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Our type of keyboards? This trio hits the spot in transforming your iPad when it matters!
The iPad’s great for a lot of things. Typing isn’t one of them. Tapping away on a pane of glass doesn’t provide the tactile feedback you need when working on text-based documents of any length. Beyond that, the iPadOS virtual keyboard covers half the screen, which isn’t useful.
You could opt to connect a traditional Bluetooth keyboard, mouse and trackpad to your iPad. But you’d still need to prop the thing up. A better bet is a keyboard case, which turns your iPad into something akin to a laptop.
The three on test are the best available. Each is a solid buy, but targeted at a specific kind of user. Read on and figure out which is the one for you.
Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad
Best for elegance and modular computing
iPad Pro 12.9-inch: $349/£329
iPad Pro 11-inch/iPad Air (4th gen): $299/£279
Available from apple.com
You’ll be familiar with Apple’s iPad keyboard from dozens of marketing photos. It’s thin, because Apple, and has a hinge mechanism that makes the iPad appear to float. This keyboard is the lightest on test: combined with an iPad Pro 12.9in, it weighs about the same as a 13in M1 MacBook Pro.
The most magical element of this keyboard is in being able to connect and remove your iPad in a moment. It sells the notion of modular computing, enabling your iPad to instantly become a standalone tablet when the need arises. Technically, it’s solid too: the keys have little travel but are comfortable and responsive, and the smallish trackpad is superb.
Aside from offering no protection to the edge of your iPad, there are two areas this keyboard falls down on. The first is it being resolutely table-based – use it on a lap with any downward incline and it will overbalance. Secondly, there are no media keys, forcing you to Control Center or Settings to skip songs or adjust screen brightness. That your fingers can hit the underside of the screen on the 11in model when using the numbers row explains the omission of media keys, but it’s a pity all the same.
Logitech keyboard combo
Best for: roominess and protection
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th gen): $230/£200
iPad Pro 11-inch (1st–3rd gen): $200/£180
iPad Air (4th gen): $200/£180
iPad Air (3rd gen) and iPad (7th/8th gen): $130/£140
Available from logitech.com
Logitech’s keyboard comes in two parts. Your iPad is placed in a robust case that magnetically snaps to the keyboard part and affords your iPad protection, but adds heft when using the tablet on its own. It also takes time to free your iPad, comparing poorly with the immediacy of the alternatives on test.
The built-in kickstand is good, though, enabling you to position the screen at a range of angles, whether or not the keyboard component is attached. When it is, you also get a great feeling of space. However, you mustn’t forget about it when setting things up, or your iPad will head tableward with a thump; and you’ll need plenty of room too – 12in/30cm compared to about 9in/23cm for Apple’s keyboard. Not one for use during a flight, then.
The keyboard component impresses. Its edges are sharp, but the material covering is lovely and ages better than Apple’s keyboard. The trackpad’s on par with Apple’s. The backlit keys – while a touch spongy – are responsive. There are media keys as well, which move beyond playback and brightness controls with bespoke keys for accessing your Home screen and search, and locking your iPad.
In all, this one’s good for office workers and students – at least if they don’t often switch between ‘tablet’ and ‘laptop’ modes.
Best for: turning your iPad into a laptop
iPad Pro 12.9-inch: $250/£230
iPad Pro 11-inch: $199/£180
Available from brydge.com
Brydge has been on a journey to get to the Max+. Its iPad keyboards used to have clips you pushed your tablet into, which always made us worried we’d scrape grit across the glass. Now, you snap your iPad Pro to a magnetic lid. Lovely.
From a design standpoint, the result looks like a MacBook Pro, from the aluminum keyboard case to the comically large trackpad. This means it’s the one keyboard you can feasibly use on a lap, without the entire thing tumbling over backward. It’s weighty, though: almost 3.75 pounds/1.7kg when combined with an iPad Pro 12.9in.
The trackpad’s fine – not quite as good as Apple’s, but way better than the botched effort on Brydge’s Pro+ line. The keys are pleasant, but with longer travel than the skinnier efforts on rival keyboards. You do get a media row too, although this betrays one aspect of the keyboard: it’s Bluetooth. Fortunately, a charge lasts weeks and an ‘instant on’ feature ensures the Max+ is always ready to go should you briefly step away and return to your iPad.
One for fans of classic laptop design, then – or as a more affordable alternative to Apple’s keyboard, but with broadly comparable elegance and features.
Note: Brydge also sells the Air Max+ ($150/£140, iPad Pro 11in/iPad Air 4th gen) and 10.2 Max+ (iPad 7th and 8th gen). It has a similar feature set to the reviewed unit, but has a plastic keyboard shell and requires your iPad be inserted into a ‘SnapFit’ case, rather like Logitech’s Combo Touch.