Choosing an iPad Pro Keyboard

iPads are great for writing, but if you are a touch typist, you need an external keyboard to have a top-notch experience.

I am a touch typist, and used to be a very fast touch typist as well, until RSI (repetitive stress injury) slowed me down to more reasonable speeds. Due to RSI, and the fact that using an ill-suited keyboard physically hurts, I am very picky about keyboards. I prefer a keyboard that is clicky and gives me a precise feeling when the key is activated. Mushy keyboards, by contrast, are awful for me; my accuracy decreases, and retyping increases. Key spacing basically has to be as close to a full-size key board as possible for me, because my hands cramp up when typing on anything smaller than a standard MacBook keyboard. Travel distance is important, too. Too little throw on a keyboard, such as on the first generation 12″ MacBook, makes my fingers hurt.

As I said, I am hard to please when it comes to keyboards.

Smart Connector Keyboards

The iPad Pro comes with a special connector, mostly useful for keyboards, called the Smart Connector. It promises rock solid communication between the iPad and the keyboard, meaning no dropped keypresses, which are my chief complaint about using Bluetooth keyboards. Unfortunately, there are only two keyboards that pair with the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro: Apple’s Smart Keyboard and Logitech’s Create Backlit Keyboard.

Trying out these two keyboards, however, quickly led to disappointment. The Apple Smart Keyboard just felt awkward to type on. It has very little tactile feedback, and almost no throw. It is floppy enough to be poorly suited for use on the lap (which, admittedly, would be rare). The case it comes attached to is slim, versatile, lightweight (for what it is, not overall), andstylish. But, alas, it is not for me.

The Logitech Create Backlit Keyboard, at first, appears to correct all of the Apple Smart Keyboard’s shortcomings. It has real keys! It has decent key travel! It has a sturdy kickstand case instead of a floppy folding case! While it has real keys, and more features plus a lower price than the Apple Smart Keyboard, typing on one for a while felt awful to me. It started to feel mushy to me. It is also much heavier than the Smart Keyboard. I loved the kickstand, but I wanted something I could remove more easily, because the 12.9″ iPad Pro is heavy enough on its own when used handheld.

So, after lots of time trying them out, both Smart Connector keyboards were out of the running for me.

What about Bluetooth keyboards?

While there are hundreds of Bluetooth keyboards you can pair with any iPad, they have a couple drawbacks. The main one for me is dropped keystrokes, due either to flaky Bluetooth connections, low quality components, or the keyboard requiring a keypress to wake from sleep. A secondary one is that they require batteries or recharging of their internal battery periodically, but that period is a few months long. Lastly, Bluetooth pairing can be tricky, especially if you try to use the same keyboard with multiple devices.

After trying out and being disappointed by the typing experience on the Apple and Logitech Smart Connector keyboards, I went back to my favorite keyboard of recent years, the Apple Magic Keyboard. It’s a full-size keyboard, which is comfortable to type on. It has a shallow keyfall distance, but it is not as shallow as the 12″ MacBook. Keypresses feel solid and clicky. The battery lasts for months. Build quality is top notch.

I have not had any problems with dropped keystrokes when waking up the Magic Keyboard, but that is likely because my new iPad Pro itself goes to sleep, which is an option I had disabled on my old iPad. Whatever the reason, a single keypress wakes up the iPad Pro and I go on to typing without thinking about it. That’s good enough for me.

So, after an honest effort to upgrade to on of the Smart Connector keyboards, I passed on both of them, and settled for the Apple Magic Keyboard, because it offers the best typing experience for me. I am actually surprised about that, and a little disappointed that I did not like the other two options. Because I went with a detached keyboard, I had to consider different case and stand options, which I will go into in a later post.