Logitech is no stranger to the iPad keyboard game. While the company's record is mostly strong -- its ultrathin keyboard for the iPad Mini received our Editor's Choice -- the predecessor to the FabricSkin Folio, the original Keyboard Folio, was somewhat of a bulky disappointment. Now the accessory maker has redone the Folio with a soft fabriclike skin over the keys, but with a largely unchanged layout. Is the remodeled texture comfortable enough to warrant the steep $149 price tag?
Logitech's FabricSkin Keyboard aims to create a miniature keyboard case that is both texturally and ergonomically crafted to match the iPad's mobility. What's impressive about this accessory is that it looks great performing both functions. We tested the black-and-white synthetic Matt leather version, but there are also other options, including a durable fabric in red, fine woven cotton in blue, woven fabric in gray, quality cotton in yellow and matte leather in blue.
On our white iPad, the black cover and frame with the white keyboard looked fantastic. When folded up like a case, the cover exudes an attractive simplicity that resembles a small but sophisticated notebook. When set up like a keyboard, our white-on-white combination could easily be mistaken as some new kind of Mac. Bottom line: The FabricSkin Folio looks very cool.
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When closed, a magnetic lining along the top holds the case shut, but just barely. Another magnetic strip above the deck holds the iPad upright for keyboard use and does a much better job keeping things together than when closed. We sat the keyboard on our lap and typed away without our iPad flopping back. In fact, the magnet is so strong you can give the whole setup a good shake and your iPad will stay safely in place.
The FabricSkin has another safety measure: the skin itself has built-in liquid resistance to repel stray water drops from those who mix business with, well, drinking.
All of the iPad's ports and buttons are accessible through the skin, and there's a microUSB port on the side of the case to plug in a charger. The FabricSkin Keyboard weighs 1.25 pounds and measures 10 x 7.9 x 0.8 inches. That's a bit larger and heavier than the 1.06-pound Belkin Ultimate, but feels more secure.
Features and Layout
Logitech hasn't changed the layout of its keyboard much from the original Keyboard Folio. Rounded island keys means there is adequate spacing to avoid typos, and there's enough room for folks with bigger hands.
There are iPad-specific functions for Siri, lockscreen, search and on-screen keyboard launch embedded as tertiary buttons accessible by pressing the function button and appropriate number key. Also piled onto the number keys are shortcuts for volume and music control on top of the normal secondary symbol keys.
The left and right arrow keys also have shortcuts for selecting text, which is convenient. Another feature is the replacement of the Escape key with the iPad home button.
There are some awkward design choices that take some getting used to on the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio. First off, the Shift keys and Delete button are small. The most frustrating thing about this keyboard is that Logitech relegated the Caps Lock and Tab keys to secondary positions as function buttons above the "A" and "Q" keys. This makes it awkward when you want to MAKE IT CLEAR YOU'RE ANGRY or just want to start a new paragraph.
While the FabricSkin texture certainly feels good on the fingers and is a nice reprieve from cold hard plastic, it definitely takes some getting used to. Even good typists like us felt a little lost at first and found our fingers wandering around a keyboard that felt pretty mushy initially. Without raised, hard keys, we found ourselves glancing down to check our finger placement more often than usual and sometimes missed the space bar. We averaged 68 words per minute with 94 percent accuracy, compared with 77 words per minute at 97 percent accuracy on the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard case.
However, one of the perks of this case is that the soft material used on the keyboard is very resistant to dirt, dust and fingerprints. On top of that, the speakerlike cutout on the side of the case does a great job of reverberating the iPad's speaker for a much better audio experience.
After a little bit of practice and some careful finger-pointing to get to that tiny Shift key, Logitech's $149 FabricSkin Keyboard Folio becomes a stylish and modern keyboard that meshes very well with the iPad's design. While we like the fact that the keyboard resists spills, typing is less fluid than on a conventional keyboard, such as the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard, which costs $50 less. Overall, we like the FabricSkin's looks and the protection it offers, but the performance doesn't quite match up to the aesthetics.