Illustration for article titled Logitech’s iPad Keyboard Is the Magic Keyboard for Everyone Else

Photo: Caitlin McGarry (Gizmodo)

Apple’s 10.2-inch base-model iPad is a great deal. For $330, you get a speedy, solid tablet perfect for streaming TV, reading ebooks, and surfing the internet. But one little difference I didn’t think much about when Apple refreshed its cheapest iPad last year is the addition of the Smart Connector, which allows you to instantly connect a third-party accessory without using Bluetooth to pair it. The Smart Connector, introduced with the iPad Pro, is how Apple’s $350 Magic Keyboard connects to the new iPad Pros, and now Logitech has created a similar experience for the most affordable iPad, using the Smart Connector to create the $150 Combo Touch keyboard case with touchpad. It’s like the Magic Keyboard, but cheaper.

I won’t lie: Logitech’s keyboard case is not as premium as the Magic Keyboard. But for $200 less, I didn’t expect Logitech to pair a cantilevered floating design, 130-degree tilt, and an incredibly useful USB-C charging port as Apple included with its keyboard. If you own the cheapest iPad, you’re probably not using it as a laptop replacement as frequently as you would a Pro. Logitech’s iPad keyboard with touchpad is Magic Keyboard enough for most people (especially for the price).

When Apple took the wraps off of refreshed the iPad Pros earlier this year, the company announced that its entire lineup of current iPads would finally support trackpads and mice with iPadOS 13.4—meaning that the iPad’s most game-changing feature in years wasn’t limited to the priciest models. At the same time, the company announced its Magic Keyboard, a keyboard case with touchpad to help Pro users take advantage of the trackpad support. But the Magic Keyboard is only compatible with the Pros, leaving everyone else to suffer with a Bluetooth trackpad or mouse. It’s not great.

But then Logitech stepped in with the Combo Touch keyboard case, which comes in two options: one of which is compatible with the 7th-gen iPad, and one of which works with both the third-gen iPad Air and 10.5-inch iPad Pro. (Both versions are $150.) I tested the version that works with the base-model 7th-gen iPad and was pleasantly surprised with just how well Logitech nailed the basics: the keys and the touchpad.

Unlike the Magic Keyboard, Logitech’s case comes in two pieces: the case itself, which sports a kickstand, and the keyboard, which attaches to the Smart Connector. The two-piece design means you can use the Combo Touch in a variety of different modes: Fully prop up the kickstand to type, remove the keyboard and extend the stand back for using the Apple Pencil or Logitech Crayon to write or draw, or collapse the stand and hold the iPad to read. Apple’s Magic Keyboard is nowhere near as versatile because you have to take the entire thing off to ditch the keyboard. Logitech’s version is much thicker than Apple’s, which might be annoying to some, but it didn’t bother me.

Like the Magic Keyboard, Logitech’s Combo Touch case has an incredibly responsive touchpad that supports iPadOS gestures, and its backlit scissor-switch keys are delightfully clicky with 1mm key travel. But the Combo Touch case does Apple’s version one better with a row of iOS function keys at the top that replicate a laptop’s keyboard shortcuts: brightness, volume, a home button, and more. One of the shortcuts also calls up the on-screen keyboard if you want to type on the touchscreen—an option not available with the Magic Keyboard. I didn’t miss this row of keys when I was originally using the iPad Pro with Apple’s keyboard, but now that I’ve been switching between the two, I wish Apple had thought to include the shortcut keys. I use them all the time.

Logitech’s keyboard isn’t all good. The two-piece design means that sometimes the keyboard will pop off if you’re adjusting the stand or if you pick up the iPad without closing the keyboard first, which is annoying. Using the kickstand to prop up the iPad on my lap was OK for a while, but it doesn’t feel all that sturdy or comfortable for long typing sessions.

Typing on this keyboard is a dream, but the fabric starts to feel unpleasant after awhile.

Typing on this keyboard is a dream, but the fabric starts to feel unpleasant after awhile.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry (Gizmodo)

Then there’s the fabric design of the case, which is textured in such a way that starts to feel like rubbing your palms against a tweed sport coat. I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortable, but it is a little unpleasant after typing for a while. I wish Logitech had chosen a smoother material.

But overall, the Combo Touch keyboard case is a solid Magic Keyboard alternative. It quickly turns the cheapest iPad into a laptop when you need it. I was able to research and write most of this review using just the iPad. If you plan to ditch your laptop altogether, the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard is still the way to go—the cheap iPad’s screen is too small for me to get most of my work done, and I prefer the Magic Keyboard’s feel. But if you want the option to use your iPad as a laptop without shelling out thousands of dollars, the Combo Touch case gets you most of the way there.

README

  • A solid, clicky keyboard with trackpad that instantly connects to the cheapest iPad via Smart Connector.
  • Responsive trackpad and comfortable typing experience, though the textured fabric isn’t ideal for long periods of use.
  • Function keys for iOS shortcuts are a dream.

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