Searching for an iPad mini keyboard, part 4: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini review

Life is full of compromise, whether it’s your car, where you live, your job, or the clothes you wear. Tech is no different. If you’re honest with yourself, there are at least a couple conversations to have around what you want to gain and what you’re willing to give up.

When it comes to the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini for iPad mini, I’m not sure I’m willing to give up what’s necessary.

Like its big brother, you can think of the Ultrathin Keyboard mini as a Smart Cover that just so happens to pack a Bluetooth keyboard. It attaches to the side of the iPad with magic, so when the package is closed, it’s properly sized to fit over and protect the iPad mini’s trim display.

When it’s time to write, you pop off the keyboard, set the iPad down in a non-adjustable groove just beyond the number keys, and get to it. Sorta.

Unlike the Logitech Tablet Keyboard or even the Zagg 9, Logitech went full netbook here. In fact, this might have achieved a new level of netbookness, as if it’s the Dali Netbook of netbook keyboards. The iPad mini is only 7.8 inches tall, so this keyboard is only 7.8 inches wide. By comparison, a standard size keyboard is around 11 inches wide—a sacrifice had to be made so that this mini keyboard could live.

The keys are cramped, even moreso than the 9.7 inch iPad’s on-screen keys in landscape, which I consider “Normal Netbook” and quite typeable if you give yourself time to warm up to them. Logitech made some questionable tradeoffs when combining and shrinking keys (take a close look at my gallery photo to see what I mean). For example, the Caps Lock and A keys were united in unholy keyboardimony (add the Fn key to toggle Caps Lock), and the semicolon and apostrophe keys are downright anorexic. The top row containing number keys with custom iPad functions is inconveniently thin, even thinner than the same row on an 11-inch MacBook Air.

Now, if you follow my writing, you know I’m down for giving new experiences and form factors a chance. I am actually a fan of touch typing on a regular size iPad and I’ve written plenty 1,000-1,800 word pieces that way. If you don’t follow my writing, well, you learned something today.

But after a week of using the Ultrathin Keyboard mini for a few pieces, the Getting Used To It factor feels steeper than touch typing on a regular iPad. At least there, Apple had the space to keep most of the essential keys at relatively the same size (or flip them over to the secondary keyboard), which makes it easier to transition some of your typing memory from physical keyboards. But here I find myself regularly missing the 1 key and kicking myself back to the homescreen, or typing return when I meant an apostrophe. Not helping matters at all is the groove that holds the iPad mini upright; the angle feels too steep.

Could I get used to this over time? I’m not ruling it out, and there is some incentive to try. Since the original iPad, I’ve loved carrying around a 662 gram (1.4 pound) slab of always-connected metal and glass that lets me write at a moment’s notice. The idea of considerably slimming down on that kit, with a 312 gram (.69 pound) machine and a keyboard that doubles as a screen protector, is appealing, which is why I’ve been on the hunt for a great iPad mini keyboard setup. But is this appealing enough?

If you previously owned a netbook, you might be right at home with the Ultrathin Keyboard mini, so this could work for, like, 50 people. But after using this setup over the past week I found myself regularly wishing for my Logitech Tablet Keyboard (my current favorite), or simply a regular size iPad and regular size Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. If you pick up an Ultrathin Keyboard mini, do it when you know you have time to give it a full shakedown and hang onto your receipt. Just in case.