In his review of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for full-size iPads (rated 4 out of 5), my friend and colleague Dan Frakes described that accessory as making the right compromises for an iPad keyboard case. Which, since the debut of the iPad mini, has had many people anxiously awaiting a smaller version. Unfortunately, the iPad mini's size presents additional challenges when it comes to physical keyboards, and Logitech's sequel for the iPad mini, the $80 Ultrathin Keyboard mini, makes some of the wrong tradeoffs. The result is a keyboard cover that offers different frustrations than typing with the mini's onscreen keyboard, but not necessarily less frustration overall.
Similar, but mini
The Ultrathin mini, available with either a white or black keyboard (with a silver or black aluminum bottom, respectively), looks a whole lot like its full-sized sibling, only smaller. A hinge on the back edge attaches magnetically to the left side of the iPad mini, like a Smart Cover. The Ultrathin mini adds just over 7 ounces to your iPad mini's weight, and the case lives up to its Ultrathin moniker: It's just 0.3 inches thick, along with 7.9 inches wide and 5.5 inches deep--essentially the same dimensions as the iPad mini itself.
The cover closes snugly against the iPad mini's screen, and a set of magnets opposite the hinge support the iPad's magnetic sleep/wake feature--an Ultrathin-clad iPad mini looks sleek and professional. As with the full-size Ultrathin, the mini version can't fold back behind the iPad like a Smart Cover; when you want to use the iPad, you give the keyboard cover a gentle tug to remove it completely, which is a painless procedure.
Along the right edge of the Ultrathin mini sit three items of note: a Micro-USB port for charging the keyboard's built-in battery, a power switch, and a Bluetooth-pairing button. There's a thin groove, just above the keyboard's number row and running the width of the keyboard, into which you nestle your landscape-oriented iPad mini when you're ready to type.
The angle at which the groove holds your iPad--approximately 10 degrees from vertical--is steeper than I prefer, but that's a minor complaint. And if you position the iPad with the Home button on the right, magnets in the groove will cling to the tablet, making the whole setup extra stable. (Although Logitech's PR photos all show the iPad mini in landscape orientation, the setup is also relatively stable with the tablet propped up in portrait orientation.)
Logitech says that you can expect about 180 hours of typing time on a full charge, which is impressive. However, there's no easy way to determine the keyboard's current charge level: The LEDs above the top row of keys indicate when the keyboard is charging and when the battery is running low, but I'd prefer a clearer picture of the remaining battery life. I suspect I'll feel even more strongly about this point after a month or two of use--I'll likely end up charging the keyboard more frequently than I need to simply because I have no idea how much use time is left. I also wish the included USB-charging cable was a little longer, as its one-foot length limits where you can place the keyboard while charging.
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