Since I primarily use Chromebooks to get work done, an iPad has not been an essential device in my arsenal. A couple of new products from Logitech significantly increase the capability of my sub-$300 2019 Apple iPad and it may take on a more prominent role in my mobile toolset.
ZDNet's Jason Cipriani recently posted his review of the new $299/$350 Apple Magic Keyboard that is available now for iPad Pro models. The new Logitech Combo Touch keyboard is available for $149.99 in two configurations. The one I tested is for the 7th generation Apple iPad and another is available for the 3rd generation iPad Air or iPad Pro 10.5 inch tablet.
Logitech also sent along its Pebble i345 mouse designed specifically for all iPad models. It's a $29.99 mouse with 18-month battery life.
Combo Touch Hardware
The Logitech Combo Touch keyboard is a two-piece solution for the Apple iPad. The top consists of a protective shell case that covers all four corners and three sides with a soft TPU bumper material. Openings are present for the Lightning port, speaker, headphone jack, and microphone. Both parts of the case are wrapped in woven fabric and the wrist rests on either side of the trackpad have this same material.
There is an Apple Pencil sleeve on the top that also works with the Logitech Crayon. This is one feature that Apple fails to address with its standard Smart Cover.
On the back we see a reinforced camera opening that doesn't impact your ability to take photos. The bottom 2/3rds of the back functions similar to a Surface Pro as a sturdy kickstand. The bottom of the kickstand extends out about 135 degrees so you get a full range of viewing angles for video viewing or sketch mode. There are no hard stops for the kickstand so you will be able to find the angle that is best for you.
The bottom (left side in portrait orientation) is not protected since this is where the keyboard part of the solution attaches.
The bottom piece of the Logitech Combo Touch is the keyboard and front display cover. The keyboard attaches via Apple's Smart Connector, which is wonderful because there is no Bluetooth pairing to manage and the connector provides power to the keyboard so you never have to worry about charging up the keyboard.
Six rows of keys are provided on the Combo Touch keyboard with great spacing and keyboard travel (1mm). The top row consists of 14 functions, including display brightness controls, keyboard backlighting controls, playback controls, volume controls, and more.
While the well-designed keys and decent 5-level backlighting are nearly perfect for this size accessory, the highlight that changes the game for iPad owners is the trackpad. The 5.5mm x 9.5mm trackpad lets you navigate around the iPad and even use multi-finger gestures to swipe, scroll, switch windows, and pinch.
Pebble i345 mouse
While the trackpad offers the ability to navigate around the display, I find it even more useful for the gestures. Logitech's Pebble i345 wireless mouse for the Apple iPad is an awesome option for cursor control.
It is a lightweight (100 grams) mouse that is very comfortable in the hand. It is available in graphite and white colors with a three-button design. The middle button also serves as a scroll wheel, which makes browsing through long lists a seemless affair.
The left and right mouse buttons function perfectly in iPadOS 13.4. Clicks are also very quiet on the mouse and with the included AA battery you may see your battery last for up to 18 months.
iPadOS 13.4 support
The latest version of iPad OS launched with enhanced trackpad support. While Apple iPad Pro owners use these with the new Apple Magic Keyboard, Logitech worked with Apple to include support on the Combo Touch keyboard.
The three-finger swipe works wonders to switch apps or pop back to the Home screen. Swipe up and hold with three fingers to go to the multitasking view.
Two-finger scrolling works to scroll all over the pace, including in the Today view widget if you have it on your Home screen. You can also use two fingers to pinch to zoom in or out.
Make sure to visit Settings>General>Trackpad to customize tracking speed, scrolling behavior, and trackpad options. I have tap to click toggled off so I have to actually press in on the trackpad (it has a satisfying response with a fairly quiet action) to select things. Two-finger secondary click is a good option to enable as it serves as a right-click or a long press. On the Home screen, using this two-finger secondary click makes it easy to access a host of contextual options.
If you want to have a bit of fine-tuning control of the keyboard, you can download the Logitech Control app from the App Store. The app lets you update the keyboard firmware, control the duration of the backlight, and control the speed at which the lights fade off.
Daily usage experiences
The Logitech Combo Touch keyboard is not an inexpensive accessory, especially if you paid just twice this price for the iPad itself. However, if you want to use your iPad for optimal productivity and efficiency then the keyboard is worth the price. It has drastically changed the way I use my iPad in just a couple of weeks.
This two-piece keyboard solution is not a minimalist solution, adding 610 grams with a depth of 26.5mm, to your iPad package. The 7th generation Apple iPad (WiFi model) weighs in at just 483 grams with a thickness of 7.5mm. However, you get an Apple Pencil holder, useful keyboard, and trackpad to make the low-cost iPad a computer competitor.
The only thing that disappoints me about the design of the Logitech Combo Touch is the weakness of the magnets holding the bottom keyboard portion to the top cover piece. Nearly every single time I lift up the iPad with the keyboard in typing position it falls off the top part and hits the desk or floor. The setup is also not optimal for lap use, but works perfect as a mobile laptop solution on a desk or table.
It is fantastic to FINALLY have a trackpad on an iPad and I have to honestly say I was not expecting it to be this good either. Apple and Logitech finally have a decent solution for iPad users looking to make their device more useful for getting work done.