My top gadget for 2013 (so far)

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on
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.

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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.

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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.

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