Review: Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad

23 Aug 20131 Share

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A Bluetooth keyboard with its keys fused on to the fabric of an iPad cover, the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio attempts to do what most covers fail to, to make your iPad unique again. Does it succeed?

We live in a tumultuous age where we are almost becoming immune to the amazing technological feats that are presented daily and weekly. In 14 short years we’ve gone from not owning mobile phones to carrying sophisticated smartphones that actually do more for us than the computers on our desks.

Hardly a week goes by when a new fleet of shiny smartphones, tablet computers, notebooks, peripherals – each one more powerful and shiny and more beautiful than its predecessor – enters the fray. The rapidity if this is such that I don’t hear people say “wow” anymore; they just expect the next big thing to be consistently better. It’s beauty on demand and we’ve forgotten how to fall in love.

I’ve had this thought running through my head since Samsung brought out the Galaxy S4. Everyone was talking about new features and capabilities with the camera and the remote touch, I was marveling at the use of metal and glass in this iconic device.

In many ways this is ultimately Apple’s victory – Apple, or should I say Jony Ives and the late Steve Jobs – through devices from the iMac, the iPod to the iPhone and iPad they resurrected industrial design. Technology was beautiful again. Form meets function. Vorsprung Durch Technik.

And then I see it all the time. People buy covers for these items of shimmering, crystalline beauty and suddenly they are bloated, swathed in some ridiculous shell suit in lime green, putrid purple or neon pink. The devices become non-descript, distinctive only for their faster processing power and widgets on the camera, but rarely are they a conversation starter anymore.

Of course there are good reasons for this – any fool would know that if you create a device made out of glass it will shatter on impact if you drop from, say, waist high. And these things aren’t cheap – a decent iPhone or iPad can range between €400 and €800 typically. So of course you want to protect them.

We’ve an iPad 3 in our house and I love picking it up and marveling at how slim and light it is yet all the components inside add up to a powerful device that needs protecting. Faced with the onslaught of tablet/PC hybrids like the Surface RT from Microsoft and ultrabook convertibles (yes that’s a form factor) Apple’s breakthrough iPad family is being besieged and it is fitting that somebody comes up with a cover/keyboard that melds neatly with the device.

Touch and feel

Other than touching the screen, the iPad is under pressure to be more of a productivity device – keyboards are essential – and my hunch is greater integration between Apple’s iOS and Mac ecosystems in the very near future.

In devising a keyboard for the iPad the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio does a number of things right – in fact better than the smart covers Apple sells. Firstly hidden magnets hold the iPad in two useful positions securely – for writing mode and staying shut.

The material is sumptuous, smooth and tough so it’s pretty spill-proof and it looks good.

The keyboard itself provides a pretty decent typing experience and the buttons have a nice springy feel about them. However, my only niggle is I feel the buttons are almost too far apart – which is a rare complaint when you’re talking about a keyboard for tablet computers. But it’s not really a complaint because like all keyboards once your fingers are oriented you’re sorted.

While the outside of the cover I reviewed is black, the keyboard was cream, reminding me of Guinness as beer o’clock approached. I understand Logitech has the cover/keyboard available in a range of colour schemes from Electric Blue and Urban Grey to Mars Red Orange and Carbon Black, and in an array of on-trend fabrics from matte leather to finely woven cotton.

Verdict

FabricSkin Folio

So far I can tell you technologically the device measures up superbly. The Bluetooth only activates when you open the cover, guaranteeing a decent power saving for the battery. The keyboard is responsive and does the job.

But does it look the part? Yes, the materials and the colours make it look elegant. Although it’s hard to tell what generation iPad it is because it is now swathed in a nice matte leather body. But it looks good and it is definitely protected.

Where does it fall down – well, I have to say the iPad 3 is a light, slim device. Swathed in the cover it bulks up significantly and is quite weighty. Actually it is on par with the Surface Pro with its cover attached.

One of the saving graces is that once inside the Folio cover the screen real estate necessary to keep the iPad 3 inside the case is quite minimal, a few millimeters actually all round.

Overall, the FabricSkin keyboard does a good job of keeping your device looking good and protecting it at the same time. While it bulks up the weight a bit, the productivity advantages of having a keyboard are immense.

The Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad is available for €149.99 in Harvey Norman stores and at www.logitech.com.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com