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My favorite iPad keyboard and stylus are not made by Apple

Pros

  • Remarkably cheaper than Apple’s Pencil and Magic Keyboard Folio
  • Case provides enhanced protection and better viewing angles
  • Crayon stylus is easy to wield and doesn’t require a dongle to charge

Cons

  • Minor latency compared with Apple’s first-party accessories
  • Crayon stylus is not pressure-sensitive

A few months ago, I reviewed Apple’s vanilla iPad, titling it “A confusingly good iPad,” because that’s exactly what it was. 

It was also at that time when I got to check out the new Magic Keyboard Folio, a $249 type cover that was Apple’s way of introducing a function row key to the iPad experience. As good as the accessory was, to this day, the price is still difficult to swallow.

Sometime later, Logitech pitched me its Combo Touch keyboard cover and Crayon stylus for the 10th-gen iPad, touting superior functionality over Apple’s own keyboard and Pencil — at much more affordable prices. Logitech’s PR team knew exactly what they were doing.

Also: 5 best iPad screen protectors that actually work

Well, months later, here is my testimonial to the brand’s promises, none of which were broken: The Logitech Combo Touch and Crayon are my favorite accessories for the iPad, and ones I’d easily recommend if you’re eyeing a new keyboard case or stylus for your Apple tablet. Here’s why.

Flexing on the Magic Keyboard

The Combo Touch keyboard cover and Apple’s own Magic Keyboard Folio share many similarities, like their two-piece design (the kickstand and detachable keyboard) and how they can be connected to the iPad with a snap of the bottom side pogo pins. 

But Logitech made some additional design choices that I’m a big fan of. 

For one, while both accessories feature a sturdy kickstand, the one on the Combo Touch can fold upward to the point where the iPad is angled just low enough (see image below) for comfortable writing and sketching — a popular use case for tablet owners.

Logitech Combo Touch case folded down.

All four sides of the iPad are protected with the Combo Touch, with an ample amount of space for most USB-C cables.

June Wan/ZDNET

Then there’s the build quality of the Logitech cover, which comes in a hard plastic protective case that you snap the iPad into, versus Apple’s version, which simply sticks to the back of the tablet via magnets. The magnet cover is minimal and easier to install, sure, but it’s also less protective and leaves the sides of the iPad prone to bumps and scratches. You can see the difference in screen protection in the comparison below.

One of the problems that I had with Apple’s Magic Keyboard Folio, besides the price, was that there was no place to store the Apple Pencil. (Remember, even though the 10th-gen iPad looks and feels like the iPad Air, it does not have the magnetic strip on the side to hold the stylus accessory.) That’s why the stylus holder on the top of the Logitech case is worth the call-out. It’s a nifty socket that can keep either the original Apple Pencil (1st gen) or Logitech’s Crayon stylus safely stowed, ready to be plucked out when needed.

Also: The 5 best Apple iPad keyboard cases

To save myself from being absolutely canceled by the Apple faithful, I will admit that typing on the Magic Keyboard is noticeably better than Logitech’s. While both keyboards use scissor switches and have relatively similar key travel and bounces, there’s something about Apple’s broader, squarish keys that make typing within a tablet’s width less cramped than expected. Still, both offer backlit keys, a function row, and multi-touch gesture support, and get the typing job done. And one is $90 less.

Taking the Apple Pencil to school

As for the stylus debate, the Apple Pencil is as legendary as tablet accessories get, but my reasons for siding with Logitech’s oddly named Crayon is mainly due to the form factor and method of charging. And trust me, just knowing about one of the two may be enough to sway you in Logitech’s favor.

The most noticeable difference with the Crayon is its carpenter’s pencil-like design; the front and back sides of the stylus are flat, almost like a thick popsicle stick. As weird as that may sound, this form factor lends itself to two major advantages over the 1st-gen Apple Pencil: a more reassuring grip and a stylus that won’t just roll off any uneven surface.

Also: What is the best iPad stylus and is there an alternative to Apple Pencil?

While the Crayon is about $30 cheaper than the Apple Pencil, its brushed aluminum texture gives it a more premium hand feel than the latter’s glossy, plasticky exterior.

Logitech Crayon in the hand.

Wielding the Crayon takes getting used to, but that took me less than a minute to do.

June Wan/ZDNET

Let’s be frank, it doesn’t take much to impress someone who’s gone through the ill-fated journey that is pairing a 1st-gen Apple Pencil with the 10th-gen iPad via Apple’s $9 USB-C dongle. (I’m still trying to get that image out of my head.) 

Also: How to pair and charge an Apple Pencil

Fortunately, charging the Crayon is as straightforward as connecting the open end of the stylus to the iPad with one, singular cable. I wish I didn’t have to be impressed by this, but I’ve learned to be grateful for the simplest things in life. 

Holding the Logitech Crayon and Apple Pencil 1st Gen.

And don’t forget the dotted battery level indicator on the Crayon!

June Wan/ZDNET

In its defense, the Apple Pencil supports pressure sensitivity while Logitech’s doesn’t. This is particularly noteworthy for graphic designers, artists, and users who rely on depth and multiple input levels to get work done. The Crayon is great for jotting down notes and serving as a more accurate touchpoint than your finger, but for professional work, Apple’s first-party option is admittedly a step above. In fact, I’d recommend picking up the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil (and an iPad that supports it) if functionality is what you’re after.

Bottom line

Logitech’s Combo Touch keyboard cover and Crayon stylus are not perfect, but they deliver a more feature-rich experience than Apple’s first-party accessories at a fraction of the cost. That’s not a knock on Apple’s own iPad keyboard and stylus by any means; the two are just as worthy of your consideration. 

It’s just important to raise awareness of what else is available — beyond the walled garden. Because more often than not, you’ll find something better.

Alternatives to consider

Open to more iPad keyboard cover and stylus prospects? Check these out.


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