOS 13) was announced at WWDC and we all started getting excited again about the possibility of bringing our iPads closer to the laptop space.
In reality, I recognize that no OS change (short of a variant of MacOS being retrofitted for the iPad) is going to really ever make this a true laptop replacement. We’ll get close, sure, but there are just some things that laptops are better for (sitting on your lap, for instance…). I’ll also admit that the keyboard cover for the latest iPad is the best its ever been, and certainly a must-have accessory—even over the Apple Pencil.
But there are complaints about the keyboard cover….no backlighting, flimsy design, spongy keys, the material that covers it…not to mention the lack of a “fn” button…it certainly has room to improve. Enter Logitech, who has for years made keyboard/folio solutions for iPads, with their Slim Folio Pro; and so as not to bury the lead, I loved this thing from the moment I opened it (with the exception of a weird smell from the material).
Let’s start first with weight: this thing is heavy. The shipping box was on my dining room table because my wife brought it in from the porch, and picking it up to open it I was immediately surprised at the package’s heft; even considering the packaging involved, it just seemed too heavy for what it was.
Anyway, as with most higher-end Logitech products, the unboxing experience was extremely pleasant…a simple, clean box with a magnetic closure, and the unit itself very well packaged. Once removed, I confirmed the heft of the Slim Folio Pro by weighing it along side my current Apple Keyboard Cover; 407 grams for the latter, and a whopping 706 grams for the former. Yes, this thing is almost twice as heavy as the Apple solution…but you get a lot of features with all that weight.
The physical design of the case is very similar in setup to the current Apple Keyboard Cover, with the exception of attaching with rubber grips instead of magnets. Also, there is only one viewing angle (58 degrees) when in “Keyboard Mode,” versus two on the Apple Keyboard. The material is a near match between the two as well, so you’ll still have trouble keeping your keyboard clean, especially if you tend to have sweaty hands. The case is held closed with a magnetic flap that also has a storage sleeve for the Apple Pencil, which is a nice touch; it can be stowed when in keyboard mode so that it isn’t in your way. Logitech also provides a 10-degree viewing option, specifically intended for use when using the Apple Pencil, but I found it far more wobbly when collapsed down in this mode than when it is in keyboard mode. The third “mode,” if you can call it that, is a reading mode where you flip the keyboard around back and then use the iPad in portrait orientation. I’m not sure if this is serious or not, but there’s no one-handed operation of a 12.9” iPad unless you have Shaq hands…although, I guess it would save you the trouble of removing the iPad from the case entirely, which is not easy to do.
The keyboard is as close to a full-sized keyboard as you’ll get, and it has a row of iOS / control buttons at the top, including dedicated Home, Spotlight and Lock buttons, along with the usual media controls, volume adjustment, etc. The bottom row matches Apple’s Keyboard Cover, which means (sadly) that there is still no fn key for iOS. Bummer. It also has 3 levels of backlighting: off, low and high (but realistically, there’s not much difference between low and high). And although it would be really cool if it had the same “lighting upon approach” feature that the Logitech Craft Keyboard has, I’ll take what I can get.
Otherwise, the keyboard experience is just as good as any other Logitech keyboard, offering chiclet-style keys, a decent amount of key travel (but not too much), and keys that are very light to the touch, all of which combine for an excellent typing experience. It sounds like a normal keyboard, too.
Logitech claims a single charge will last 3 months (based on 2 hours per day of use) due to low energy Bluetooth, but lately I’ve found Logitech’s battery claims to be a bit overzealous (here’s looking at you, Craft Keyboard). One thing that I really like, though, is that there is no on/off switch on this keyboard…the act of putting it in keyboard mode turns the keyboard on and off, giving you one less thing to worry about. Pairing, by the way, was a breeze, although you can only pair it to one device at a time (I’m not sure why you’d want to pair it to multiple devices, but figure it’s worth mentioning). Oh, and it charges via USB Type-C.
Getting down to price, this is where things get interesting…if the weight is not a deal breaker to you, this keyboard checks all the boxes from a functionality perspective with the exception of “reading mode,” since removing your iPad from this case is substantially more difficult than removing it from Apple’s Keyboard Cover. Otherwise, this is a great keyboard solution for the iPad (at least the 12.9” model)…and it’s only $130 retail (Apple’s solution for the 12.9” iPad is $200). Seems like a no-brainer, and considering you’ll likely find this Logitech product on sale at some point, it delivers in almost every category, including price.
As far as honorable mentions are concerned, I do think it’s important to consider another keyboard solution from a company called Brydge, whose products I’ve always enjoyed. A couple of years ago I reviewed a Surface Pro keyboard and was impressed, although the typing experience was a bit heavy for my liking—but otherwise the design of the unit was great. And, Brydge offers their Brydge Pro for the newest generation of iPad Pro, with some interesting differences when compared to Logitech, including fully adjustable viewing angles up to 180 degrees, an aluminum body, a more hefty battery and a slightly thinner and lighter overall design. It lacks in other areas, including corner protection, general availability (not sure if this is still a “pre-order” product or not), Apple Pencil storage, and price. Still, I’m a big fan of Brydge products, and am curious how their new keyboard compares.
At the end of the day, though, I’m a big, big fan of Logitech’s peripherals…always have been…and this is another example of great execution on a product.