Back in April, we reported that Logitech had launched its FabricSkin, a keyboard case for iPad that looked amazingly well integrated and generally efficient. Now, we have our hands on it and after using it for a few days, we can report back from the trenches to let you know how it really feels to use it in the real world.
If you are not familiar with the product, FabricSkin is an integrated keyboard-case that fits iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4 products. We have not tested it with a first generation iPad, but it may just work as well. In this review, I’m using an iPad 2 since we had one laying around in the office. FabricSkin is designed to protect from shocks, scratches and its keyboard can resist water spills and should be essentially water-proof, which means that you can clean it with a good dose of water.
Ruggedness: very good
In terms of protection, I find this case to be “very good”. It can probably protect efficiently from a 3ft or 5ft drop, and the plastic around the case is tough but slightly bendable at the same time, which is a good thing to absorb shocks. Now, there is a slight possibility that during the drop, the screen cover may open and expose the display, so I won’t call this “excellent”, but I’m very satisfied with the protection level in the context of a regular usage (not in hazardous places).
Overall Bulk: A bit heavy and thick
With a high ruggedness often comes more bulk and weight. That’s the case here… honestly, the case itself is thicker and heavier than I expected. With the iPad 2 inside, the whole setup weights 2.57lbs, which is slightly heavier (and thicker) than my Microsoft Surface Pro with the Type keyboard. Obviously at this weight the Surface Pro is not protected, but still we’re talking about carrying the bulk of a fully-functional touch Ultrabook computer here. This is something that Logitech can hopefully improve over time, or provide in another product.
Keyboard efficiency (good-)
The whole point of a keyboard is that you can type fast (or faster). It is clear that Logitech had to make a difficult choice here since they needed to sacrifice some typing performance for the sake of making the keyboard waterproof. In the end, the waterproofing is beautiful, but it took a toll on the typing performance.
The membrane makes the keys feel a bit “gummy” which is not a great tactile feedback in general. Maybe I’m a little picky since as a writer or a programmer I do type a lot. On the other hand, if you can get past the gummy keys, I still find it to be faster or more sustainable than the virtual keyboard, so it’s still has some productivity value.
Industrial Design: good looking!
Logitech did a great job on the design of this FabricSkin case. The fabric itself feels a bit “plastic”, but it seems very sturdy and won’t have any fingerprint issue. It feels warm to the touch, and not greasy or slippery. In “laptop” mode, there is a magnetic mechanism that prevents the tablet from sliding over the keyboard. That’s an elegant an efficient solution.
In the future, Logitech may be able to refine this solution and offer a variant that is more geared towards business/productivity folks, with less protection and a faster keyboard, but I feel like this is not the audience that the company wanted to reach right now: families and kids.
The Logitech Fabric Skin preserves the initial good impression that we had when we first looked at it. I really like the design, and if it wasn’t for the weight it would be almost perfect. Right now, I feel that Fabric Skin is great for a home/family use and this is a product that be relatively kid-friendly (in terms of toughness).
If like me you are a person who’s more interested by the “productive” aspect of the keyboard integration, I would recommend testing it or looking at other options. I hope that Logitech will build another product for productivity use. I have been very impressed with the Microsoft keyboards for the Surface tablet, and wish that there was something as performant and light in the iPad world.