Thursday, April 20, 2017

The iPad Mini 4 Logitech Focus Keyboard Combo Review

If you are a fan of tablet computers like the iPad but sometimes wish that there was a way to give them a bit more oomph, read on. For the last few years, I have been happily plugging away on an old MacBook that I picked up reconditioned from Mac of All Trades for $250.  It was no one's idea of a top flight machine but it did what I needed it to do without any fuss.  Unfortunately, the latest version of VM Ware, a program that allows me to remote into my office (and in the process run Windows on my Mac) as if I was sitting at my desk, won't work on OSX Lion. And, since that was the last version of OSX that my poor old MacBook could manage, it was time for a new computer, or so I thought.

We had a Dell laptop at home running Windows 8.1 that could run the latest version of VM Ware so I figured I'd give it a try. So, I updated the Dell's software as far as I could, set up my own stuff and gave it a few weeks of use.  As for how I got along with this setup, let me put it this way. I now remember why I switched to a Mac in the first place.  Apple doesn't do everything perfectly in my opinion, my phone is an Android powered Honor 8 and I'm very satisfied with it, but they sure do make a nice laptop. I could have lived with the Dell I suppose but I really wasn't happy. It was not snappy and the battery life was nothing to write home about. And it was very heavy.  However, I also wasn't in a position to drop about a thousand dollars on a new Mac either.  So what to do.

A few months earlier, my daughter told me she needed a laptop for school.  But she said that an iPad with a keyboard case would do the job just fine too.  I had an original iPad years ago and it didn't strike me as a laptop replacement but, I figured, lets see what Apple has to offer.  I wound up getting her an iPad Air and a Logitech keyboard case. To my amazement, it really worked very well. Battery life was terrific and it was really small and easy to carry.  So, when I had to find a solution for my own mobile computing needs, and the Dell wasn't working for me, I decided to do a bit more iPad homework.

It turns out that there is a VM Ware app for iPads that allows them to remote into a supported network just like any other computer. So an iPad with a keyboard would effectively become a Windows computer when needed. And, of course, all of its own considerable capabilities would still be readily available. Best of all, an iPad is not terribly expensive.  The mini 4 ran $399 for a 128gb model (and I had a Visa gift card that effectively cut that in less than half thankfully) and the Logitech Focus keyboard was on sale for $69.  The result is a very small sub notebook based on Apple's excellent iPad.

The Logitech Focus is actually a pretty good keyboard.  It's no match for a full size desktop or even laptop example but it works pretty well and feels solidly made.  The keyboard connects to the iPad via wireless Bluetooth. The keyboard's Bluetooth battery is advertised as being good for six moths on a charge. No worries there. The keyboard/case combo sort of folds over on itself for those times when you want to use the iPad as just a tablet.  It's a little clumsy but you can always take the iPad out of the case when needed. As for typing on it, I had no problems typing this review up.  Worked fine.

I've been using this little machine for a few weeks now and I'm really very impressed. So far, it has managed everything I've thrown at it without issue.  I wouldn't recommend this for writing the great American novel or serious photo editing but, for email, internet access, word processing and simple spreadsheets, it works fine. There are the usual ton of apps available from the App Store for pretty much everything most of us could think of.  And, best of all for me, the whole combo (iPad and keyboard) is small, light and has terrific battery life.  Add in the ability to remote into the office (see the pic of the iPad running Windows) and I don't see the need to go much further than this set up.

The bottom line here is that tablet computers like the iPad have now evolved to the point that they can function as viable laptop computer substitutes for many people. The available accessories (Logitech is one of several companies making keyboards for tablets) have filled in some of the blanks that would have otherwise held a tablet back from this expanded role. If you are in the market for a relatively hassle free small computer, this sort of kit is really worth a good look.

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