My top gadget for 2013 (so far)

My top gadget for 2013 (so far)

Summary: There are a lot of gadgets that come through my home office, which range in usefulness from not very to game changing for me. One of the latter is so good that it has changed my routine for the better.

Which gadget
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The number of devices and accessories that I have used over the past few months has been impressive. These include a few laptops/hybrids/tablets that have impressed me in the field. I've also had a number of cases with keyboards for the iPad and iPad mini pass my way. Surprisingly, it's one of those keyboards that has made the biggest impact in my routine.

To understand how impressive this gadget has to be for me to proclaim it the best of the year so far, it's necessary to look at the devices it was competing with.

Laptops/tablets (links to reviews):

Keyboard cases (links to reviews):

These are only the primary gadgets I've evaluated this year, to keep the list manageable. It's an impressive list and represents gadgets/accessories ranging from <$100 to well over $1,000. So which device has contributed more to my routine than any other?

The winner is

After long thought on the matter, I have to proclaim the Logitech Keyboard Folio mini as the gadget that has most impacted my routine. Yes, a lowly keyboard case for the iPad mini reigns supreme over the entire list of gadgets I have used so far this year.

Folio mini side-profile-600x551
Logitech Keyboard Folio mini. (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

To be fair, the notebooks/hybrids on the list above don't impact my work more than they do because I have so many of them. I could lose any of them and still go on as usual because others will fill the void. That doesn't reflect on the worth of any of them; it is that way due to the stash of gear always at my disposal.

The same can't be said for the various keyboard/cases I've used for tablets. A good keyboard/case can turn the iPad into a reasonable working partner given the work I do. While that is true for the bigger iPad, I didn't believe that was the case for the little iPad mini until the Logitech Keyboard Folio mini showed up at my door.

This small case for the iPad mini has changed how I approach daily wanderings around the city. When I head out of my home office on day trips, historically, I've taken a laptop or the iPad with keyboard depending on if my goal was to work or to enjoy leisure activities.

In the case of a work trip, a laptop/hybrid is necessary to facilitate hours of working, no matter where it might take place. Leisure trips are a different matter, as I don't plan on working during these outings, but I need to be prepared to write if the opportunity (or the muse) presents itself unexpectedly. The iPad with keyboard has always been a good compromise for those times. Not too big in the bag, but able to handle a good writing sessions.

Then the Keyboard Folio mini showed up and changed the way I handle those leisure day trips. When it first arrived, there was no way I believed such a small keyboard could handle short, but intensive writing sessions on the go.

Keyboard Folio mini closed for travel. (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

But the more I use this keyboard, the plainer it becomes that with the large keys and thoughtful keyboard design, it can indeed handle a lot of writing. I carry it in the smallest gear bag I own, and the iPad mini in the Keyboard Folio mini adds almost no weight. It's like carrying nothing when I head out, as I imagine non-geeks do, yet it turns out that I have a full writing machine just in case.

Folio mini tablet-use-600x384
Keyboard Folio mini used as a tablet. (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

This only works for me because Logitech has thoughtfully designed the case so that the iPad mini can be slid over the keyboard for use as a tablet. The case with the iPad mini weighs so little that such tablet work is very comfortable. The iPad mini hasn't been out of the case for that reason. This is where larger cases for the bigger iPad fail. They're uncomfortable to use in tablet mode for very long, and hard to remove the iPad for such use.

A month ago, prior to the arrival of the Logitech Keyboard Folio mini, I would not have believed that I would proclaim such a case to be the top gadget of the year so far for me. It has indeed made a big change to how I approach my daily wanderings, and worth the title of most impactful. It might not be such a big deal to everyone, but as a writer, having a full writing machine in such a small package is hugely important to me.

I am writing this article sitting in a beautful 100 year-old hotel lobby, typing like a whirlwind on the Keyboard Folio mini. After this, I'm heading out to see where fate takes me. I'll probably read an ebook on the iPad mini in the Folio at some point. It's easy enough to do.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • A gadget accessory item must be quite impactful to receive this endorsement

    It should be fair to state that this Logitech Keyboard Folio product "completes" the iPad mini concept. So the synergy between the two must be impressive.

    Some might argue, however, that with a combine weight of 1.55 lbs, this mobile system is competing against some formidable competition.
  • That's retarded....

    I Honestly don't get people who buy a tablet and then attach a keyboard???what's the point?It's called a mac book air if you need something light,small screen and a keyboard....the fact that you also name this your top gadget.....WOW!!!!
    • He said "for me"...

      I don't get people who think one size fits all. This works great... FOR HIM... for the reasons he stated.

      Yes, a MacBook Air would be great for what he's using this combo for, but there's something else to consider; the price. You could have this combo for less than half the price of an Air. Another factor is size; 7.9" is smaller than 11". This combo may be a hair thicker, but overall size is smaller. Another factor that could be huge is the option of cellular. You can't get that in an Air. Meanwhile, an iPad mini with cellular starts at $459. Lastly, an iPad mini will still run longer on a full charge.

      After what's said above, I can see this combo being very appealing over a MacBook Air, provided you don't have a need for a full desktop OS to get your work done. As he stated, if he does, he has a laptop (or two) at his disposal.

      While I skipped buying MacBooks after the iPad came along, I have different needs. I also purchase iPads with cellular, because the primary reason is I use my iPhone with a prepaid carrier who don't offer tethering, and with my light needs for a connected iPad on the go, it's much cheaper for me to buy data a month at a time as needed. No contracts or outrageous cellphone bills for this guy.
    • How right you are !

      Danz0 - How right you are. When I read about people like this ... I know they are getting old. A sure symptom of not being able to handle new concepts like typing on a touch screen ! Pitiful.
      • Anonymously Unkind

        Why so mean? Is it necessary? Why the judgments? How about "I disagree and here's why." It's become so commonplace for people to shoot other down from the sidelines.
        Deb McCafferty
      • Typing on a screen ... you don't type very much

        For someone to write on a computer quickly, accurately, and for long periods you would not want to be typing on a screen. You lose screen space with the keyboard so cannot easily move around to edit if need be. The keyboard is quicker with number keys and a shift key that lets you work as you would expect at a computer. To say some one is getting old shows how young/immature you must be cos the older I get the more I see that the adage 'with age comes wisdom' is indeed true. Think before you type Saoir.
        Miss Wiggly
    • It is a Touch screen, not a Type screen

      Sure you can type on a touch screen but who would want to do that for hours on end. Adding a keyboard/folio completes the device allowing it to be used as a proper work tool as well as a touch device. Completely different to using a notebook which has no touch, no tablet mode and bigger size.
      Miss Wiggly
  • Chromebook Pixel

  • May I ask why don't you own an Asus Transformer Prime?

    As a keyboard is important to you on a tablet.
    • Oh it's the iPad Mini you own

      Do they make one for the Galaxy Note 8? That would interest me more.
      • Fragmentation...

        I'm sure some of these hardware accessory companies have a hard time trying to figure out which one of these me-too tablets will actually sell well, making it extremely difficult to invest money in R&D. Considering very few of the Android resellers have a blockbuster on their hands, you won't likely find much catered to most of them. The most you'll probably find is a universal-type keyboard case.

        Android tablets are like penises. Every time you turn around, there's another size and shape, and you never know which one will sell (or work) well, making it ever-so-difficult for 3rd party accessory makers.

        Apple only builds a select few products that all sell well, making it easy to know there will be interest in accessories.
    • Portability

      This combo is smaller and much more portable. It's also cheaper.