Best iPad keyboards 2021: Improve your productivity

AiroAV Antivirus Declares: Greatest iPad keyboards 2021: Enhance your productiveness

Apple has a full lineup of iPads (check out our best iPad article), ranging from the small iPad Mini up to the large iPad Pro 12.9-inch. Apple has a couple of external hardware keyboard options with a few others available from third parties. The iPad Mini is a bit too small for a keyboard to add much value, although, a few of us used netbooks with tiny hardware keyboards and were able to enter text quite well back in the day.

Apple’s iPadOS continues to improve in the areas of trackpad support and keyboard shortcuts, so full keyboard support is not available natively from Apple. The OS also continues to get more capable, making a combination of the iPad and a keyboard worthy to serve as the primary computing device for some people.


The best keyboard from Apple


iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Connection Method: Smart Connector | Battery Life (for Bluetooth models): N/A | Dimensions: 29.2×23.9×2.2 cm | Weight: 1 kg | Key Travel: 1mm  | Backlit: Yes | Compatibility: iPad Pro 11 (3rd gen), iPad Air (4th gen), iPad Pro 12.9 (5th gen) 


Apple released the Magic Keyboard in early 2020 with a new unique form factor with a floating cantilever design and magnetic attachment to your iPad. You can find the perfect viewing angle with this keyboard, but it is very expensive.

The keyboard supports Multi-Touch gestures and the cursor functionality of iPadOS. There is a USB-C port on the side of the Magic Keyboard hinge that you can use to charge up the iPad so that you can use the iPad port to connect to another device.

Pros:

  •    Supports various viewing angles
  •    Backlit keys 
  •    Excellent construction, stable platform

Cons:

  •    Very expensive
  •    No function row 
  •    Uses iPad battery to power the keyboard


Apple’s model with no trackpad


apple-smart-keyboard-folio.jpg

Image: Apple

Connection Method: Smart Connector | Battery Life (for Bluetooth models): N/A | Dimensions: 25.7×19.1×2.3 cm | Weight: 150 grams | Key Travel: Not advertised  | Backlit: No | Compatibility: iPad Pro 11 (1st, 2nd, 3rd gen), iPad Air (4th gen), iPad Pro 12.9 (3rd, 4th, 5th gen)


The Apple Smart Keyboard Folio has been the standard for Apple’s iPad keyboards for years, providing a slim, sleek keyboard option to take with you wherever you go. The keys are integrated with the material and are well-spaced for accurate typing. It takes a bit of usage to get comfortable with the limited travel and response.

There is no trackpad on this keyboard and no function row, but Apple optimizes the keys to fit the width of the iPad you are using it with. Two viewing angles are supported by the keyboard, and it folds up easily to protect the front and back of your iPad..

Pros:

  •    Handy folio design protects the iPad display
  •    Excellent build quality
  •    Portable design for writing on the go

Cons:

  •    No trackpad
  •    No function row 
  •    Uses iPad battery to power the keyboard


Great option for the most affordable iPad


apple-smart-keyboard.jpg

Image: Apple

Connection Method: Smart Connector | Battery Life (for Bluetooth models): N/A | Dimensions: 26.2×19.4×1.4 cm | Weight: 0.5 kg | Key Travel: 1mm  | Backlit: Yes | Compatibility: iPad Pro 10.5, iPad Air (3rd, 4th gen), iPad (7th, 8th, 9th gen)


The Smart Keyboard from Apple is the most basic keyboard from the company, but it’s also quite expensive when the iPad it connects to is just twice the price of the keyboard. It’s a simple solution with protection limited to the front of the iPad, but it is lightweight and works flawlessly.

The keyboard supports usage for typing and for viewing videos. It’s stable under most conditions, but may be a bit difficult to use consistently on a lap.

Pros:

  •    Solid design and simple functionality

Cons:

  •    Only protects the front of the iPad
  •    No trackpad
  •    Expensive for the capability provided


Affordable, elegant option to Apple’s keyboards


brydge-max-plus.png

Image: Brydge

Connection Method: Bluetooth | Battery Life (for Bluetooth models): Three months. 40 hours with backlight on | Dimensions: 28.5×22.3.9×1.7 cm | Weight: 0.97 kg  | Backlit: Yes | Compatibility: iPad Pro 11 (3rd gen), iPad Air (4th gen), iPad Pro 12.9 (3rd, 4th, 5th gen)

Brydge makes elegant, refined keyboards for many types of tablet computers, and its Apple iPad models are gorgeous and functional. The Max Plus line is available for iPad 12.9 and iPad 11-inch models, and all connect via Bluetooth. Brydge uses Bluetooth 5.0 and its firmware to create an Instant-On connection that makes any lag associated with Bluetooth something you will never have to worry about again.

A SnapFit case protects the iPad and can be used outside of the keyboard. It snaps securely in place to the keyboard via strong magnets. 135-degree screen rotation is supported, and the premium aluminum Brydge keyboard really makes the package feel like a laptop.

A well-sized, multi-touch trackpad is provided on the keyboard and supports all of the gestures you need to turn your iPad into a productivity powerhouse.

Pros:

  •    Supports various viewing angles
  •    Adjustable backlit keys 
  •    Superb design, fit, and finish
  •    Affordable

Cons:


Drop protection and antimicrobial treatment


brydge-air-max-plus-2.jpg


Connection Method: Bluetooth | Battery Life (for Bluetooth models): Three months. 40 hours with backlight on | Dimensions: 25.4×19.5.9×2.1 cm | Weight: 0.84 kg | Backlit: Yes | Compatibility: iPad Pro 11 (1st, 2nd, 3rd gen), iPad Air (4th gen) 


The Brydge Air Max Plus keyboard is not made out of aluminum as we see with most of the Brydge keyboards, but it’s designed to protect your iPad and be used in the field. It’s constructed of rugged plastics with a bumper shell case for your iPad that protects it while out and about.

The SnapFit case can be used outside of the keyboard. It snaps securely in place to the keyboard via strong magnets. 135-degree screen rotation is supported and the premium aluminum Brydge keyboard really makes the package feel like a laptop.

A well-sized, multi-touch trackpad is provided on the keyboard and supports all of the gestures you need to turn your iPad into a productivity powerhouse. The keyboard and case also contain an antimicrobial ingredient to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Pros:

  •    Supports various viewing angles
  •    Rugged SnapFit case
  •    Solid design, fit, and finish
  •    Affordable

Cons:


Four use modes and an affordable price


logitech-combo-touch-11-pro-1.jpg


Connection Method: Smart Connector | Battery Life (for Bluetooth models): N/A | Dimensions: 29.2×23.9×2.2 cm | Weight: 1 kg | Key Travel: 1mm  | Backlit: Yes | Compatibility: iPad Pro 11 (1st, 2nd, 3rd gen), iPad Air (4th gen), iPad Pro 12.9 (5th gen) 


One of the most affordable iPad keyboard solutions may also be my favorite. The Logitech Combo Touch keyboard case includes everything you could want in an iPad keyboard, including Apple Smart Connector and a very large multi-touch trackpad. You can use it with the keyboard attached for typing, or you can remove the keyboard portion and flip out the back for viewing or sketching. You can also hold it in portrait orientation in reading mode.

An integrated cover with a Surface-esque rear hinge piece protects the edges of your iPad and serves as a capable solution without the keyboard attached. The keyboard has a lovely fabric finish and well-spaced keys that help you enter text as fast as you desire while also using the large trackpad to navigate around your iPad. 16 levels of keyboard backlighting ensure you can use the keyboard in any condition.

Something rarely seen in an iPad keyboard is the full function row along the top of the keyboard to improve your efficiency.

Pros:

  •    Versatile usability
  •    16 level backlighting 
  •    iPadOS shortcut keys
  •    Large multi-touch trackpad

Cons:

  •    Uses iPad battery to power the keyboard
  •    No keyboard storage when removed from the cover

Are Apple’s expensive keyboards worth the price?

Apple’s keyboards clearly have a price premium, but the other iPad keyboards are not inexpensive either. With an Apple-branded keyboard, you can rest assured it will work flawlessly with your iPad and stay updated to support the iPad for years.

Other keyboard manufacturers tend to fill in the gaps in Apple’s solutions, such as a full-function row, larger trackpad, rugged protection for the iPad, and more.

How do these keyboards connect to the iPad?

There are two methods to connect an iPad to a keyboard: Bluetooth and Apple Smart Connector. Brydge incorporates a Bluetooth solution with its keyboards, but it has also worked to provide an Instant-On technology where you should not see any lag in the connection over a four-hour period of usage. 

All Apple keyboards, and the Logitech one, connect the iPad to the keyboards via Apple Smart Connector technology. With these keyboards, power is provided by the iPad, so there may be an impact on your tablet if heavy usage of backlighting takes place.

Our process

We have tested most of these keyboards ourselves. For those we have not tested, we either tried them out in retail stores or read other online reviews to gather input on the keyboards. We have also interacted with readers and other technology journalists to gather opinions on the various keyboards.

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