At any given time I’m effectively on 24/7 support for a number of clients, but I don’t always want to carry my laptop with me wherever I go. I therefore decided it would be a good idea to buy a keyboard for my iPad mini with Retina display in order to have a light, very portable hardware solution suitable for most support situations without having to carry my much bigger, heavier laptop around.
I firstly tried out a Logitech Ultrathin clip-on keyboard cover. The original version of this product (which is the version they’re still selling on Amazon, so be careful) apparently works well for the original iPad mini, but not for the iPad mini with Retina display (sometimes erroneously referred to as the iPad mini 2) because the Retina version is slightly thicker than the original iPad mini, and thus the viewing angle with the original Logitech Ultrathin is too steep.
I therefore tried the updated Ultrathin which has been redesigned with a flexible multi-angle stand to solve the problem with the viewing angle:
My initial impressions were very good, although I wasn’t keen on the fact that you can’t just fold the iPad down onto the keyboard when you’ve finished like you can when closing a laptop to put it to sleep – instead, you have to pull the iPad out of the stand then slot it into the flap at the rear, which is an awkward solution and doesn’t feel very robust.
A much bigger problem for me, however, is the lack of a CTRL (Control) key on the keyboard. This is unlikely to bother most regular users, but my support work mainly involves me connecting to Linux servers via SSH for which the CTRL key is heavily used, so this was a fairly major problem. (Apparently the original version of the Ultrathin had a CTRL key but it didn’t actually work much of the time, so the same problem potentially applies.)
ZAGG ZAGGkeys Cover
After finding Avi Freedman’s very helpful post regarding this issue, I decided to return the Logitech Ultrathin and buy a ZAGG ZAGGkeys Cover instead:
For me, this is a much better product. The way it clips on at the back makes it feel much more like a small laptop or netbook solution – there’s a much wider range of viewing angles, the keyboard is bigger because it stretches all the way to the rear of the device, and you can close the iPad onto the keyboard properly and without hassle when you’ve finished, making for a much more robust protective solution when you’re transporting it.
Even more importantly for me, it has a CTRL key in the right place, and as an added bonus – also unlike the Logitech – it has a Tab key you can hit without having to mess around with modifiers. Not only is the keyboard larger and fitted with all the keys I require, but it also feels a bit more intuitively laid out than the one on the Logitech. The keys are very solid, responsive and generally nice to use.
There’s one additional bonus: the keyboard is backlit, a feature not present on the Logitech. This wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but there could be situations in which this is bit of a life-saver.
There are only two problems with the ZAGG keyboard. Firstly, when the iPad is tilted all the way back and you have it on your lap, sometimes it tips over due to the keyboard being much lighter than the iPad. Secondly, it can be rather awkward to touch controls right at the bottom of the iPad screen because the keyboard comes right up to the bottom of the screen. However, I don’t regard either of these problems as particularly serious when weighed up against all the benefits of this product.
All in all I’m very pleased with the ZAGG ZAGGkeys Cover. When it’s attached, the iPad mini feels like a proper little mini-laptop and is a really feasible solution for technical support and other situations on the go. This is definitely the better product for system administrators and developers, and for regular users it may well also be preferable to the Logitech Ultrathin.