Logitech’s updated Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air replaced its predecessor mere months after the original’s launch. The most obvious difference between the two is the flip-out hinge that joins the keyboard to the iPad like a cover to a book, but in reality the two devices are completely different.
Is the new one better? In one way yes. In others? Nope.
Here are the key differences between the original Ultrathin Keyboard Cover and its sorry sibling:
- The new keyboard (let’s call it v2) has an extra set of keys – the media and iPad control keys are no longer combined with the number keys as they were in v1.
- There’s a new hinge, which pops up when you slide the iPad close to it before clamping on with string magnets, like a Smart Cover.
- The v2 has a new slot/stand for holding the iPad. It has magnets in it like the old one, but also tilts to various angles.
- The new keyboard switches the CTRL key to the right of the spacebar, replacing the useless keyboard language key. The leftover space is taken by two rubber blobs at the bottom corners. These press against the iPad’s screen when the cover is closed.
- There’s a new dedicated screenshot key in the top row.
- There are still no goddam screen brightness keys. What’s wrong with these people?
As a keyboard
Let’s look at typing first. v2 is worse than v1 when it comes to typing. While the keyboard gets some extra space for the added top row, the rest of the keys are squeezed up closer than before. The keys themselves are the exact same size (according to my Vernier calipers) but the gaps between them have shrunk.
The keys are also softer in feel. The keys on v1 feel like the keys on a MacBook, or on Logitech’s own excellent, full-size K811 Bluetooth keyboard. The keys on v2 are mushy by comparison, although better than some other brands I’ve tried.
This, combined with shorter keys on the bottom row and those corner blobs of rubber that I keep hitting instead of the right cursor arrow, make typing noticeably worse than it is on v1. However, typing on v2 is still better than using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard.
As a cover
The idea of the Ultrathin Keyboard Covers is that you use them as covers, carrying them as easily as a slightly oversize Smart Cover. The new version certainly fits the Air better than v1, which was clearly a hastily retooled version of the keyboard cover for the old fat iPads 2–4. My v1 keyboard (which I bought myself) never quite sat flat when the cover was closed, but the new one fits just fine. That’s partially thanks to the beefy new rubber corners that crowd out the keys on the bottom row — which means that the extra rubber support strip up above the keys is no longer needed — and partly due to the new hinge.
This hinge is the show-off new feature of the Ultrathin v2, but it’s junk. The idea is that it pops up when the edge of your iPad gets near, allowing you to clip it in place. It’s designed to keep you from having to see the hinge dangling when not in use. The trick is all done with magnets. It kinda works.
But the hinge is the kind of feature that would never make it into an Apple product. It looks cool, and the idea is nice, but in practice it is 100 times worse than the previous hinge, which was modeled on the metal hinge of the original iPad Smart Cover. First, the pop-up trick only works if you hold the iPad at the correct angle and move it slowly toward the hinge. It feels like you’re playing a game of Operation.
The grip isn’t as good, either. It’s more a suggestion than a secure fixing. Whereas v1 would let you wave your iPad near the hinge any way you wanted, and then clamp on like Wile E. Coyote clung to his vain dreams of catching the Road Runner, the hinge on v2 is strong neither magnetically or physically. It bends in the middle, feels like it will break and separates from the iPad as easily as a Hollywood producer separates from his fifth wife.
As a stand
There is, however, one part of the new Ultraslim that’s better than almost all other iPad keyboard cases I’ve used: the stand. The slot where the iPad slips in is great. It’s adjustable and held in place using the power of friction. Its magnet is so strong you can lift the iPad and the keyboard comes with it. It even lets you lay back the iPad pretty far in portrait orientation, although in this case things get wobbly when you start poking the screen.
In conclusion, then, you should buy the first version. It is better in almost every way, and given that the whole point of an external keyboard is that you can get some serious typing done, the superior keyboard on the v1 is the one you want.
But I have another suggestion. I’ll bet that you only take your keyboard with you when you’re planning on doing some typing. After all, only a masochist would carry it the whole time “just in case.” So I suggest forgetting keyboard covers entirely and instead grabbing a good Bluetooth keyboard that is designed to work well with the iPad. Logitech’s own Easy Switch K811 is a fantastic example, and was my daily keyboard until I went over to the clicky side. Not only do you get something easy to carry, you get a full-size keyboard. Bonus: You won’t have to buy a new one every time you buy a new iPad.
Ultraslim Keyboard Cover by Logitech ($99 list)