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Logitech's school-targeted Crayon stylus is so good, Apple should copy it for iPad

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By Scott Stein, CNET

Apple's latest iPad push to take on Chromebooks in schools didn't just come with a new Apple tablet and software, but new specialized accessories. These accessories, announced by Apple at its education event back in March, are made by Logitech, not Apple: a super-rugged keyboard case called the Rugged Combo 2, and a tempting half-price $50 kid's version of Apple Pencil called Logitech Crayon. They're now available for educators to buy, and I also got both in my hands to play with and test to see how they felt with the latest iPad.

Note: Both of these accessories are for schools and educators, not general consumers.

I'm not a teacher, and I'm not a kid. But I decided I'd look at them as iPad accessories, since I've used Pencil and tons of iPad keyboard cases. And these both bring some nice extras that more iPad gear should have.


The Crayon is great, and really responsive

The $50 Logitech Crayon is specifically made to work only with the 2018 9.7-inch iPad and doesn't use Bluetooth. After updating to iOS 11.4, the rechargeable stylus just automatically works, as long as an Apple Pencil isn't already paired with it. It's a powered stylus and is almost like an Apple Pencil -- with a few changes. Some are for the better.

It feels better in my hands than the Apple Pencil, and its wider size keeps it from rolling off a table. It lacks pressure sensitivity, but it's still as fast as the Pencil is, feels extremely responsive, and also works at a variety of angles; tilt in and sketch, and your pencil lines get fatter. I like that it can recharge with a normal Lightning cable-in, like Apple AirPods (and unlike the jab-it-in-your-iPad Pencil, which has an outtie). It can also be used to navigate iOS and annotate instantly just like Pencil can, utilizing baked-in Pencil shortcuts which aren't recognized by a standard capacitive stylus or a finger on the screen. It lasts 8 hours on a charge, but I haven't gotten there yet.


The Crayon doesn't need pairing

It "just works," as they say. Once I had the latest software on the iPad, I turned on the Crayon with a side button, and it worked on the iPad. Again, it's specifically tuned to just work with this 2018 6th-gen iPad -- it doesn't work with any other iPad model -- but it works so well that I kinda prefer it to Pencil for its instant satisfaction and feel.
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Rugged Combo 2 keyboard case: Super-big and heavy but protective

Logitech's school-designed case isn't messing around: this is a thick encasement for the iPad. It's a two-part enclosure, first snapping into a plastic shell, then sliding into a rubberized bumper with a fold-out kickstand. It's bag-friendly, but hardly slim. However, it seems perfectly logical for any tabletop use. Remove the keyboard, and it's a nice tilt-angle iPad stand. And it tilts at angles that work nicely for Crayon drawing. Logitech rates the case as being able to protect against 4-foot drops. I tried it, it works.


The snap-on magnetic keyboard doesn't need charging or pairing

Logitech's always made great keyboards. This rubber-covered accessory has a seemingly shallow key height, but the keys travel pretty deep under the surface. It's a bit soft for typing on, but I got used to it. The key placement is perfect, and the keyboard has all the shortcut extras. It's not backlit, and the base of the keyboard's a bit large (it could easily have added a trackpad, if iPads allowed trackpads), but the added magnetic snap-on connection, working via a Lightning pass-through in the case, gives this iPad an accessory that feels like Apple's Smart Connector cases for the iPad Pro. And it's spill resistant, which I tested quickly at the office by dumping a cup of water over it -- so far, so good.


The case has a helpful Lightning cable passthrough

Even though the case is heavy and bulky, a passthrough Lightning port lets the iPad stay in the case. I was able to connect Apple's Pencil to pair.


What it's really missing? A trackpad.

No, you can't use trackpads on iPads. But that's my point: if this keyboard case could somehow browse the web and work like Chromebooks do with trackpads, this would feel like a perfect package. Logitech's gear does what it can with the limitations of iOS. But it's a solid package otherwise.

Educators can buy these for the new iPad at $49 for the Crayon and $99 for the Rugged Combo 2 keyboard case, which is a lot to spend on top of the iPad's cost. But I wouldn't mind seeing the Crayon become an iPad accessory everyone could use, too.

Best tablets of 2018: Check out the best tablets on the market, as reviewed by CNET's experts.

Top tablets for kids: These are the best tablets out there and they're designed to be kid-proof.

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