Every iPad comes with a keyboard. It’s built-in, on the screen, always available in whatever app you need a keyboard. The iPad keyboard remains a pain in the patootie to use if you want to type with any speed or accuracy.
Enter a whole cottage industry of iPad keyboards to help us get more done with the device that somehow many of us think can replace a Mac. When it comes to iPad keyboards, choose wisely. Not all work the same way or were created equally. Here’s my experience and it’s not one I’m happy to report.
Bluetooth vs. Smart
Shall we forget completely about the iPad’s built-in, on-screen keyboard? Sure, it’s good for the finger tip of a finger or two; especially for iPad users who peck rather than type. For those of us who prefer to type there are many additional choices with additional expense. No two keyboards are exactly alike or work the same way. I’ve bought a dozen such keyboards in the past few years and here’s what I found.
Smart Keyboard – Apple’s own Smart Keyboard is smarter than most but plagued with an odd keystroke (keyboard typists are a picky lot; throw means something). It uses the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector for power. No Bluetooth. But also no options for tilting the iPad to match the angle you prefer to type.
Slim Combo Keyboard – This is the Mercedes of iPad Pro keyboards. Slim Combo comes with backlit keys, adjustable backrest, and a protective case which removes from the keyboard. It holds a Pencil, uses the Smart Connector, and works on both 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. What’s not to like? It’s expensive and heavy.
Therein lies the problem. Add a bulking Smart Keyboard or so-called Slim Combo keyboard to an iPad Pro and the combined weight puts the overall carrying experience into the MacBook class– about two pounds (MacBook Pro models start around three pounds; similar to MacBook Air). If a keyboard is your thing, and writing is your game, a MacBook keyboard– at about the same weight as an iPad Pro with a premium keyboard starts to look pretty good.
But a Mac is not an iPad; not as light, not as convenient, not as easy to use.
There are times when Google is your friend because search. Amazon, too. That’s where I did my iPad keyboard trials. Amazon. The problema with Amazon keyboards should be obvious. First, you have to buy to try. Second, Bluetooth is not your friend. Third, reviews are not trustworthy (everything seems to have a four star review these days). Four, every such keyboard is a bit different.
Fortunately, Amazon has a decent return policy. My favorite Bluetooth keyboards from Amazon feel as good as Apple’s own Magic Keyboard for much less and with longer battery life.
I chose– and use– the OMOTON Ultra-Slim Bluetooth keyboard (black) for $16. That’s right. $16. And, I also tried, like, and bought the Anker Ultra Compact Slim Profile Bluetooth keyboard (also black) for $24. The Anker model stays home next to an iPad stand, while the OMOTON goes in the little zip up bag I use to carry the iPad Pro.
Both of those keyboards carry a similar feel that more closely matches the Magic Keyboard typing experience on iMac which isn’t too far removed from the MacBook keyboard feel.