Apple pushes the iPad Pro as the ultimate laptop replacement, but what if you need a laptop with a physical keyboard? This is why Apple, among other companies, makes iPad Pro keyboard cases, so you can make the tablet more like the laptops you're used to. But which of these costly cases is the best iPad Pro keyboard case?
We tested the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with three of the top keyboard cases — from Apple, Brydge and Logitech — to find out which one might be right for you. Surprisingly, there's no clear winner: One provides the best typing experience, another is easiest to use and the third is the most affordable.
Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Pro
The Best iPad Pro keyboard case for portability.
The best thing about Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio for the third-gen iPad Pro is how easy it is to use. Attaching the two is as simple as slapping the tablet onto the clearly demarcated flap and folding the case (quite naturally) to dock the tablet section into the keyboard. No Bluetooth connecting; it just works.
Once you're there, you get two positions to sit the iPad Pro in, which is a bit limited — the Brydge lets you rotate the tablet to about 180 degrees. On the other hand, the Logitech keyboard has only one position for the slate to sit in.
My biggest grievance with the Apple Smart Keyboard is its odd keys, which hardly look or feel like keys. Instead, they're fabric-covered squares that barely feel like they move. If you're OK with shallow, clicky keyboards, these keys won't be a problem.
Tablet mode — where you can lay the tablet flat against the case — is nice too, and it's something that you don't get in the Brydge keyboard. The Logitech keyboard case offers a much more cumbersome take on tablet mode; the product looks like you're carrying around three sections of the Sunday newspaper.
Yes, Apple's keyboard case costs the most ($30 more than the Brydge keyboard and $60 more than the Logitech folio), but it earns that price tag by being the thinnest and lightest option.
Testing the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio on the 10fastfingers typing test, I clicked my way to 79 words per minute with 97.5% accuracy, which is the speediest typing I recorded on any of these keyboard covers. That may be because I’m most used to this accessory, since it’s been out the longest and we’ve had it since we reviewed the iPad Pro. The display also stays stable in the case as I type.
Pros: Easy to use; No Bluetooth required
Cons: Most expensive; Shallowest keys
Specs (12.9-inch model): Required activation force: 61 grams | Travel: 1.2 mm | Weight (iPad Pro attached): 2.3 pounds | Thickness: 0.6 inches
Brydge Pro Keyboard for iPad Pro 2018
The Best iPad Pro keyboard case for typing.
If you want a traditional laptop experience, you've probably got your eye on the Brydge Pro keyboard, which is the least case-like option. It's a metallic keyboard deck that comes in silver and space gray, and its pair of hinges allow you to slide in the iPad Pro.
Most of the time, the Brydge's docking experience works really well — the hinges are sturdy and grippy enough to clamp down on the iPad and keep it stable, until you want to manually remove it, which is a pretty smooth process.
The one time this docking process becomes annoying, however, is when the rubber parts of the hinge get detached from the metal parts. If you're eagle-eyed enough to notice it when it happens, that's not an issue, but I could see an absent-minded user struggling when they're not paying attention to this small pressure point.
As long as you understand that docking process, you'll love using the Brydge. Its keyboard is the closest thing to the old, beloved keyboards in the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air that came before Apple's controversial Butterfly-switch keyboards, which are notorious for being prone to failure.
Not only do its keys offer a great responsive clicking feel, but their 1.3 millimeters of travel (same as the Logitech Slim Folio Pro) and 78 grams of required actuation force (more than any case we've looked at) combine for something that has more of a resemblance to a real external keyboard. On the 10fastfingers typing test, I clicked my way to 75 wpm, with 98.4% accuracy, which isn't far from my 80-wpm average. That's in the middle of the pack here, below the 79-wpm rate from the Apple keyboard and the 73-wpm mark from the Logitech.
Another thing I love about the Brydge keyboard, which the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio is missing (and the Logitech keyboard offers) is that it packs a row of function keys, including home, lock, brightness up and down, media controls (rewind, play/pause, fast forward) and volume up and down. There's also a dedicated Siri button in the bottom-left corner, which might take some time to get used to.
Multiple colleagues remarked that the keyboard deck area below the keys was an unpleasant reminder that iOS has yet to support mouse or touchpad input — something that I expect to change this year. Also, I wish this keyboard (or any non-Apple keyboard) supported the Smart Connector port, because needing to pair and unpair with Bluetooth can get annoying.
In terms of stability, the Brydge Pro’s hinges are strong enough for me to use the device in my lap and barely see any shaking as I type (and I type rather forcefully, mind you). When I carried around the iPad Pro connected to the Brydge in laptop mode, though, I noticed the tablet part of the makeshift 2-in-1 would rotate backward: The weight of the tablet pulled it down — though that’s acceptable when this is the only case that allows you to rotate the iPad Pro freely on its hinge.
Also, there's a back-flap cover piece, so the hinges won't protrude. It didn't feel exactly necessary, though, so I haven't used it on a daily basis.
At $149 to $169, the Brydge Pro keyboard cases sit in the middle of the pack, still pricey enough to keep them from being an impulse buy.
Pros: Best keyboard in the class; Rotates to 180 degrees; Easy to take off and remove
Cons: Rubber hinges can require readjustment;
Specs (12.9-inch model): Required activation force: 78 grams | Travel: 1.3 mm | Weight (iPad Pro attached): 3.4 pounds | Thickness: 0.7 inches
Logitech Slim Folio Pro for iPad Pro
The best iPad Pro keyboard case for those on a budget.
At $119 to $129, the Logitech Slim Folio Pro for iPad Pro is the cheapest of the iPad Pro case offerings we reviewed. And if you're looking for a case with enough padding to help protect against a few bumps, this is also the case for you.
Just like the Brydge keyboard, the Logitech folio offers a row of function keys, including key brightness, media controls, volume controls, lock and home. Its dedicated keyboard switch button (which the Apple keyboard cover also includes) allows you to bring up the on-screen keyboard, and then toggle to the not-at-all trivial (I'm not joking) emoji keyboard.
The biggest issue with the Logitech Slim Folio Pro is that it's not exactly slim. Since it's 0.2 to 0.4 inches thicker than either the Apple or Brydge keyboards, it will take up more space in your bag and feels kinda awkward.
And once you get used to that, the other annoying issue with the Logitech Slim Folio Pro is getting it in and out of the case, which you'll probably want to do if and when you just want to use it as a tablet. With a width of 0.8 to 1 inch, this case can be more than four times as thick as the iPad Pro itself.
When it comes time to remove the case, you're gonna need to work hard. Pulling the chunky case on or off an iPad Pro requires a lot of force — so much so that it almost felt like I was breaking it.
Oh, and there’s only one good position to use in laptop mode. The Brydge keyboard allows rotation to up to 180 degrees, while the Apple Smart Keyboard offers two docked positions.
In terms of typing experience, the Logitech keys neither irk nor inspire. They're not Apple's supershallow keys, but they don't offer the pleasant feedback of the Brydge keys, either. I hit 73 wpm with 94.8% accuracy on the 10fastfingers typing test. It's an OK rate, but at the lower end of my scores on these keyboards. The tablet moves around a little more in the Logitech case than either the Apple or Brydge, which were a bit more stable.
There’s also a flap for holding the Apple Pencil, which feels kinda extraneous when the magnet in the iPad Pro is still accessible in the case, and it doesn’t seem necessary.
Pros: Most affordable; Offers protective padding
Cons: Only one position for laptop mode; Bulky; Attaching and removing tablet is awkward
Specs (12.9-inch model): Required activation force: 65 grams | Travel: 1.4 mm | Weight (iPad Pro attached): 3.0 pounds | Thickness: 0.8-1 inches
It's really easy to attach (and detach) the iPad Pro and Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio.
Apple's keys don't have backlighting and they're a bit shallow.
In tablet mode, the Smart Keyboard Folio folds down so thin you can't even see it.
The Apple Smart Keyboard Folio sits in two different positions, which is more than the Logitech Slim Folio Pro but less than the Brydge Pro Keyboard.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro docked in the Brydge Pro Keyboard.
The Brydge Pro Keyboard offers a typing experience that will make MacBook Pro owners jealous.
The rubber of the Brydge Pro Keyboard's hinges can fall off and require you to pull it back around.
You can use the Brydge Pro Keyboard without its back flap if you want to see the Apple logo.
You can also slap that flap on, though Brydge's Y logo may not be your thing.
The iPad Pro docked in the Logitech Slim Folio Pro.
Fitting the iPad Pro into the Logitech Slim Folio Pro can be a bit cumbersome.
Using the Slim Folio Pro in tablet mode is a very thick experience.
The Logitech Slim Folio Pro's keyboard offers specialized Home, volume, brightness and media buttons.
You can slide the Apple Pencil in the Slim Folio Pro's closure flap.
Credit: Laptop Mag