The iPad is great for so many things, yet many people believe its primary usage is media consumption, in contrast to creating content. A bare iPad does not have the exact precision of a pencil, nor the same touch typing experience of a regular keyboard, making those points undeniably valid.
There are however things you can do to augment your iPad, and achieve a reasonable precision when drawing, and to get that special touch type experience you only get from a physical keyboard.
I recently purchased a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for my iPad 3. Its backside resembles the brushed aluminum back of the iPad, which makes them go perfectly together. The keyboard side is made from high-gloss plastic with matte keys, and the groove where the iPad rests feels solid and will not break easily.
The keys feel firm and has a good resistance to them when pressed, and can be compared to the keys on a Macbook Pro. The keys are only marginally smaller, with the exception of the Nordic layout which have the special characters å, ä and ö pushed together next to the enter key. After a few minutes of typing though, you will get used to them and it will not bother you.
The Smart Cover magnets
The iPad has magnets to hold the Smart Cover in place. The Logitech Keyboard Cover uses these magnets to latch on to the iPad, preventing it falling off when the keyboard covers the screen.
When the iPad is docked in the keyboard groove, the magnets will latch on to the bottom, which is a great reassurance if dropping the iPad is a big concern. You can even pick up the iPad, and the keyboard cover will still hang on firmly.
It does only work in landscape mode though, since there are no opposing magnets on the portrait side of the iPad. It does work fairly well in that mode as well though, as long as the keyboard is resting on a flat surface.
Vim and escape
One of the main reasons for using the keyboard cover is to access remote servers using SSH in addition to typing articles and documents. I mostly use a combination of Diet Coda and Screen to attain some level of productivity.
The main problem however, occurs when using vim to edit files. It extensively uses the escape key, which poses a great problem since the escape key is conveniently mapped to the home button. This means that every time the escape key is pressed, the application closes and one is taken back to the home screen.
The only solution I found is to double-press the escape key, making the multitasking bar appear on the iPad, and then tap it again to get back to the application. Other than that particular gripe, things have been working very well.
I was very skeptical when reading the specs indicating six months of usage from a single charge. This was supposed to be possible because of the magnets, which automatically powers the keyboard on and off when it is attached to the screen.
I was wrong.
I have not charged it since the unboxing, and it is still going as strong as ever. Even with it being powered on for entire days at a time. It charges using a micro-USB connector, which is right next to the power and sync buttons.
Having used the keyboard cover for about a month, I have found both good things and bad. I do not regret getting the keyboard and will continue to use it daily.
One issue with the keyboard cover is that it basically doubles the thickness of the iPad, making the iPad feel a bit bulky when you are carrying it around.
The main problem however, occurs when you want to use the iPad for reading, browsing or some other activity not using the keyboard. Where do one put the cover? The original Smart Cover would just fold around, but the keyboard has to be placed somewhere.
On a more positive note, writing has been a breeze and everything from instant messaging and using ssh to connect to remote servers, to writing articles and just browsing the web has become a lot faster and easier. It almost feels like typing on a real Macbook, with the exception of not having a trackpad.
Looking forward, I am not sure what to do once I get the iPad Mini (the cellular version has just been released in Sweden and is out of stock). On one hand, the iPad together with the keyboard cover makes for a great workstation when on the go, but on the other hand, the iPad Mini is just too perfect to pass up. Would a similar keyboard cover for the iPad Mini work, or would the keys be too small?