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When will tablets like the iPad finally take over the laptop universe once and for all? It may not happen this year--or that year, for that matter--but convertible keyboard covers like the Logitech Keyboard Case will certainly accelerate the process.
We've wondered many times whether a good keyboard case could be the missing link that would make an ultraportable iPad an excellent tool for writing on the go. The $99 Logitech Keyboard Case by Zagg is the best we've seen so far. It's an update of last year's Zaggmate case for the iPad, tailored to fit the iPad 2's dimensions.
Unlike some cases we've tried before, the keyboard employed here is an honest-to-goodness "real" keyboard: the keys depress fully and feel physical, with no strange rubberized or flattened feel to them. The aluminum frame is the same width and length as an iPad 2, so when you're done typing, you can fold the iPad into it screen-down for travel.
The Logitech Keyboard Case works better as a keyboard than as a case, though. True, the iPad 2 nestles into the frame of the Logitech case smoothly, cradled by foam bumpers all around, and the case's matte aluminum finish matches the iPad 2's to a T. Yet, it fails to provide any protection for the iPad's back, one of the most vulnerable areas for scratching. When the iPad is seated in the case, it's also hard to casually remove it for quick use, and the iPad can't fit in the case screen-out. Also, while the iPad's screen is protected against contact with the keyboard thanks to several rubberized padded strips, it still made us a little uneasy to place keys so close to the glass. We chalk that up to iPad ownership neurosis.
As a keyboard, the Zagg-designed case provides a simple grooved channel in which the iPad 2 can rest in either portrait or landscape mode. A small folding plastic stand pops up--its cheap feel is one of the least appealing parts of this case--and props the iPad in place. From there, it's all about Bluetooth pairing: the case has a power button and a syncing button, and activating Bluetooth on the iPad 2 initiates pairing (we were also prompted to punch in four random numbers to finish the pairing process the first time).
Typing is a breeze compared with screen-typing on the iPad 2. The cramped keys and the inset keyboard aren't as comfortable as a full-fledged Bluetooth keyboard such as the oft-seen $69 Apple one, but we were able to quickly write long paragraphs at a speed that's hard to achieve on the onscreen virtual keyboard.
We also appreciated the wide range of dedicated iPad function buttons on the top edge of the keyboard, which operate a surprising number of iPad commands: a home button, a Spotlight Search hot key, volume and play/pause/fast-forward/rewind buttons, cut/paste controls, arrows for hopping around documents, undo/redo buttons, and even a Picture Gallery key that instantly launches a slideshow of pictures stored on the iPad 2. They're not all necessary, and many of them (like cut and paste) still require you to touch the screen to select text, but they're welcome additions.
Around the office, a number of editors found this case instantly appealing. Somehow, its size and look fit the "make my iPad a laptop" dream better than other peripherals we've used. If you're serious about writing on your iPad 2, you owe it to yourself to check this peripheral out.