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Hardware Review Official HTF Review: Logitech Create Keyboard Case for iPad Pro (Very Highly Recommended)

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Sam Posten, Nov 24, 2015.

  1. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Logitech Create Keyboard Case for iPad Pro Review



    There seems to be a lot of confusion about what, exactly, the appeal of the iPad Pro is supposed to be. If it's designed to be used as a 'lean back' content consumption device then its huge 12.9" size and awkward hand-holdability seem to hold it back in this regard. If it's supposed to be a content creation machine then the on screen keyboard is going to be a limiting factor for many. For me however neither of these really fit what I envisioned my personal use case to be, and that was as a replacement for my aging Macbook Air.

    Up until now my Macbook Air was my favorite travel companion: small and light enough to fit in a modest bag, rugged enough to take a bit of punishment on the move, and powerful enough to let me read and edit documents and web pages for hours at a time. In a pinch I could even play a few games, access my entire iTunes music collection via Match, and watch movies from my digital collection. My MBA wasn't my main content creation machine by any stretch (that title belongs to my 27" iMac), but it was time and time again the work horse for my many business trips and constantly went with me back and forth between my home and my parents place 2 hours away.

    The thing is the MBA didn't really fill that whole gap for me. I'd often travel with an iPad in addition to the MBA, because I found it significantly more relaxing to curl up on a chair or bed with the latest, lightest, full size iPad models and use their touch interface to interact with web content and all my media. Sometimes I'd travel with just my iPad Air 2 if I was certain I wouldn't have to type on it for any extended periods of time.

    For me, the iPad Pro presented the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Having a travel computer strong enough to get stuff done while still retaining all the fun stuff that went along with iOS.

    This isn't as crazy as it seems on the surface: while Apple has clearly stated they have no intention of merging the OSX and iOS worlds they do expect that tablets will become better and better at the types of things that people demand from their traditional desktop and laptop devices.

    Apple even supports this use case with their own Smart Keyboard device, designed to help you bridge the gap between these worlds. Unfortunately there are several obvious issues with the Smart Keyboard: First of all there are hardly any for sale. Additionally it is thin and flimsy (to support the lightweight tablet ethos I imagine), there is no back lighting on the keys, and to make it smaller it removes an entire row of keys from what is found on the Macbook line, which eliminates some of the most important functionality those devices provide.

    When the iPad Pro was announced I definitely felt like it had promise for me, but I was pretty sure the Smart Keyboard wouldn't cut it. I knew I wanted a keyboard for professional work and I was dubious that the Smart Keyboard would be rugged enough for me. I intended to buy one anyway just to see if I could make it work. When I got to the store tho and picked up my iPad Pro they had neither the Smart Keyboard nor any Apple Pencils for sale.

    Fortunately however they happened to have a couple of the Logitech Create keyboards in stock and I jumped at the chance to test one out instead of waiting for the Smart Keyboard. I'd hoped to try the Create anyway, and put it head to head with the Smart Keyboard, but market realities have set in and I still have only the Create and no SK to compare it to.



    As luck would have it I've also been sent a second Create unit, this time directly from Logitech for our official HTF review here. There seems to be a lot more stock of Creates in store and Apple is featuring them heavily. To tell you the truth, I am uncertain I want to even bother getting a Smart Keyboard any more. I can tell you that I have not used my iPad Pro for a single minute without it being attached to a Create. I do my best to be as objective as possible in my reviews and to not gush when I really enjoy a product, but you will see clearly that I think the Create is a game changing product that super charges the iPad Pro experience. I am completely sold on the Create and feel that the ONLY valid way for me to use an iPad Pro is with it mounted inside of a Create.



    For my desired use case the Create does EXACTLY what I demand of it: It transforms the iPad Pro into a mobile computer that lives equally at ease with content creation and consumption. Because I bought the iPad Pro model that comes with LTE network access I can take this package with me just about anywhere and never be out of reach. Out in my back yard, down the street or across the country. Without a phone, without a back up power supply, without stuffing it in a bag. It's ready at a moment's notice for whatever I throw at it.



    During the day I have access to a comfortable and efficient keyboard suitable for hours spent typing (This review is being done entirely on the iPad Pro and Create!) on whatever desk I happen to be working, at home or away. Its backlit keys let me do this with ease in dimly lit environments like coffee shops, restaurants, or as day turns to dusk in my home office. After years of being confined to software keyboards it's SO nice to have full use of arrow keys to move the insertion point around in a document, to have my familiar shortcut keys available to perform text selection and fast travel through documents (Command up and down etc.), and to have my 8 stubby fingers resting on QWERTY again. The keys themselves are as comfortable as any mobile style keyboard I'd ever used. Good springiness despite the slim profile; nice concave shape to the tops of the keys to help your fingers feel like they are hitting the dead center of each; and generous surface area for each as well, not at all cramped.



    On the top row there's dedicated special function keys, to change the volume, adjust backlighting & screen brightness, plus iPad specific keys to lock the screen, to bring up Spotlight search, and to return to the home screen. I can even use the familiar command-tab combo to swap between running apps quickly. And I can crank my tunes as loud as the iPad Pro will go (which is pretty loud) or turn it down or mute them altogether with those dedicated keys even when the iPad itself is locked or even use the 'soft' keys on the case to do the same.



    If I need the special features of the iOS software keyboard those are available to me too. If I need to put an accent in it's a simple matter of hitting the keyboard key at lower left on the Create to bring up the software keyboard at any time and use a long press on a key to šęłëćt jûśt thē õñé î wæñt! :) I also have access to all of my Emoji with the global keyboard button .



    It does this while still retaining all the multitouch magic that makes iOS so great. I see autocorrect working in the background with suggested words constantly updating at the bottom of the screen in Pages as I go. With a touch of my finger to the screen I can move the insert point wherever I want it, and highlight text that way if it works better for me. I can swap to a game and use the touch input for that. If I ever need to zoom in on something the familiar pinch and zoom are available, as is the terrific side by side multitasking view, which makes copying and pasting between apps a breeze.


    And this is without even having the Apple Pencil yet, which I feel will be a terrific addition to the iPad Pro and Create Combo. One concern will be having a place to store that device during travel and a recent Kickstarter has a solution I am keen to try:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1183644800/quarter-connecting-ipad-pro-and-apple-pencil-seaml?ref=thanks_tweet

    It travels well as I can carry it with confidence due to the grippy nature of the ballistic nylon coating of the Create, confident that a short tumble will be no match for the hard plastic shell. I don't ever bother to bring a charger with me as I can get a whole day of work done as the iPad Pro provides a constant charge to the keyboard and backlighting, without the added weight that a battery might require.



    When I get home I can pop the combo open on my bed or couch and watch Netflix, HBO or Amazon videos without having to prop the iPad up by hand or against a solid surface. While the Create only allows a single angle of display while in use I find that the one selected has worked perfectly for me so far. I can always flip it into flat tablet mode if necessary, but I have yet to find a need to do so. I can also read web pages in ultra wide screen mode or use any of the tens of thousands of dedicated iPad Apps for all kinds of special and general purposes.

    The magnets in the Create are the best I've ever used, perfectly balanced to snap the iPad into the connector dock and keep it there snugly and a second set which keeps the lid closed when it is shut. I have yet to have the iPad come loose when docked and it would take a miracle for it to open in a bag, they are that secure.



    There are 3 backlight settings: Off, low and high. There does not appear to be a sensor that turns them off during daytime when not needed, but I like the contrast they provide so I'd keep it cranked up to high if there was. There's a lot less light bleed from these backlights than there are on my Macbook Air, which is pretty incredible. The most light comes through the half sized top row, probably because I have the most direct line of sight to that row most often while working. There is also no way to keep the lighting on for extended periods of time while thinking of what to write next, which might be nice to have. This saves battery when mobile of course so it's probably a smart trade off. The keyboard probably has no way of telling when the iPad that it's getting it's charge from is plugged in or not.

    I've seen other early owners ding the Create for not having an Escape Key. I have no idea why they want one, I have never found a use for it, and you aren't going to be running Windows on this thing where they might have a point.

    The other complaint I have heard is that the Create is somehow too heavy or too bulky. I think these alleged faults are hogwash. Create is the size it is because that much space is needed to provide a full fledged keyboard experience. I value that over a few shaved off ounces and less protection to my thousand dollar plus device.

    I struggled at first to figure out to take a screen capture with Create, it had actually escaped me that there is a soft power button on the top of the right side. It works in a pinch but I wouldn't want to have to use it regularly for power on and off. Fortunately you never have to, touching any key wakes the iPad just fine, and you can type in your passcode with the keyboard if you want, you are never forced to use Touch ID. In fact I've found that after you spend a bit of time you rarely have to use your fingers on screen if you don't want to. Games obviously are the exception here, but for getting real work done the keyboard is the star performer and Create supports every key combo you need. Like the soft power key there are soft keys for volume on the case itself but I found them a bit fiddly and much preferred to use the volume keys on the keyboard. In fact I wouldn't miss any of the 3 soft keys except in the rare instance I needed the power key to take a screenshot. I wish there was a screenshot key on the keyboard itself, that would make so much sense to me!

    One other unexpected benefit of using Create I hadn't originally anticipated: there are a lot fewer smudges on screen as my fingers are on there a lot less of the time. I even use the keyboard to scroll web pages again, I never expected that! Also, the angle of the dock seems to really minimize both light glare and the obvious fingerprints to boot.

    Another surprise from Create is that it's actually cheaper than the Smart Keyboard, $149 vice $169. I think it's a lot better value to begin with, having the list price be lower is a heck of an incentive to skip Apple's and go right to Create.

    If I had to ding Create at all there are only three things I could list and every one of them would be a huge stretch. First it's kind of a pain to remove iPad Pro from Create. If you intend on doing so often you might have to see how much of a frustration it is for you. I intend to have mine inside Create for life, so not an issue for me. Second the magnets might actually be a little bit too strong. It can be a mild challenge to open this thing up some times! I like how the Macbook Air gets around this issue by having a little lip or indentation to use as leverage when opening, I wish Create had that. Finally I've noted that the external volume and power soft keys are a bit weak. I wish they were better designed and had a more satisfying clickiness when in use.

    Ultimately none of these issues even remotely dissuade my enthusiasm for the Create when paired with iPad Pro. I'm all in on this combination and can see myself using it for years and years to come, and look forward to putting Pencil in the mix to see how that works. Will I want to have a more flat table top use with pencil? Will drawing with the screen nearly vertical be a chore? I can't say for sure right now but I am very optimistic that they will be non issues as well. Create and iPad Pro have absolutely replaced my Macbook Air and iPad Air 2 travel combo already and I see nothing that will change that any time soon. Create gets a "Very Highly Recommended" from me!
     
  2. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Nice review :)

    How big is thyour keyboard compared to a MacBook? I bought the Logitech keyboard for my iPad 3, but didn't use it much. The keys were too cramped, I couldn't adapt, and it wasn't really any better than the on-screen keyboard. Is the iPad Pro physical keyboard large enough to be comfortable and efficient?
     
  3. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    VERY comfortable for me, it seems very close to the layout of my existing Macbook air!
     
  4. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Ok thanks. Next year I'll probably upgrade my iPad, so I'm curious about the evolution of the Pro vs Air lines.
     
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  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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  6. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Producer

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  7. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    I do like variable angles ability - that allows for a closer feel to laptops, but I agree, backlight is a rather important feature in my household, so I'm not sure it would work as a competitor to the recently procured Create keyboard...
     

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