I'm a huge fan of Logitech's keyboard cases for the iPad Pro — the 9.7-inch Logitech Create is, frankly, the best keyboard case I've ever used, with excellent key travel and protection without being overly bulky.
As such, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I was eager to test out Logitech's newest case for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, the Slim Combo (opens in new tab). It promised fixes for two of my minor nitpicks: an adjustable Smart Connector hinge, and a small bumper between the iPad and the screen (to keep from indenting keyboard smudges). And it offered a slightly different form-factor than the Create line — providing a hinged back, a la the Microsoft Surface tablets, and a detachable full-featured keyboard.
Sadly, as much as I wanted to like this keyboard, it's just not to be. This is a pretty quick review — I've had just 24 hours with the product — so I'll be the first to admit that my opinion may change, and if so, I'll update this review accordingly. But right now, I am thoroughly unimpressed with this offering.
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Fit and form
First, let's talk feel: For all of the bells and whistles on this thing, the Slim Combo feels cheaper than any of the other Logitech iPad cases I've tested, in part due to the plasticky outer texture of the iPad shell. The back of the keyboard still has the textured fabric of the Create line, but the iPad's casing is straight plastic. It's at least smooth and reinforced, but the overhang on the iPad's corners reminds me of the original 12.9-inch Create — too stiff and clunky to put on, and painful to look at (especially with the full edge cutouts for the speaker, a much uglier implementation than the Create's curved speaker holes).
Here we come to my other big gripe about the Slim Combo: It comes in two pieces. For some, I understand that this is a selling point — it's absolutely nice to have the freedom to prop up your iPad without a keyboard attached. But here's the thing: There are a ton of great accessories that do similar things at a fraction of the price (like Studio Neat' Canopy) and allow you to bring your own keyboard for the ride. The reason to get a keyboard case is to enjoy the all-in-one protection and comfort it offers, not to constantly be fiddling with connections and kickstands.
And in the past 24 hours, there has been a lot of fiddling. The new adjustable Smart Connector hinge is brilliant in that it puts the connector on a flexible piece of fabric rather than a static spot inside the keyboard, but it comes at the expense of a secure connection. On a table, the hinge combined with the case's kickstand allow for a much greater viewing and typing angle than the Create; it's one of the few features I really like about this keyboard case. Unfortunately, this setup pretty much only works on a flat surface like a desk or table — setting up the case and kickstand is doable on a couch, lap, or bed, but highly frustrating.
Also, as someone who routinely draws, the clunkiness of disassembling and reassembling the case to draw on the screen is nothing short of a disaster when compared to the simplicity of the Create's "artist" mode, which let you collapse the screen on top of the keyboard with an ever-so-slight incline. To draw with the Slim Combo attached, you have to:
- Fold the keyboard all the way back and pray it doesn't disconnect in the process (or disconnect it entirely and find someplace to put it).
- Push the kickstand back all the way for an artist's easel or fold it back into the case.
- Find something else to prop under the iPad to provide a smooth drawing angle.
It's clumsy and frustrating, especially when the Create's drawing experience was so great.
One point in Logitech's favor: The keyboard part of its keyboard case is excellent as always, though the company seems to have kept the same key sizes as the 9.7-inch model and opt for a bigger side bezel, rather than widen the keys, as Apple has done with its 10.5-inch case. Like with the 12.9-inch Create, the extra palm rest is nice for typing, but I definitely keep reaching for a trackpad when I write.
I'm also a little worried about the long-term durability of the flexible Smart Connector. Without turning into an iFixit teardown, it feels as though the connector is attached to the keyboard by a ribbon cable or two, covered by a slim fabric hinge. While the look isn't bad, the fabric feels awfully flimsy, and I'm a little concerned about the prospects of tears in long-term use, especially given that the ribbon isn't protected at all when the case is closed and thrown in a bag.
The same goes for the Apple Pencil sleeve at the top of the iPad shell: It uses the same fabric as the connector, and without being protected by the case (as it is in the 9.7-inch Create), I wonder how durable it will be over time.
I'm conflicted on whether to recommend this product or not: The Slim Keyboard certainly isn't the worst keyboard case I've ever used, but it ships with more flaws than the leading Smart Connector case manufacturer really should have. It could be that there just wasn't enough lead time to build a version of the Create with the improvements Logitech wanted for the 10.5-inch model; it could be designers just wanted to try a different route.Whatever the case, the Slim Combo feels like the worst of both worlds: It has the far-too-deep top case inset of the 12.9-inch Create (and the same difficulty in prying the iPad out of its case); it's not built to work on uneven surfaces; and its best features (the flexible Smart Connector in particular) don't feel properly thought through or designed for long-term use.It's a disappointment, because I'm not a huge fan of Apple's Smart Keyboard (opens in new tab) either — my options are to either stick with this keyboard (which I'll probably do for at least another week, just to give it a fair shake), deal with Apple's option, or try out something like the Canopy with a Magic Keyboard until I find something better.Personally, I'm hoping that "better" option is a new 10.5-inch version of the Logitech Create.