I’m on the record as loving Logitech’s Apple accessories, having been a very early champion of the K811 Easy-Switch Keyboard, and fan of its cleanly-designed Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac. The company also thrilled a lot of people with its Ultrathin series of iPad keyboards, which weren’t cheap or perfect, but worked well while looking and feeling nice. And many of Logitech’s Ultimate Ears speakers have nailed the rare combination of great looks, great sound, and great pricing.

So what the heck happened with the Create Backlit Keyboard Case for iPad Pro ($150)?

I wanted to like Create. In all honesty, I wanted to love Create, because it’s obvious that the large, heavy iPad Pro desperately needs a great keyboard case to simultaneously function as a stand, a great typing surface, and an insurance policy against damage. But rather than borrowing the best elements from Logitech’s prior keyboard cases, Create uses some design touches that really don’t work with the larger tablet. Consequently, while it’s an okay first day option, it falls short in a number of important ways that are worth considering in light of the iPad Pro’s release this week…

Key Details:

  • The first iPad Pro keyboard case to actually hit stores
  • Supports iPad Pro Smart Connector, runs off iPad power
  • 13″ MacBook Pro-sized
  • Feels heavy, rough in the hand
  • Very good keyboard typing experience, three-level backlight

In form and execution, the Create Backlit Keyboard Case for iPad Pro treads on very familiar territory. Measuring roughly 12.2″ by 9″ by 0.75″ — a little larger than a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro — it is a fabric-covered folio, opening to reveal a keyboard on the left side and an iPad-holding partial frame on the right. The exterior material is ballistic nylon in your choice of black, red, or purple, with soft plastic button covers and a hard plastic C-shaped frame to grip the iPad Pro’s right side. I normally love the resilience of ballistic nylon when it’s used in bags, but as a taut covering for a heavy computer, it feels unsettling — one step less weird in the hand than a laptop coated in fur. Carrying it around made me realize how much I appreciate a smooth texture when I’m holding something large, and with Create on, the iPad Pro feels as bulky as a MacBook Pro.

Create’s most problematic element is the C-shaped iPad frame, which makes insertion or removal of the substantial-feeling Pro simultaneously feel uncertain and uncomfortable. The frame uses physical pressure to clamp your iPad in place, focusing your fingers on the feel of somewhat sharp-edged plastic against Apple’s expensive and large metal Pro chassis. Once the iPad’s inserted and confirmed to be in exactly the right place, it feels steady inside the frame. But it’s not easy to get alignment perfect, and the flush-mounted volume button covers don’t work properly if the iPad’s not snug against the frame’s edge. Since people will frequently want to pull the tablet out for non-keyboard use, a better insertion/release mechanism is seriously needed.

As a stand, Create has one nice feature iPad keyboard case users now take for granted: it attaches the iPad Pro magnetically to a bar right above the typing surface, activating the keyboard as soon as the physical connection is made. Although the packaging notes that Create supports two angles for typing and viewing, only the typing recline is rigidly supported magnetically, while the steeper angle is more passive and subject to slippage when the iPad’s not being used on a flat surface. Strong support for more viewing angles would go a long way towards making the iPad Pro feel more like a laptop, so keyboard case makers should be thinking of ways to accomplish this.

If there’s any bright spot in Create’s design, that would be the keyboard itself, which is typically excellent in the way so many Logitech keyboards have been. Like the K811, the keys aren’t exactly like an Apple keyboard’s; this time, they use a cool Futura or a Futura-like font, and are almost slippery-smooth in texture. But they’re so close in feel and functionality that there’s zero learning curve before you start typing like a… well, Pro. I was able to type far more accurately and quickly on Create than with the iPad Pro’s new landscape or portrait keyboards, each of which I’ve found less comfortable to type on than the iPad mini’s and Air’s virtual keyboards.

The key array mimics Apple’s, including iOS-specific function keys while adding keyboard brightness controls; as with Apple’s iOS keyboards, there’s no Escape key to be found. Key travel is slightly greater than on Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, and slightly less than on its past Wireless Keyboard, a compromise that’s easy to like. Oddly for a premium-priced Logitech design, the keyboard has a somewhat cheap-looking top housing, which is primarily either space gray, silver, or gold metal, but with awkward-looking plastic wings on the left and right sides.

There haven’t been many battery-less iPad keyboards — few companies released Lightning keyboards or Dock Connector keyboards — but that looks set to change with the iPad Pro. Bluetooth has so dominated the iPad keyboard category that I’ve gotten accustomed to opening a box and finding the same two items inside: the keyboard and a USB charging cable. Here, thanks to Logitech’s inclusion of the iPad Pro’s new Smart Connector, Create doesn’t ship with or need a charging cable: it is powered exclusively by the iPad Pro itself, which is a non-trivial accomplishment given that it’s not just a keyboard, but a backlit one. Although there are only three brightness settings — off, dimly lit, or brightly lit — they work as expected, with a bit of light escaping from the edges of some keys at the top and bottom. All but the most nitpicky keyboard users will appreciate Logitech’s inclusion of the backlighting feature, which differentiates Create from Apple’s iPad Pro Smart Keyboard.

It should be noted that batteries and charging generally aren’t issues for iPad keyboards. Many Bluetooth keyboards now promise 3, 6, or 12 months of run time on a single charge, numbers that are cut by 50% or more if backlighting is on, and Bluetooth pairing has become both effortless and power-efficient. So while the decision to run off iPad power rather than Bluetooth might matter if you save money or gain convenience in the process, neither really applies with Create. The $150 price is actually higher than a comparable Logitech iPad Air keyboard case with a long-lived battery and Bluetooth chip inside, and you’re just swapping the instant-on of a Bluetooth connection for the instant-on of a Smart Connector connection.

As noted at the beginning of this review, I would have been very happy to both have Create and recommend it as an ideal iPad Pro keyboard case — many iPad Pro users are going to find that they need something like it pretty quickly after buying Apple’s huge tablet. But between its size, weight, external texture, internal frame, and modest viewing angle adjustability, Create is hard to even like; even worse, it’s only compatible with a single iPad model, and expensive. You could buy a brand new 32GB Apple TV for the same price.

If you need something to use with your new iPad Pro, Create is a serviceable option, but most users will be much better off spending fewer dollars buying a great multi-device keyboard such as the K811 and their choice of inexpensive iPad Pro cases. I hope that Logitech and other companies learn from this early keyboard case’s mistakes, and quickly, because a lot of people will be looking for great iPad Pro keyboard cases in the very near future.

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