Review: Logitech Slim Combo Smart Connector keyboard for Apple's 10.5" iPad Pro

Posted:
in iPad edited June 2017
Logitech's Slim Combo keyboard for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a welcome addition to Apple's limited Smart Connector accessory lineup, and a good option for someone who wants to use their tablet as a traditional laptop replacement. The design is largely a mixed bag, however, that will appeal to some and turn away others.




There's a sizable market of users who view Apple's iPad as a laptop replacement in need of a full-time keyboard.

One must only look at the accessory market and see the number of folio-style cases, where an iPad is semi-permanently affixed into a case attached to a keyboard, to realize a lot of people want this.

For those users, Logitech previously released the Create keyboard, which also connects via Smart Connector but does not allow the iPad to be detached without removing it from the case (which is cumbersome to do). Anyone using the Logitech Create had better want a keyboard attached to their iPad all the time.




With this year's Slim Combo keyboard, Logitech is targeting a different market: Users who want a keyboard most of the time, but would like to have the option to detach the keyboard occasionally, all while still retaining a protective case and gaining a reliable, adjustable kickstand.

If you're an owner of the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, you don't really have a choice. The Create is available for the 9.7- and 12.9-inch sizes, but Logitech's only offering in the 10.5-inch range is the new Slim Combo.

There is exactly one other Smart Connector keyboard available on the market, and it's Apple's. Thankfully, Apple's Smart Keyboard serves a very different market, focusing on the lightest and thinnest possible design without any rear case to enclose the back of the iPad. Apple's design is for people who do not want a keyboard most of the time, who want something thin and light that they can detach on a whim, returning to tablet-only mode for the ultimate in portability.

If you want a kickstand case and Smart Connector keyboard combo on your iPad Pro, you have just one choice in the Logitech Slim Combo. But is it worth your while?

As an iPad Pro keyboard, it's pretty good

The Slim Combo keys feel more natural than Apple's Smart Keyboard, though they are somewhat undersized from a full-size keyboard. That said, as touch typists, we had no issue getting accustomed to the keys quickly and typing this review without any problems.

Key travel is good, and what you'd expect from a traditional keyboard, unlike Apple's unique cloth-covered keys on the Smart Keyboard. We've never had a problem with Apple's keyboard, but we think regular typists will feel more at ease on the Slim Combo.




In a significant improvement over Apple's Smart Keyboard, the Logitech Slim Combo boasts a full function row, including home button, lock, brightness controls, search, media, volume and more. The keyboard is also backlit, with three different levels of brightness that can be adjusted from the function row.

Beyond simply typing, there are a number of tasks that are much easier with a keyboard with function row. For starters, multitasking is a breeze, allowing either Command-Tab quick app switching, or double-tapping the keyboard home button for the traditional app switcher view.

The lock button in the upper right corner also allows for users to not only quickly lock the screen when work is done, but it can also be held down to bring up the iOS power-down screen.




Lap use is manageable but not great. The iPad tends to rock back and forth while we type, and the narrowness of the 10.5-inch display (the kickstand is even narrower) requires us to keep our legs tightly together. Apple's Smart Keyboard spans the width of the iPad, giving more lap coverage than the Slim Combo's kickstand.

On a desk or table, though, it's reliable and sturdy. The kickstand is solid and impressive, with 50 degrees of tilt, allowing the iPad Pro to be positioned at basically any position you would want.

The underside of the keyboard has a textured fabric pattern that helps prevent the base from slipping when used on a desk or on your lap.




Despite the bulk and weight, we like the general construction of the Slim Combo. It's solid and feels durable for use on the go.

If you want a physical keyboard on your iPad, you plan to use it on a desk, and you want to occasionally detach it to use it as a touchscreen tablet without keyboard, you'll be happy with the Slim Combo. But there are some concessions made in tablet mode.

As an iPad Pro case, it has too many flaws

As we discussed in the intro, if you're looking for portability, and you primarily want you use your iPad Pro as a tablet with occasional typing, stick with Apple's Smart Keyboard.

The Logitech Slim Combo is bulky. It weighs 1.16 pounds, which is actually more than the iPad Pro itself.




In other words, putting this combo on your iPad Pro more than doubles the weight of the device.

In fact, the keyboard base is so heavy that we even found a couple of times where it simply detached from the iPad on its own when the iPad was picked up not in clamshell mode. The weight of the keyboard component is too great to rely solely on the strength of the Smart Connector magnetic attachment.




The weight and the thickness of the keyboard itself is somewhat forgivable -- having a solid keyboard with acceptable key travel requires some size and rigidity.

The size of the case on the back of the iPad itself, however, is less justifiable.

The case has a prominent lip that runs the entire length of the right side of the device. This allows it to clamshell with the keyboard when closed, leaving a gap that protects the iPad display. But in our tests, the keyboard can shift in easily when clamshelled, making us question the point of the front lip.




Along the edge of the iPad, there are gaps in the lip for the headphone jack on the upper left corner (when held in portrait mode), the left side for the Smart Connector, and a portion of the bottom for the Lightning port and speakers.

If you detach the iPad Pro from the keyboard portion, the best way to hold the iPad Pro and avoid the lip is with your left hand, freeing your right to utilize the touchscreen.

If you're left handed and want to hold the iPad with your right, you could hold the tablet upside down, putting the home button above the display -- totally a fine way to use the device, but a weird concession users will make if they rely on this case.




The lip around the exterior of the case is not prominent enough to make it impossible to hold the iPad on those sides if you choose. But it is uncomfortable, and feels unnatural, especially when you've used a case-free iPad. Or at least a slimmer case that's more flush with the edges of the device.

The rear case also has cut-out holes for the left speakers, microphones and camera, as expected. And there are hard plastic buttons that can be pressed for the volume controls and lock button.

On the right side of the case (or up top, if you're using it in keyboard mode) is a thin cloth loop that securely holds an Apple Pencil. Given that Apple's own Smart Keyboard does not have a place to use the Pencil when in use, this is one other way the Slim Combo bests the first-party accessory keyboard option.




The highlight of the rear case is the aforementioned kickstand, which offers multiple viewing angles and works great on a desk (but less great on a lap). Notably, the other Smart Connector keyboard options available -- Apple's Smart Keyboard, and Logitech's own competing option (which isn't even available for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro) -- do not have this level of flexibility. With those options, when using the keyboard, you're stuck in one position.

For some, the kickstand capability alone could be the main reason the Slim Combo wins out over competing options. And we'll give credit where it's due: The kickstand is solid and works well.

Conclusion: Right for some, but probably not for most

There is a market of users out there who will absolutely love the Logitech Slim Combo. They are likely the kind of people who want their iPad Pro to be more like a laptop (or, perhaps, a Microsoft Surface with kickstand). For those users, the Logitech Slim Combo will be a great investment that will greatly enhance the productivity and flexibility of the iPad Pro.

If you value the portability and thinness of the iPad Pro, however, you likely won't be a fan of the Slim Combo. As an iPad case, it's bulky, and the lips covering two of four edges will limit how you can hold it and use it in tablet mode.




The keyboard attachment is also thick and heavy, making the whole package noticeably thicker than a MacBook Pro. Considering the $650 starting price of the iPad Pro and the additional $130 for the Slim Combo, users who want a light computer and favor portability over a touchscreen may be better off spending a few hundred dollars more on a non-Retina MacBook Air, or the 12-inch MacBook with Retina display.

We're glad the Slim Combo is on the market. As with cases and speakers, Made for iPad and iPhone accessories are unique and varied, tailored to different specific use cases.

We're sure plenty of users want adjustable angles when using their iPad Pro with a Smart Connector keyboard. If you were waiting for that capability, your accessory has arrived.

Ideally, Logitech's Slim Combo would be the start of a wave of Smart Connector accessories, greatly enhancing the functionality of the iPad Pro lineup in new, unique, and personal ways. However, given that the Smart Connector has been around for more than a year and a half, and the number of accessories for it remains paltry, we're not holding our breath.

Kudos to Logitech for stepping up to the plate and filling the void. A little bit.

Score: 3 out or 5

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Where to buy

Logitech's Slim Combo keyboard for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro retails for $129.99 and can be pre-ordered directly from Logitech with free shipping. Apple is currently reporting a 3-4 week delay for the new accessory.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    One thing that this review does not cover is the major design flaw in the keyboard.  I have already posted it on the Logitech website (https://community.logitech.com/s/question/0D55A00006wUblY/slimcombo-keyboard-issue?), but their response was less than stellar.  They will forward my comments to the correct department.  Anyway, When you have the case on with the keyboard closed, while carrying it, it is EXTREMELY easy to press the play button.  The iPad then starts playing whatever it wants, and if the volume is up, it plays it loudly.  To me, this is a MAJOR design flaw.  If the keyboard is closed, the iPad locks; the keyboard should lock too, but it doesn't.  This flaw allows buttons to pushed while closed.  I have not confirmed this, but I believe that due to this flaw, if you have your device set up to erase after 10 incorrect login attempts, it is possible to accidentally wipe your device.  
  • Reply 2 of 11
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 749editor
    AbelR1975 said:
    One thing that this review does not cover is the major design flaw in the keyboard.  I have already posted it on the Logitech website (https://community.logitech.com/s/question/0D55A00006wUblY/slimcombo-keyboard-issue?), but their response was less than stellar.  They will forward my comments to the correct department.  Anyway, When you have the case on with the keyboard closed, while carrying it, it is EXTREMELY easy to press the play button.  The iPad then starts playing whatever it wants, and if the volume is up, it plays it loudly.  To me, this is a MAJOR design flaw.  If the keyboard is closed, the iPad locks; the keyboard should lock too, but it doesn't.  This flaw allows buttons to pushed while closed.  I have not confirmed this, but I believe that due to this flaw, if you have your device set up to erase after 10 incorrect login attempts, it is possible to accidentally wipe your device.  
    Interesting. The thread you shared appears to be specific to the 12.9-inch version. This review is for the 10.5-inch Slim Combo. The two keyboards have different designs — the 12.9, for example, has a flap that folds under the keyboard, while the 10.5 is a solid piece of plastic that cannot be folded where your wrists rest while typing.

    I'm looking at the 10.5 now and I don't see any possible way that the play button on the keyboard could be pressed in clamshell mode. There is a rather large rubber stopper at the top of the keyboard attachment (which also has the FCC and regulatory stuff printed on it) that the iPad pushes up against, leaving a considerable gap between the iPad and the keyboard.

    While your issue is interesting (and rather unfortunate), it has no bearing on this review.
    AbelR1975jalyst
  • Reply 3 of 11
    Good to know!  Thank you for clarifying..i assumed that they were the same, just scaled down.  Thanks for the response!
    jalyst
  • Reply 4 of 11
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 749editor
    AbelR1975 said:
    Good to know!  Thank you for clarifying..i assumed that they were the same, just scaled down.  Thanks for the response!
    I haven't had the 12.9 in hand, but from pics on Logitech's own website they look like very different products, which is strange. I can't tell if it's their marketing or not, but is there the same prominent lip around the perimeter of the 12.9 case? It actually looks flush on Logitech's website.
    jalyst
  • Reply 5 of 11
    There is a slight lip around the iPad shell.  The keyboard itself has two rubber ‘bumpers’ on both the left and right sides.  I’m assuming that those bumpers are meant to keep the keys from being pressed.  The issue is that when carrying the iPad, most people do it from the center...where theres no bumper.  The play button is fairly close to the center and the keyboard definitely has some give.  So, when carrying it, just normal pressure causes the play button to depress.  I’m assuming that other buttons are being pressed too, it’s just not nearly as obvious because the other buttons don’t blare music.  

    And I appologize for hijacking the topic on this article.  I didn’t see a review for the 12.9” and I’m just frustrated with it, so when I saw the title of the article, I just blew right over the 10.5” part.  
    jalyst
  • Reply 6 of 11
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 749editor
    AbelR1975 said:
    There is a slight lip around the iPad shell.  The keyboard itself has two rubber ‘bumpers’ on both the left and right sides.  I’m assuming that those bumpers are meant to keep the keys from being pressed.  The issue is that when carrying the iPad, most people do it from the center...where theres no bumper.  The play button is fairly close to the center and the keyboard definitely has some give.  So, when carrying it, just normal pressure causes the play button to depress.  I’m assuming that other buttons are being pressed too, it’s just not nearly as obvious because the other buttons don’t blare music.  

    And I appologize for hijacking the topic on this article.  I didn’t see a review for the 12.9” and I’m just frustrated with it, so when I saw the title of the article, I just blew right over the 10.5” part.  
    I saw the 12.9" in person tonight and the design is completely different from the 10.5". I passed your concerns along to Logitech. They're going to be providing AI with a 12.9" keyboard for review, so I'll see if I can recreate the issue you and others have experienced.

    Also, the lip around the 10.5" model is significantly more prominent than the 12.9".
    jalyst
  • Reply 7 of 11
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 818member
    I bought the 10.5" iPad Pro as well as Apple's Smart Keyboard and couldn't be more pleased. The lightweight Keyboard protects the Pro and I've had no problem typing on it.
    A win-win.

    edited June 2017
  • Reply 8 of 11
    julezmcjulezmc Posts: 1member
    I bought the Slim Combo for the 10.5 and have used it for a couple of weeks. It's a nice keyboard and it's backlit, which I prefer. I also like the top row of command keys. Using the keyboard to type anywhere except at a desk/table isn't very comfortable, but I don't need to use the keyboard in my lap so it works for me. If it didn't disconnect from the case I wouldn't like it. The reason I chose this as my case, over the very limited selection that was available on the release date, was because the kickstand is very versatile. I used the Logitech AnyAngle with my iPad Air 2 and really liked that it is completely behind the iPad and that it could be maneuvered into any angle. This one is very similar, but it isn't the width as the iPad 10.5 as mentioned in the article. I don't like the case to jut out in front of the iPad while I'm using it, as so many folio cases do. I don't like how thick/bulky it is with the keyboard attached so I don't carry it attached. There is a tall lip as mentioned, however, it hasn't interfered with my use of it, not even with the pen. I wasn't opposed to buying the Apple keyboard, but unfortunately they didn't have a case to protect the back of the iPad and I don't like to use mine without one. I don't use the loop at the top to carry my pen because I have a rubber sleeve on the pen that makes it easier for me to use. It adds to the grip and eliminates the slippery feel. It also makes it more balanced and not as top heavy. This probably isn't the case for everyone but if your angle is important to your enjoyment of your IPad, you want a cast to protect the back, and a keyboard, then you might like it. The one thing that would make it even better would be if a Smart Cover fit on the top to protect the screen when the keybroad isn't needed. The Apple Smart Cover connector, at the top, is about 1/4 of an inch too wide on each side. Otherwise, it actually lays right on the glass and the case doesn't interfere with it. 
    AbelR1975nhughesjalyst
  • Reply 9 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 2,904member
    "There's a sizable market of users who view Apple's iPad as a laptop replacement"

    A touchscreen (only) laptop?
    Apple already said that was crap.
    ... SO FIX IT!
  • Reply 10 of 11

    Even though this article covers the 10.5", I'd like to express my frustration and say that AbelR1975's comment on the 12.9" keyboard is correct. I just spent 2 weeks in the U.K. traveling with the Logitech Slim Combo Smart Connector. Carried the 12.9" iPad Pro in a small backpack and just from minor jostling the play button would depress and music would start playing. It also occurs when I'm carrying it around in my hand. Really inconvenient  and embarrassing when the volume is turned up and you're on the Tube, Bus, in a Pub/Restaurant etc. Major design flaw.
    AbelR1975
  • Reply 11 of 11
    Sub.
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