Logitech's new keyboard case may be more form than function (June 14th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Logitech
- Attractive interior and exterior design - Holds iPad firmly without unnecessarily large bezels - Integrated Bluetooth keyboard with soft-touch keys - Magnets lock iPad upright, turn keyboard on/off
- Expensive - Key size, layout creates learning curve - Yellow case has low-contrast key lettering - Typing only possible in one position - No manual power switch for keyboard
Since the fourth-generation iPad didn't evolve much over its predecessor, the market for iPad accessories has remained somewhat static, to put it mildly. Certainly some new gear had to be produced for the Lightning connector, but even now most iPad cases will still accommodate the old 30-pin format. It takes a little extra to make a case stand out, and that's what Logitech seems to have had in mind with the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio. In our review, we'll see if it's enough to justify the FabricSkin's pricetag -- a colossal $150.
The case is marketed as much as fashion accessory as something practical. Four two-tone color variations are available, using materials like cotton or synthetic leather for their exteriors instead of rubber or plastic. The latter materials are present on the inside of the case, but even then Logitech has managed to make them look quite stylish. If you're trying to impress people with an iPad accessory -- as pretentious as that is -- the FabricSkin should work.
Installing an iPad in the case can be tricky, since the edges of the holding frame are stiff. This does mean that the tablet won't fall out though, in spite of Logitech using relatively thin bezels. Thin bezels are more of a benefit than you might think, since many iPad apps these days use gestures that involve swiping from the screen's edge.
My first real gripes with the case involve the mute/rotate switch and the sleep and volume buttons. The volume buttons don't project far enough from the case for quick taps, and it's easy to mistake them for the mute/rotate switch if you're just going by feel. The sleep button is the worst of the bunch; it takes a surprising amount of pressure to get it to respond, so much so that I would often rather close the case to power down an iPad in instances when I otherwise wouldn't have to.
Now on to the main attraction, the keyboard. It's built right into the lid, and uses soft, shallow keys which are comfortable and shouldn't leave any marks on an iPad's screen. That being said, it has some problems. In tandem with shallow keys, the keyboard's unorthodox layout creates something of a learning curve for serious typing. That situation is exacerbated with the yellow FabricSkin, which has gray lettering on a tan keyboard -- not exactly easy to read in low light.
A generally positive feature of the case is its use of magnets. To turn the keyboard on, you simply prop your iPad into a specific angle against the lid. This also locks the iPad in place, making for an extremely sturdy typing console and viewing surface. The lack of a dedicated power button means you'll be draining the keyboard's battery every time you prop up your iPad, however, unless you can find a semi-stable angle just above the magnets.
Indeed, the FabricSkin seems designed with very narrow purposes in mind. Beyond limiting typing to a single angle, the case is ultimately too heavy for handheld use for more than a few minutes. Even if it weren't, the lid can flop around if you hold the case like a book, and it's awkward to feel keys under your fingers when you fold the lid back.
So who is the case for? The only audience that comes to mind is rich professionals using an iPad as a notebook substitute, since they may not be concerned with price or using the case standing up. Logitech itself makes far cheaper keyboard options, some of which are also less inherently limiting than the FabricSkin. Unless fashion is that crucial to you, there are probably more cost-effective alternatives.