I’m most likely getting one of the new iPad Airs for Christmas and want to dip in into the iPad-as-a-laptop lifestyle a bit. The Apple keyboard appears to have mixed reviews but seems fine. What do you recommend?
I will not be using this as much as iPad-only people so I don’t need the most advanced keyboard. Just something comfortable and well-designed.
FYI right now Best Buy has a flash sale on the iPad Air plus Apple keyboard for $160 off, starting at $499… which is essentially throwing in the case for free.
Thanks! Fortunately this will be a gift so I will only be spending money on a keyboard and the pencil. Also, I think it’s too early to get people to purchase my Christmas presents
I have a new iPad Air, Juan! I simply love it! The screen picture is phenomenal!
I have the Apple keyboard for the 12.9" and I think it is fine. It’s not backlit and it doesn’t have media keys. Oh, and it’s overpriced.
But it’s fine.
I actually like it more than the Brydge keyboard that everyone raves about, which is cheaper, it backlit, and does have media keys.
Why I like the Apple Keyboard
The Apple keyboard never needs to be charged. It uses the Smart Connector, so as long as your iPad has power, so does the keyboard.
The Apple keyboard is very easy to take on and off. I don’t do that all that often, but it’s really nice when I want to.
The Apple keyboard is small and light. When closed, it’s barely more than a cover for the iPad (no drop protection, but it covers the front and back when putting it in a bag, for example, or when carrying it by hand.
Why I dislike the Brydge Keyboard
It needs to be charged a lot. If I don’t charge it at night, it’s probably going to die the next day.
It is fairly easy to separate the top from the bottom, but putting it back together is a pain, and there are these little slots that you have to fit the corners of the iPad into. The slots are covered in rubber, but the rubber slips out of place, so you have to re-position it (and seems likely to rip easily if you aren’t careful).
The Brydge is heavy. As in, very heavy. The iPad with Apple Keyboard feels like you’re carrying an iPad. The iPad with the Brydge keyboard feels like you’re carrying a mid-2000s laptop.
The back panel “protector” that Brydge added is useless. It never stays on properly, so I finally gave up using it. The leaves the “hinges” on full display, which is ugly, and the back of the iPad exposed.
When I had issues with the keyboard shortly after I got it and asked for a replacement, they wanted me to jump through all these hoops to prove there was a problem. Then the caveats started. “Oh, well the backlight doesn’t always work if the battery is low” was one. “The three levels of the backlighting isn’t working? Oh, check to make sure the keyboard has at least 20% of its power, otherwise that feature might not work.”
If you are iPad-only and use the iPad mostly in one place and don’t need to carry it around a lot and don’t want to separate the iPad from the keyboard often, it’s great.
For me, it was an expensive lesson than I prefer the Apple Keyboard’s trade-offs over the Brydge keyboard’s trade-offs.
I can provide a little background regarding the Apple Smart Keyboard. I have used it for the original 9.7" iPad Pro since 2016. The one for the new iPad Air 10.5" is probably the same, or possibly an upgraded version of the same. It uses the smart connector, allowing the smart keyboard to connect instantly using magnetic guidance and attachment. The keyboard simply snaps right into place, no fiddling required. Another plus is that there is no battery required - the smart keyboard is powered through the smart connector.
The keyboard has mostly worked well. The typing experience is acceptable, but not anywhere near the same as a desktop keyboard. The keys are more closely spaced than those on a desktop keyboard, and the feel is different. Even with that caveat, the typing experience is much better than that using the iPad’s built-in screen “keyboard”.
There have been widely-reported technical problems with the Smart Keyboard. Mine has been replaced twice under the Apple Care program. Apparently something “breaks” in the keyboard that causes failure to connect, or failure to be recognized by the iPad. It’s easy to see how this could occur - there is a sharp 180 degree bend where the flat surface of the keyboard meets the connector part of the keyboard. My guess is that the constant handling or perhaps frequent connection-reconnection causes a mechanical failure. Current versions of the Smart Keyboard may have been updated for improved durability, but I have no first-hand knowledge of this.
Apple Care for the iPad Air is highly recommended because of potential keyboard durability issues. This should carry over to the keyboard, but you should confirm this. There has been a not-well-publicized keyboard replacement policy by Apple, but I don’t know if this applies to purchases going forward. Apple Care would be a wise precaution.
Although the smart keyboard is thin and folds nicely, it does add substantial thickness and weight to the “naked” iPad. If you add a matching silicon case or cover for the back of the iPad, the weight is much more than the iPad without case or keyboard.
You will probably want some type of carrier or holder for the 1st-generation Pencil. It’s quite long and will not fit in a shirt pocket. Below are links to two examples. My Pencil holder is similar to the sling holder, but the one linked below is quite a bit more expensive that what I paid.
Amazon link to Pencil holder
Amazon link to sling-type Pencil holder
Another comment regarding the first-generation Apple Pencil - keep close track of the cap and the connector/adapter for charging. They are easy to lose. The first-generation Pencil works well, but it’s awkward to carry and to charge. It does charge quickly, though.