12 Tablet Accessories That Let You Ditch Your Laptop

Android and iOS tablets have come a long way, but for many users they're still not suitable laptop replacements. However, you can change that. These 12 gadgets each help bridge the gap between notebook PC and tablet.

tablet accessories

Last month, Microsoft released official Office apps for iPad, and Apple's tablet got one step closer to becoming a true laptop replacement. Microsoft is also reportedly working on Office apps for Android tablets.

Apps, however, aren't the entire story. If you want to leave your laptop at home, you need to "pimp your tablet-ride" a bit, to bring it more in line with what you get from a laptop computer. An external keyboard is a must, and there's no shortage of options. Other accessories you might not have thought of could also help, such as portable drives that are compatible with Android and iOS.

Here's a look at 12 gadgets for your tablet that can make it more laptop-like.

ZAGG Folio Keyboard for iPad, Galaxy Note 8.0
Credit: ZAGG Inc.
ZAGG Folio Keyboard for iPad, Galaxy Note 8.0

I love my ZAGG Folio Keyboard for iPad mini ($100). It's also available for iPad Air ($100) and as the PROFolio for Apple’ssecond-,third- and fourth-generation iPads ($130). It’s a black clamshell keyboard case that, despite its compactness, is surprisingly easy to type on, once you get the hang of it. My favorite feature: Backlit keys, which help you see when typing in dim environments. ZAGG also makes a backlit keyboard case for Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 ($100). I had an unfortunate recharging problem with my first Folio, but ZAGG quickly sent me a replacement at no cost.

ClamCase Pro iPad Keyboard Case
Credit: ClamCase LLC
ClamCase Pro iPad Keyboard Case

The ClamCase Pro series of iPad keyboards are among the most versatile options you'll find. When you pop an iPad into the case, it looks like a MacBook thanks to the aluminum keyboard casing. The ClamCase Pro also makes it easy to prop your iPad on your lap for typing, laptop-style. The case's hinge lets you fold the keyboard back and turn the case into a stand for reading ebooks or watching video. Two complaints: The case is heavy at 1.5 pounds, and the $169 price is also a bit hefty. Still, it is a highly flexible and cool keyboard case. (As of this writing, the ClamCase Pro for iPad Air isn't yet available).

iWalk Executive Bluetooth Keyboard for iOS, Android
Credit: iWalk
iWalk Executive Bluetooth Keyboard for iOS, Android

If it’s versatility you seek, check out the $70 Executive Bluetooth Keyboard from iWalk. Unlike most Bluetooth keyboards, you can pair it with Android smartphones and tablets as well as iPhones and iPads. The full-sized keyboard comes with a stand to hold your mobile device, and it is propped up by a built-in kickstand. The keyboard and stand are 0.5 inches thick and weigh a combined 1.4 pounds. Upside: Your tablet isn't physically attached to the stand, so you can easily position the screen in portrait or landscape modes. Downside: Your tablet is not physically attached, so it will likely wobble and may even fall off if you try typing on your lap.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab
Credit: Logitech
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab

Want to lighten your load? Consider Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for second- through fourth-generation iPads, iPad Air ($100) and iPad mini ($80). The keyboard for early iPads weighs 0.78 pounds; 0.73 pounds for iPad Air; and 0.45 pounds for iPad mini. The aluminum cover, available in black and white (and purple for iPad mini), features a magnetic hinge that holds your iPad in place when closed. There's a magnetized slot to place the iPad for typing, and it supports portrait and landscape modes. Unlike Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Folio ($50 to $100), the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover doesn't protect your iPad's back. Logitech also makes an Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet ($100).

Origami Workstation for iPads
Credit: Incase
Origami Workstation for iPads

I recently spotted a guy in a cafe using an unusual-looking iPad stand, so I went over and inquired. Turns out it was Incase's Origami Workstation ($30), a slickly designed, Japanese origami-inspired iPad stand and case for Apple’s Wireless Keyboard ($70). The stand (available in black or red) propped up his full-sized iPad at a comfortable viewing angle, and he said he liked the fact that he could position his iPad in landscape and portrait modes. For extra protection, you can also wrap the Origami around your iPad when it's covered by Apple’s iPad Air Smart Case ($79). Some people prefer Apple's Wireless Keyboard to other Bluetooth keyboards, too, though it lacks iPad-specific keys.

PadDock 10 Stand & Stereo for iPad
PadDock 10 Stand & Stereo for iPad

Dying to make your iPad resemble a small iMac? PadDock 10 Stand & Stereo ($99) is the accessory for you. This docking-station iPad cradle can be rotated 360 degrees; it tilts up and down; and it and charges your iPad. Built-in speakers let you listen to your favorite music while you work, though some reviewers say the speakers are weak. Also worth noting: This unusual stand hasn't been updated since the iPad 3 was released, so it might not hold your iPad Air firmly due to that tablet's thinner profile.

Bose SoundLink Mini Speaker
Credit: Bose
Bose SoundLink Mini Speaker

Your iPad or Android tablet has a built-in speaker, but it is likely subpar. If audio quality is important to you, consider springing for Bose's SoundLink Mini ($200), a Bluetooth speaker that critics applaud for its rich, warm sound and compact size (2 inches high x 7.1 inches wide x 2.3 inches deep). You can accessorize the speaker with a protective soft cover in one of four colors. A few downsides: At 1.5 pounds, it’s a bit hefty and the $200 price tag is steep. Unlike some Bluetooth speakers, Bose SoundLink Mini has no speakerphone feature. 

Genius LuxePad A110 Wired Android Keyboard
Credit: Genius
Genius LuxePad A110 Wired Android Keyboard

Bluetooth keyboards are great, but if you forget to recharge them, or replace batteries, you're out of luck. Many airlines also still forbid the use of Bluetooth devices in flight. (How well that rule is enforced is another matter.) At any rate, you may want to consider an external keyboard that plugs directly into your tablet, no Bluetooth required. The LuxePad A110, from Genius, connects to Android tablets via micro USB, and it only costs around $16 on Amazon.com. The keyboard comes with a stand that can position your tablet at different angles, too.

Macally iKeyLT Wired iPad Keyboard
Credit: Macally
Macally iKeyLT Wired iPad Keyboard

Similar in concept to the Genius LuxePad A110, Macally makes a full-size iKeyLT wired keyboard ($60) that connects to iPad, iPhone and iPod touch via Lightning Connector. There are other wired keyboards for iOS devices, but Macally's is a bit bigger and therefore roomier for typing. (The iKeyLT is even larger than Apple's own wireless keyboard). Also, Macally's keyboard comes with a white, adjustable stand and offers some iOS-specific keys. Have an older, non-Lightning iPad? Macally has a keyboard for those devices, too: The 30 Pin Wired Keyboard ($60).

Hyperdrive iUSBportHD for iOS, Android
Credit: Hyperdrive
Hyperdrive iUSBportHD for iOS, Android

Compared to most laptops, tablets don't offer a lot of storage. It's shockingly easy to fill up 16GB, 32GB or even 64GB, with apps, photos and video. One possible solution: A portable hard drive for your tablet, such as Hyperdrive’s iUSBportHD ($160 to $300). The drive creates its own Wi-Fi connection to your iOS, Android or other Wi-Fi-connected device; it features a USB host port for connecting a second hard drive and a SDXC card expansion slot; and it can stream up to five HD movies to five devices, according to the company. It comes with free iOS and Android apps for file transfer and management. Hyperdrive also offers a family of additional iUSBport products.

Jot Script
Credit: Adonit
Jot Script

If you use apps like CloudOn, which deliver a virtual PC version of Office to Android and iOS tablets, you may have trouble clicking through application menus. After all, those menus are meant for desktop-mouse clicking, not finger tapping. A fine-point stylus can help you bridge that gap between traditional desktop software menus and touchscreens. Adonit's Jot Script Evernote Edition ($75) claims to be the first of its kind, a "true fine point stylus" with a 1.9mm tip, compared to the 6mm tips found on many similar styli.

Magellan’s Dual Voltage Power Strip
Credit: Magellan's
Magellan’s Dual Voltage Power Strip

I'm a fan of Magellan's basic, inexpensive ($29.50) Dual Voltage Power Strip. You can simultaneously recharge or power up to three devices using its AC outlets, and there's a USB port that supplies enough juice to recharge a tablet. The power strip's dual voltage feature lets you recharge your gear in countries that support 110-240 VAC, though you need adapters to plug the power strip into wall sockets overseas.