A good keyboard is essential for the iPad Pro to be used as laptop replacement. Unfortunately, the two keyboards available from the Apple Store fall short.
Apple chief Tim Cook argues that the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many people: "They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones." I have been using the iPad Pro for a week now and one thing is clear: iPad Pro is incomplete without a physical keyboard.
There are two keyboards available for the iPad Pro from the Apple Store: Apple’s Smart Keyboard and the Logitech Create keyboard.
Apple's ‘Smart Keyboard’ ($169) is a low profile keyboard covered in very fine fabric. Instead of bluetooth, it uses the magnetic connector to connect with the device. It looks good. It feels good. And that’s where everything that’s good about it ends. The throwback you get from keys is okay for casual typing, short email replies, messages and online search. That’s it. It doesn’t have the travel, throwback and dedicated keys for heavy typers.
It lacks everything that’s expected from a $170 iOS keyboard. It's not backlit. There are no dedicated keys or shortcuts to use the iPad Pro features such as splitview, Siri, switching between apps, home key, volume buttons, screen brightness buttons, screen unlock buttons.... name any iOS 9 feature and it’s missing from the keyboard. Then it’s stuck at one angle that you can’t change. Apple is selling a Mac OS X keyboard pretending to be an iPad keyboard.
After spending some time with it, I decided not to buy it. Instead, I picked the Logitech Create keyboard, which is also a mixed bag. Let's first talk about what's good about it.
Logitech’s Create keyboard has what you need in an iOS keyboard. It's a full-size keyboard, like the Smart Keyboard, which means you get all the keys you see on a Macbook keyboard and more. As a writer I liked the keyboard: the travel, throwback and spacing is all good. And there is a palm rest, which makes the typing experience pleasant.
The best part of the keyboard is dedicated keys to use iPad Pro features. The keyboard has a dedicated row for iOS functions: home, screen brightness, backlight brightness, alternate keyboard (which defaults to Emoji), playback buttons (rewind, forward, play & pause), volume buttons and screen lock/unlock buttons. I love this keyboard.
Except for a couple of things...
Create is a keyboard plus case and there are major flaws with its design as a case. It triples the thickness of the otherwise extremely thin iPad Pro and makes it thicker than my Macbook Pro 2013. It also makes it significantly heavier -- almost as heavy as the Macbook. And that’s not even the bad part.
The power and volume buttons are padded rubber and are almost impossible to press. It takes a lot of effort to snap the iPad in and out of the case. I fear that I may either break the case or the iPad. Then there is only one angle so you can’t adjust it if you are using it on your lap or table or on a plane. Since you can’t take the case off easily (and you should not as then your iPad doesn’t have any protection at all) you have you fold the case to use it in tablet mode. That makes it too bulky to hold. But that’s not the problem either.
The real problem is that then you will be rubbing the back of the exposed iPad against the metal of the keyboard, leaving hundreds of scratch marks on your $1000 iPad.
The whole case is wrapped in some kind of fabric, which is slippery and disguises everything that’s so great about this iPad. It will attract dust and dirt and, given the texture, it will be harder to keep it clean.
At the moment these are the two choices we have and Apple’s Smart Keyboard is certainly the lesser of the pair. And when you bundle it with a case, the total cost goes up to $262.
The Logitech keyboard has its own flaws that make it a less appealing option. I'm waiting for other players to bring out their cases, and I am keeping an eye on Belkin in particular, which makes a very good case for iPad AIR.
When I checked with Belkin over Twitter, they responded:
We don't have any updates yet from our Development Team to release an iPad Pro Keyboard. No worries. We'll take note of this and we'll relay it to the team. Just keep an eye on our website for future product updates and new releases. Thanks.
I hope they do come out with something. A good keyboard is essential for this iPad to be used as a ‘pro’duction device for me as a writer.
Have you tried an iPad Pro keyboard? What are your thoughts about it, share in the comments below.
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