Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad (review)

Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio for iPad (review)

Summary: One of the biggest advantages the iPad enjoys over the competition is the huge accessory ecosystem. Those wanting a keyboard to use with the iPad have a lot of choices, including the new FabricSkin from Logitech with its spill-resistant keyboard.

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The accessory ecosystem for the iPad is going strong, as evidenced by the number of keyboard/cases for Apple's tablet. I use my iPad with a keyboard regularly, and I end up trying most products. That includes the newest model to appear, the Logitech FabricSkin Folio keyboard case.

FabricSkin profile
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The FabricSkin is a protective case that completely covers the iPad, and adds a unique keyboard to the package that adds little thickness. The keyboard on the FabricSkin consists of low-profile keys that have been molded into the cover.

If this sounds like the TouchCover from Microsoft for the Surface tablet, it's sort of like that. The difference between the TouchCover and the FabricSkin is that the former uses totally flat keys that operate by touch without physical keys. The FabricSkin uses real keys that have tactile feedback when pressed, just like normal keyboards. Having used both the Microsoft TouchCover and TypeCover, I would say the FabricSkin keyboard fits between the two. An added benefit, the keys molded into the lid means that the FabricSkin's keyboard is spill resistant.

Logitech has chosen a design with the keyboard that is different from most models for the iPad. The FabricSkin keyboard uses full-size keys with standard spacing for the primary keys used in text entry, aka alphabet keys, at the expense of smaller keys for lesser used characters. The small keys include the top number row and some punctuation keys.

The top row also has a row of iPad functions keys that include Home, Screen lock, and volume controls. These are activated by holding the Fn key and pressing the control key. Unfortunately, Logitech needed to save space to make the main keys full-size so both the Tab and Caps Lock keys require the Fn key to access them.

Using the FabricSkin

The iPad is completely covered in the case, and feels quite durable with the folio closed. I wouldn't try dropping the case with the iPad inside, but I believe it would withstand some abuse. The outside of the folio as reviewed is a rubbery black material that provides a good grip when held. The FabricSkin is available in several colors and materials, which is where the name comes, from but the entire unit I am testing feels like rubber and plastic. It's very well designed and looks good.

FabricSkin closed
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

There are cutouts in the folio for the power plug and camera. The power button, volume rocker, and mute/rotate lock controls on the iPad are completely covered by the folio case, which has overlay controls that work fine.

The folio is held firmly closed by magnets in the case. This also serves as the iPad on/off when opened/closed. Once opened, the iPad attaches to the top of the keyboard by magnets that hold the tablet at a comfortable viewing angle for typing. The FabricSkin senses when the iPad is being held by the magnets and turns itself on; it turns off when the iPad is lifted from the keyboard for either closing or sliding over the keyboard for use as a pure tablet. There is no power button nor Bluetooth button on the FabricSkin due to this design.

FabricSkin keyboard closeup
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The keys on the FabricSkin give solid tactile feedback when pressed, and as a result, it is possible to type fast. The full-sized keys and spacing between them is like a laptop keyboard, contributing to a good typing experience. Typing slows down when hitting the smaller keys. The smaller keys most affecting the typing experience for me are the colon and apostrophe keys. I have to consciously slow down and look at these keys to hit them accurately.

The iPad sticks firmly to the keyboard as the magnets are pretty strong. The entire package can be picked up by the top of the iPad when in typing mode.

The FabricSkin charges via the included micro-USB cable, and according to Logitech, you should get three months out of a charge when typing two hours a day.

The Logitech FabricSkin Folio is not the cheapest keyboard for the iPad at a MSRP of $149.99. It is available in a number of finishes and colors. It's not the lightest nor the thinnest profile keyboard case for the iPad, but it is a very durable case that happens to have a good keyboard inside.

FabricSkin typing mode
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Pros:

  • Full-size keys

  • Protects the iPad

  • Two positions for using the iPad

  • Nice, grippy cover

  • Resistant to spills on the keyboard

Cons:

  • Expensive

  • Thicker than expected given low profile keys

  • Hard to remove the iPad

  • Heavier than some competing models (2.7 pounds with iPad)

  • Some keys are very small

  • Some commonly used keys need Fn to operate.

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Topics: Mobility, iPad, Reviews, Tablets

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4 comments
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  • I still think all the choices highlight the short commings of tablets

    It is great that there are so many choices for a user to pick from, but at the same time all of those choices exist, because they are trying to address something that is missing.

    If any of those choices was really good then it would dominate the others, or at least the best few would.

    $150 for something that basically just adds a adhoc typing experience, but has a big laundry list of negatives. All of these choices are kludgy, expensive and most often ruin the strengths of the ipads light and thin portable design just to add a slightly improved typing experience. These things are trying so hard to make the ipad something it isn't.
    Emacho
  • Good to hear James

    "One of the biggest advantages the iPad enjoys over the competition is the huge accessory ecosystem. Those wanting a keyboard to use with the iPad have a lot of choices"

    I choose a keyboard with a track pad and a physical connection for lag free and airplane safe operation. You say the advantage of ipad is choice, prove it.

    It is more accurate to say that ipad offers you a huge choice of equally bad options, each exactly the same as the other with the only difference being the name. That isn't REAL choice. Any of this sounding familiar to you apple fanboys? Sure, there are only 2 options for keyboards that are purpose built for the Surface (though every one of your "huge choice of ipad keyboards also works just as poorly on the Surface as they do on the ipad") but when you have the best available, a choice of other, inferior products is not a feature.
    toddbottom3
  • When you see

    A 10” tablet with a keyboard attached to it, you know that the person using probably bought the wrong device.
    mil7
  • Spock

    I'm pretty sure I've seen Star Trek episodes where Spock was using a tablet. I'm pretty sure I didn't see an accessory keyboard. That would have been so 20th century.
    rfoto