For serious typing sessions—or if you just can’t get the hang of the iPad’s onscreen keyboard—an external keyboard offers the tactile advantages of real keys without sacrificing the iPad’s portability and touchscreen features.
The iPad supports almost any Bluetooth keyboard, but there are many, many keyboards on the market that are specifically made for use with the iPad. These tend to be designed for portability, and they usually include iOS-specific special-function keys for adjusting volume and screen brightness, controlling media playback, opening iOS’s Spotlight-search screen, going to the Home screen, and more. Some even offer dedicated cut, copy, and paste buttons. Most iPad keyboards are integrated into some sort of protective case, although a good number are stand-alone models. Regardless of the design, most include rechargeable batteries that last for weeks or months on a charge.
How do you choose the right one? I’ve tested scores of keyboards, for all iPad models. The result of all that testing is this buying guide, which includes both general shopping advice and specific recommendations. Read on to find the perfect keyboard for you.
Things to consider when shopping
Before I get into the different types of iPad keyboards, and recommended models, here are a few things to think about when shopping.
Always on or removable? If you frequently need a physical keyboard when using your iPad, you’ll appreciate the convenience of a keyboard built into a case, as the keyboard will always be with you. If, however, you use an external keyboard infrequently—or you just like to use the iPad unencumbered for non-typing tasks—you may find a bulky, folio-style keyboard case to be a hassle, as it can be difficult to remove. Keyboard shells, described below, are a nice compromise, and stand-alone keyboards offer the most flexibility.
Portability versus usability: With the exception of stand-alone models, iPad keyboards involve usability trade-offs. The thinner the keyboard, the thinner the case, but the worse the feel of the keys. The smaller the keyboard, the more portable it is, but the more crowded the keys are, or the more you’ll find keys that are the wrong size or in the wrong locations. Stand-alone keyboards, on the other hand, tend to be larger, and they aren’t as all-in-one convenient, but they generally offer standard key feel and size, a standard key layout, and a typing experience closer to that of a desktop keyboard. You’ll need to decide which trade-offs you’re willing to make in the name of portability—especially if you’re a touch typist—and check for these trade-offs when shopping. A literal hands-on test is immensely valuable if you can get one; otherwise, be sure the store or website you’re buying from offers a good return policy.
The typing experience: While plenty of iPad keyboards offer interesting features, an attractive design, or a small footprint, they vary widely when it comes to typing. When making specific recommendations, I place a heavy emphasis on the typing experience: If a keyboard doesn’t dramatically improve typing compared to the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, I don’t recommend it. Similarly, my recommendations are somewhat biased toward touch-typists, so a keyboard that’s especially cramped or that organizes keys in a nonstandard layout has to be otherwise very impressive to get my recommendation. (There’s likely a good amount of overlap between touch-typists and people who want a physical keyboard, so I’m fairly confident that mine is the right approach.)
Which iPad do you have? Not too long ago, it was easy to figure out which keyboard case would fit your iPad: If you had an original iPad, you needed an older accessory designed specifically for that model; otherwise, you needed a newer keyboard case that fit the second-, third-, or fourth-generation iPad. (The iPad 2, 3, and 4, as I’ll call them here, vary slightly in thickness, but if a keyboard case fits one of these models, it usually fits the others, as well.)
These days, you can still find a few keyboard cases for the original iPad, but most are for either the iPad 2/3/4, the iPad Air, or the iPad mini. If you’re shopping for a keyboard case—rather than a stand-alone keyboard that works with any iPad—be sure to get the right one for your iPad. To help you out, I’ve noted in my recommendations which keyboard cases fit which full-size iPads; if you’re looking for a keyboard for the iPad mini, I’ve included a separate section for the mini at the end of this guide.
Just your type With all that out of the way, read on for details on the main types of iPad keyboards (and related accessories) available, along with my recommendations for a few of the best in each category.
Easily the most common type, these keyboards are integrated into a full-body, folio-style iPad case that protects your iPad all over. The all-in-one design of folio keyboards is convenient, and most make it easy to type on your lap—no desk or table required. In the past, most of these models used a leather (or leather-like) folio case, but more and more are using plastic shells to reduce size and weight. These models, along with keyboard shells (below), also tend to include the thinnest keyboards.
Folio keyboards have a few drawbacks that can affect usability and comfort. For starters, the actual keyboards tend to be cramped and have small, poor-quality keys, sometimes using odd layouts. Many also limit the iPad to a single propped-up angle and landscape orientation—even though portrait orientation is often better when you’re typing traditional documents. It can be a hassle to remove the iPad from the case, which means you end up carrying the keyboard when you don’t need it—yet it can also be inconvenient to use your iPad as a tablet while it’s in the case. (On some, you flip the keyboard behind the iPad, making for a tablet-ish, though bulky, package.) My recommended models do have smaller-than-standard keyboards, but they otherwise make solid attempts to avoid these flaws. They also all support the iPad’s magnetic sleep/wake feature.
Recommendations: Zagg’s $130 ProFolio+ (iPad 2, 3, 4) is pricey and supports only a single (rather steep) iPad angle. But its keyboard is easy to type on and not too cramped, and it even sports backlit keys, allowing you to choose the brightness level and cycle through 14 backlight colors. The ProFolio+ case offers excellent all-over protection thanks to a sturdy back cover; it’s easy to remove your iPad from the case; and the ProFolio+ is among the thinnest folio-style keyboards on the market for older iPads. (The $100 ProFolio loses the backlit keys but is otherwise identical. Each model is available in multiple colors.)
In terms of traditional “looks like a leather folio” keyboard cases, the best ones I’ve seen are Logitech’s $100 Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air (iPad Air) and $100 Keyboard Folio for iPad (iPad 2, 3, 4). The keyboards of the two models are essentially identical. The keys have great tactile response, they’re larger than those on most folio keyboards, and they’re spaced normally. Logitech accomplishes this feat by making a few symbol keys on the right—[ ] ; and ’—half-width, and by converting the Tab and Caps Lock keys into fn-key-activated overlays of the Q and A keys, respectively. If you use either Tab or Caps Lock frequently, this arrangement may not be for you, but I suspect that most people will be willing to give up one-touch access to these functions in favor of full-size-keyboard feel. You also get the usual array of iOS special-function keys, accessible as fn-key overlays of the top row of numbers and symbols, as well as text-selection keys as overlays of the arrow keys. I have just two minor complaints about the keyboard: The keys are slightly convex, instead of concave, and the aforementioned Tab/Caps Lock trick shifts the entire keyboard slightly to the left, so your hands aren’t centered on the iPad’s screen. But you get used to both oddities fairly quickly.
The main differences between the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air and the Keyboard Folio for iPad, besides which iPad models each fits, have to do with the folio itself. Both look nice and include a special fold in the cover that lets you slide your iPad over the keyboard for use as a standard (though thick) tablet. However, the original Keyboard Folio for iPad uses a thick internal frame, has a nylon covering, and is roughly one inch thick, while the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air is considerably thinner (both because the iPad Air is thinner that older models and because the case itself uses a thinner design), has a thinner frame, and is covered in your choice of a similar nylon or a rubbery “PU leather.”
Honorable mentions: Many other models in this category are simply bulky leather or faux-leather folios with a disappointing keyboard tacked onto the inside of the case. However, a few products get my limited recommendation.
Belkin’s $129 Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air (iPad Air) and $100 Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad (iPad 2, 3, 4) are worth a look, especially for non-touch-typists. (The models differ slightly, but they’re basically minor variations on the same product.) First, the bad things: The keyboard is more cramped than those of the recommended models above; Belkin has overlaid the special-function keys with the number keys in the top row (you access the former using the fn key); and a few keys are in non-standard locations that will drive touch-typists crazy. But the keyboard itself is otherwise pretty good; the case offers three different screen angles and a thin, rigid shell that provides good protection; and you can flip the keyboard behind the iPad for traditional tablet use—the keyboard automatically turns off when your iPad isn’t propped up. Best of all, the iPad Air version is just over half an inch thick when closed, and the keyboard and iPad Air together weigh under two pounds.
Kensington’s KeyFolio Exact line is worth a recommendation because of the keyboard the KeyFolio Exact models share. Though the keys are a bit small, and they don’t feel quite as nice as those on the recommended models above (for example, I found that I had to press keys a bit more firmly than on those keyboards), the keys offer good tactile feedback, the key layout is standard, and the keyboard is overall nice to touch-type on. You get a dedicated row of iOS special-function keys, and you also get a couple keys for quickly selecting text. My only major complaint about this keyboard is that there’s a raised frame at the front, just below the Spacebar and modifier keys, that’s slightly taller than the keys. At times, I “pressed” this frame when I meant to press a modifier key.
Of the KeyFolio Exact offerings, my favorite is the $110 KeyFolio Exact Thin Folio with Keyboard for iPad Air. (The $130 KeyFolio Exact Plus Thin Folio with Keyboard for iPad Air is the same product but with a backlit keyboard.) The overall package is thin, though it’s quite deep, front edge to back: 8.2 inches when closed, and 9.5 inches when open with your iPad propped up. In return for this added depth, you get multiple screen angles and a built-in stylus holder, and you can remove the keyboard itself from the folio for a more-ergonomic typing arrangement. It’s not the most-attractive keyboard folio—for example, there are some flaps of extra material that will surely show wear and tear over time—but it’s versatile.
Kensington’s $100 KeyFolio Thin X3 for iPad Air (iPad Air) isn’t part of the Exact line, but it’s still worth a look. Though its keyboard isn’t quite as good as that on the KeyFolio Exact models—the keys are thinner and don’t offer the same tactile feedback—it uses the same standard layout with a dedicated special-function-key row. (It also omits the Exact line’s raised frame, which is a minor improvement.) Like many recent folio-style keyboard cases, the Thin X3 uses a plastic shell for the iPad, rather than a traditional leather cover, and offers a single propped-up angle, but when closed, the entire package is quite thin and light. The Thin X3’s case includes the capability to flip the iPad over the keyboard for tablet-mode use; the keyboard automatically turns off when your iPad isn’t propped up for typing. But what makes the Thin X3 worth including here is that its 1650-mAh battery can be used to charge your phone, at full 1-Amp speed, as long as the X3’s battery has enough juice left. (You use the included USB adapter along with your phone’s own charge/sync cable.) Kensington says that a fully charged Thin X3 battery should give a depleted-battery iPhone 5 or 5s nearly a full charge. It’s a really nice feature that I appreciated more than I expected I would.
Latest update: Added Kensington’s KeyFolio Thin X3; updated prices on Kensington KeyFolio Exact models; updated names of Zagg models. Previous update: Added Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air, Belkin’s Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air and Kensington’s KeyFolio Exact Thin Folio with Keyboard for iPad Air; updated prices; removed Zagg ZaggFolio for iPad 2 and Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio, which have been discontinued.
Clamshell (laptop-case) keyboards
These models essentially turn your iPad into a laptop: The iPad acts as the laptop screen, while the keyboard and its surrounding enclosure, attached by some sort of hinge, play the role of the laptop base, often complete with palmrests. The downsides to most clamshell keyboard cases are that they tend to add a good amount of weight and bulk to your iPad; they usually make it difficult to use your iPad as a tablet (i.e., sans keyboard) when you’re not typing; and they use smaller-than-normal keys in a cramped layout. But the quality of the keys is often a step up from that of the average folio-case keyboard; the laptop-style design works well for typing on your lap; and most offer a good range of screen angles. Like folio-style models, most clamshells hold the iPad in landscape orientation, though you may find ones that let you prop the tablet up in portrait orientation.
Recommendations: ClamCase is perhaps the best-known vendor of clamshell keyboard cases, and for good reason: The $169 ClamCase Pro for iPad Air (iPad Air) and $169 ClamCase Pro (iPad 2, 3, 4) are great combinations of clever design, solid iPad protection, and a very good (if slightly cramped) keyboard. The well-built clamshell encloses your iPad in an attractive, aluminum-and-plastic case that looks and functions almost exactly like a laptop—so much so that while testing it, I often reached for a palmrest trackpad that doesn’t exist. But the ClamCase Pro is also flexible: Flip the keyboard/base around toward the back, and the solid hinge makes a great stand for watching video; or rotate the base and fold it flat against the back of the iPad to turn the entire package into a thick tablet. (On the iPad Air version, the keyboard even automatically turns off when you flip it back.)
The ClamCase Pro’s keyboard itself is one of the best I’ve seen in a keyboard case. It’s a bit cramped, and the modifier keys are on the small side; but all the keys are in the correct place, it’s got a nice array of dedicated special-function keys (including Cut, Copy, and Paste), and there’s little here that will frustrate a touch-typist. The iPad Air version is, of course, smaller, thinner, and lighter (two pounds, four ounces including your iPad, compared to three pounds for the version for the iPad 2/3/4), but both models use the same overall design and an identical keyboard. The only real difference I found is that the iPad Air version’s hinge isn’t quite as stiff as that on the “older” version. Overall, the ClamCase Pro models offer one of the best on-your-lap typing experiences of the iPad keyboard cases I’ve tested.
ClamCase’s $149 standard ClamCase—available in black, white, or black-and-white, with specific versions for each iPad generation—is bulkier than the ClamCase Pro, uses an all-plastic case, and has keys that aren’t as good. But it’s still a decent option if you insist on a clamshell model, or if you have an older iPad.
Despite the word “folio” in its name, Zagg’s $100 Folio Keyboard Case for Apple iPad Air (formerly called ZaggKeys Folio with Backlit Keyboard) is really a clamshell case, as it uses a rigid iPad back shell connected to the keyboard base by a stiff hinge. But unlike most clamshell cases, the Folio does your iPad Air justice by keeping things thin: The closed Folio is just 0.7 inch thick, and the whole package—iPad Air and Folio—weighs just 2.3 pounds. The Folio’s excellent keyboard, like that on the ProFolio+, above, is easy to type on and offers backlit keys. The overall design makes it easy to use the Folio on your lap; however, the hinge design makes it a challenge to access the iOS Control Center feature, since the bottom edge of the iPad’s screen is so close to the hinge. The shell covering your iPad has nifty channels that redirect your iPad’s audio toward you; and both the top and bottom of the case offer a nice, grippy texture. Like the ClamCase Pro, this one offers a very good on-your-lap experience, though at a much lower price.
If you want even less bulk, Zagg’s $100 Cover for Apple iPad Air (formerly called ZaggKeys Cover for iPad Air) is essentially an iPad Air version of the company’s older ZaggKeys Cover for iPad mini. Like the Brydge, below, the Cover for iPad Air forgoes a protective iPad cover or shell in order to give you an extremely thin clamshell-keyboard design. Instead of such a cover, the back edge of the keyboard base hosts a wide, sturdy hinge with a slot for the edge of your iPad Air. Slip your iPad into that slot—it takes a bit of force to insert or remove—and your bare iPad serves as the “laptop” screen and top case, folding flat against the base to cover the screen for transit. The Cover’s keyboard is excellent—it’s the standard model used on all recent Zagg keyboard cases, including the Folio, above—and conveniently backlit. The Cover adds only a quarter of an inch of thickness and under a pound of weight to your iPad, and the hinge is sturdy and adjustable, making this another great lap-typing option. My biggest beef is that the hinge, like the one the Folio, makes it difficult to access iOS’s Control Center.
(I’m currently awaiting our review unit of Zagg’s new Rugged Folio, which combines the Cover’s design with rugged, all-over protection.)
Honorable mentions: Brydge’s Brydge+ with Speakers ($99 for aluminum; $79 for black polycarbonate composite; iPad 2, 3, 4), like Zagg’s Cover, above, uses your iPad as the top of the clamshell. Instead of the Zagg Cover’s single wide hinge, however, the Brydge+’s base sports two narrow-but-still-sturdy hinges. You slip your iPad into these silicone-lined hinges, and they grab the tablet firmly enough that the keyboard won’t detach without some firm tugging. The Brydge+ also includes a pair of tinny-but-decent Bluetooth speakers to give you louder audio. (The company offers an $89 aluminum model that omits the Bluetooth speakers.) The Brydge+ is a well-made and impressively designed accessory—especially the aluminum version—but there’s a caveat for touch-typists: Though the keys are nice to type on, they’re slightly cramped, and the layout wedges the up-arrow key between the right-hand slash (/) and Shift keys. In my testing, I regularly pressed the up-arrow key, thus moving the cursor to the previous line, when I meant to press Shift. I could never get past this odd layout.
Brydge recently announced the $199 BrydgeAir for iPad Air. I’m awaiting a review unit, and I’ll update this section once I’ve had a chance to test the new model.
New Trent’s $40 Airbender 1.0 Keyboard Case (iPad 2, 3, 4), $40 Airbender 2.0 Keyboard Case (iPad Air), and $75 Airbender Pro (iPad Air) are all variations on a theme. Each has a keyboard that’s a tad more cramped than those of the Brydge+ and ClamCase models, and the keys feel just okay, but the Airbender models offer some unique and welcome features. After lifting the “screen,” you can rotate the iPad into portrait orientation—in fact, it’s the preferred orientation, as the hinge/stand isn’t as sturdy in landscape orientation. In addition, the hinge/stand can detach from the keyboard, letting you create a more ergonomic typing station by placing your iPad and the keyboard at different levels. And if you want to use the iPad on its own, a quick-release latch on the stand lets you detach the iPad, still clad in the Airbender’s protective top case. The 1.0 and 2.0 use a thin, hardshell top case; the Pro uses a rugged, dual-layer top case with a protective screen cover that even covers the iPad’s buttons and ports. If the keys were better, one of the Airbender models might be my keyboard case of choice thanks to the unique versatility. (The company has also released the $30 Airbender Air for the iPad Air, a thinner but less-protective model that has the added feature of letting you fold the iPad over the keyboard for easier tablet use. I haven’t yet tested this one.)
Latest update: Replaced the original New Trent Airbender with the newer Airbender 1.0, 2.0, and Pro models; updated Zagg product names; updated price and options for Brydge+. Previous update: Added Zagg’s ZaggKeys Folio with Backlit Keyboard for iPad Air and ZaggKeys Cover for iPad Air; updated prices; added info about New Trent’s new models for the iPad Air.
These models are the thinnest and lightest of the keyboard cases. They integrate a thin keyboard into a rigid shell that protects the front (screen) of the iPad in transit. When you’re ready to type, you pop the iPad out of, or pull it away from, the shell; stick it in a prop-up slot above the keyboard; and start typing. Most keyboard shells offer only a single angle for your iPad, though they often let you use your iPad in your choice of portrait or landscape orientation. Keyboard shells can be used on your lap if you’re careful, but they’re usually less stable on your lap than folios and clamshells, especially if your iPad is positioned in portrait orientation. Some keyboard shells, but not all, can be used in tandem with Apple’s Smart Cover.
As with clamshell-case models, the keyboards here tend to be a bit cramped, and the keys are usually smaller than normal. The models I’ve recommended are nevertheless quite usable, and despite their super-thin profiles, they have keys that feel nice when typing.
Recommendations: Logitech’s $100 Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad (iPad 2, 3, 4), $100 Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air (iPad Air), and $100 Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-on Keyboard Cover (iPad Air)—all variations on the same design—are personal favorites thanks to a clever design, a thin profile, light weight, very good keys, and a standard key layout that’s the least cramped I’ve found in a keyboard shell. Instead of gripping the edges of your iPad, each Ultrathin Keyboard Cover uses a hinge that attaches magnetically to the edge of the tablet; the keyboard then closes against your iPad’s screen (again, sticking magnetically) to protect the screen during transit. When you’re ready to type, you just flip the keyboard away from the screen, give it a gentle tug to detach the hinge, and then prop your iPad in the slot above the keys. Combine an Ultrathin with a Smart Cover-compatible back shell, and your iPad is completely protected in transit. Though there are many copycat products out there these days, the Logitech models are still the best overall, in my opinion.
The original and iPad Air versions of the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover are very similar to each other, though the one for the iPad Air is, of course, a bit smaller. Each uses a hinge that looks like, and functions identically to, the hinge on Apple’s Smart Cover. The Air model includes a few tweaks to its keys compared to the original: It removes the right-hand Command and Option keys in favor of a language key; it gains Previous and Next media-playback keys; it adds special-function keys for Siri and iOS’s multitasking screen; and it loses the Spotlight-search key. A few keys are also narrower than on the original version, but instead of fingerprint-magnet glossy black, the area above the keyboard has a nicer matte finish on the Air version.
The very latest model, the Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-on Keyboard Cover, is even thinner, yet it manages to make the actual keys slightly larger, and it even gives you a separate special-function-key row instead of overlaying those functions on the number keys. The newest version’s keys aren’t quite as nice to type on as the ones on the earlier two models, but they’re still very good for this type of keyboard, and their larger size makes up for much of that difference in feel. You also now get a right-hand ctrl key, a dedicated Spotlight-search key, and a dedicated screenshot key. The other big changes are to the hinge and iPad slot. Instead of the Smart Cover-like hinge found on the earlier models, the Magnetic Clip-on Keyboard Cover features a hinge that collapses into the body of the cover when you’re using the keyboard; you extend the hinge by carefully sliding your iPad, flat against the cover, toward the hinge until the iPad’s own magnets cause the hinge to pop up. This new design looks nice, but in practice it’s a bit too fiddly for my tastes. On the other hand, the slot on the new model also features its own stiff hinge, so you can tilt your iPad back as much as 30 additional degrees, allowing for much nicer screen angles when typing (at least when your iPad is in landscape orientation—the additional lean makes a portrait-orientation iPad less stable). This slot hinge is quite sturdy—it takes a good amount of force to change the angle. The only drawback to this feature is that you must remember to manually press the hinged slot back into place before putting your iPad and the cover together for travel.
If you have an iPad 2, 3, or 4, it’s easy to decide which Ultrathin to get, as only one of the three models fits those iPads. If you have an iPad Air, you’ll need to make a decision: Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air or Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-on Keyboard Cover? Both are very good; each has minor advantages, and each has minor shortcomings. Having used both extensively, I recommend buying whichever one you find for a lower price—unless you’d really value the capability to change the angle of your iPad while typing, in which case you’ll want the Magnetic.
Zagg’s $130 Pro Plus (iPad 2, 3, 4; formerly called Zagg KeysPro Plus) uses the same solid keyboard as the company’s ProFolio+, above, but in a keyboard-shell body that clings magnetically to the front of your iPad during transit. You just detach the Pro Plus from your iPad, prop your iPad in the slot above the keys, and type away. A nice bonus feature is that, like the ProFolio+, the Pro Plus’s keyboard uses backlit keys for easier typing in low-light environments.
Honorable mentions: Belkin’s $100 Qode Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air (iPad Air) uses a keyboard similar to the one in the Qode Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air (mentioned in the folio section above), which means that while the keys themselves are nicely responsive, the keyboard is a bit cramped, and some keys are in non-standard positions—like its sibling, this isn’t a great option for touch-typists. However, the Thin Type’s keyboard bests its sibling’s thanks to a dedicated special-function-key row and some interesting keys that correspond to the iTunes Radio options to Play More Like This, Never Play This Song, and Add To iTunes Wish List. The Thin Type uses a Smart Cover-like hinge, and it looks fantastic thanks to a unibody anodized-aluminum body—at the thinner front edge, this is the thinnest keyboard shell I’ve seen, though the edges are MacBook Air-sharp. The company says the Thin Type’s battery, which adds a bit of thickness to the back edge, offers 3,100 hours of standby life or 79 hours of active use. A nifty touch is that when you remove your iPad Air from the Thin Type’s slot, the keyboard immediately turns off, so you avoid accidental typing when your iPad isn’t propped up for work. If you aren’t a touch-typist, this is a nice option.
Belkin’s $80 Qode FastFit Keyboard Cover (iPad 2, 3, 4) is similar in design to Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, but without the magnetic hinge. Instead, it’s got a magnetic, stationary lip along the back edge that holds the iPad in place during travel. It bests the Ultrathin by offering two grooves for your iPad, so you get a choice of two screen angles. However, the FastFit’s keys are a bit smaller; the square shape of those keys feels a little off; and the FastFit makes the same touch-typist-thwarting mistake with the up-arrow key as the Brydge+, above.
If you’re on a budget, Anker’s TC930 Ultra-Thin Bluetooth Keyboard Cover for iPad Air (iPad Air) looks a lot like an iPad Air-sized clone of Logitech’s original Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, though with keys that are a tiny bit smaller and more cramped, and that don’t feel as nice. Also, I had to press those keys a bit more firmly than expected for the key presses to register. The result is a typing experience that isn’t as good as what you’ll get with the other keyboard shells recommended here. But the keys are all in the right locations; you get a proven design; and the TC930 adds a nifty support stand that automatically pops up whenever you prop your iPad Air in the slot above the keyboard, making the iPad a bit more stable than with the original Logitech model. And then there’s the most compelling feature of the TC930: It’s available for just $30 on Amazon.com.
Latest update: Added Logitech’s Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-on Keyboard Cover, Belkin’s Qode Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air, and Anker’s TC930 Ultra-Thin Bluetooth Keyboard Cover for iPad Air; updated product names; removed Zagg’s ZaggKeys Pro, which has been discontinued. Previous update: Added Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air.
Instead of a physical keyboard, several companies offer overlays that lie on your iPad’s screen—generally secured using magnets or some kind of sticky silicone–and add a tactile feel to the iPad’s own software keyboard. For example, Touchfire’s Touchfire Keyboard for iPad (iPad 1, 2, 3, 4; Air version announced; $40 and up) is a clear, silicone overlay that adds little nibs to each virtual key’s “top,” as well as slighty raised ridges around each key. The Touchfire does make typing a bit more tactile for touch-typists, but the overall experience isn’t otherwise much different than typing on the bare screen. And I found that because of the tactile feel, I frequently rested my fingers on the Touchfire’s key areas, which resulted in accidental key taps.
The $35 TacType (formerly called the iKeyboard; iPad 2, 3, 4) instead uses a rigid-plastic frame with clear, bubble-like key overlays. This approach prevents accidental keypresses, and I liked typing with it better than with the Touchfire, but I found the bubbles to be too difficult to press compared to good physical keys.
Keyboard overlays can be convenient—they take up quite a bit less space than a full keyboard, and they don’t require batteries or charging—but I personally don’t find them to be enough of an improvement over the iPad’s on-screen keyboard to make them worth the cost. And, of course, you must move them out of the way whenever you want to use the iPad’s screen normally.
Continue to the next page for stand-alone keyboards, desktop/tablet hybrid keyboards, stands and cases for keyboards, and iPad mini keyboards.
Stand-alone keyboards: Bluetooth
A stand-alone keyboard must be carried separately from your iPad, and it often requires that you have a separate iPad stand (or at least a case with a built-in stand). For these reasons, many people don’t even consider this category. But you should, because stand-alone keyboards offer a number of advantages over other types. Stand-alone keyboards usually offer full-size, high-quality keys arranged in a standard layout. Combined with a good stand, you get much better ergonomics than with a keyboard case, because you can separate the iPad and the keyboard. When you don’t need the keyboard, you can leave it behind to travel light. And with a stand-alone keyboard, you don’t need to buy a new version if you upgrade your iPad. A stand-alone keyboard also lets you use your favorite case, and it works with any iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. (Most can even be used with a Mac or Windows PC.) For all these reasons, this is my favorite type of iPad keyboard unless you spend more time with a keyboard than without—and even then, I’d at least consider a separate keyboard.
The good news is that there are plenty of excellent stand-alone iPad keyboards out there, and all of them work with any iPad model. (See the “Stand-alone stands” section, below, for stand recommendations.)
Recommendations: Logitech’s $100 Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811 is slightly wider than Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, but it’s the same depth and a little thinner. Despite its thin profile, the Easy-Switch uses fantastic, concave-top keys in a fully standard layout, along with a full complement of iOS special-function keys. Even better, all of the keys are backlit for easier dim-light typing. And the Easy-Switch can pair with up to three devices—for example, an iPad, an iPhone, and a Mac, or even an Apple TV—simultaneously, letting you instantly switch to whichever computing device happens to be sitting in front of you. The result is that the K811 is one of my favorite keyboards for iPads and Macs. (The company also makes the Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810, a version for Windows, Android, and iOS.)
Although not specifically designed for the iPad, Apple’s $69 Wireless Keyboard is a great fit for the company’s tablet. The keyboard is compact, light, and sturdy, yet it offers a full-size keyboard with the same great keys as Apple’s laptops. And many of its Mac-focused special-function keys perform similar duties when used with the iPad (namely, screen brightness, media control, and volume level; the Eject key also toggles iOS’s on-screen keyboard). You may prefer some of the other options here thanks to their additional special-function keys and lighter weight, but Apple’s Wireless Keyboard remains one of the better options—especially if you’ve already got one for your Mac that you can borrow when traveling with your iPad.
If Apple were to make its Wireless Keyboard a bit thinner at the back, add a full complement of iOS special-function keys, and toss in a splash of color, you’d get InNuevo’s $50 InNuevo Keyboard. Though it sports a silver-plastic bottom and a top casing in your choice of black, green, blue, red, or white, the InNuevo Keyboard nevertheless resembles Apple’s offering thanks to full-size white keys that look and feel much like the ones on the Wireless. But at just under 11 ounces and only half an inch thick along the back edge, the InNuevo is more travel friendly, and it gives you all the iOS keys Apple’s keyboard is missing. The InNuevo Keyboard also fits snuggly into InNuevo’s Dockr 2, mentioned in the stands section, below.
Honorable mentions: Amazon’s $26 AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad and Genius’s LuxePad 9000 Ultra-thin Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad ($60 MSRP; roughly $35 at street prices) are variations on the same keyboard—the Amazon model is black and about half an inch shorter from front edge to back, while the Genius version is white and slightly deeper. Neither is as solid as the best models here, but each weighs under nine ounces, and apart from a difficult-to-use pod of arrow keys, each is a solid keyboard at a great price.
Logitech’s $80 Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 (officially discontinued, but still widely available) is similar to the Easy-Switch K811, above, in that it offers a very good iOS-focused keyboard that pairs with up to three devices. But it lacks the Easy-Switch’s key backlighting, and while its solar-powered battery-charging system is convenient, the added space required by the solar cells makes the K760 considerably larger than the Easy-Switch. Still, it’s a great stand-alone keyboard if you’ll generally keep it with your computer but want to be able to use it with your iPad in a pinch.
Logitech’s third entry in this category—an impressive feat—is the $70 Tablet Keyboard for iPad. This model sports very good keys, feels rock-solid, and comes with a hardshell keyboard case that flips open to double as a sturdy iPad stand. However, the Tablet Keyboard is relatively heavy—with the case it weighs nearly 22 ounces—and it omits dedicated iOS special-function keys in favor of fn-key-modified numeral keys.
Targus’s $64 Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad features large, easy-to-press keys and even an fn-key-activated embedded numeric keypad (like the one on many older Apple PowerBooks). While this model isn’t as solid-feeling as many of the other products recommended here, it’s light (just 9.5 ounces) and it fits full-size keys in a compact package. (Though I haven’t tested it, Anker’s T300 Ultra-Slim Mini Bluetooth 3.0 Wireless Keyboard, available for just $20 on Amazon.com, appears to be the same keyboard as the Targus Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad, but at a much lower price.)
Take Zagg’s Folio, mentioned above, and strip it down to just the keyboard, and you get the $80 ZaggKeys Flex Tablet Keyboard and Stand. With a footprint of just 9.5 by 4.7 inches, and only a third of an inch thick, the Flex is the smallest stand-alone keyboard I’ve tested that doesn’t induce typing frustration. It also comes with a rigid travel case that folds out to double as an iPad stand (though a gap in the back of the stand means it can’t prop up a portrait-orientation iPad mini). And at just over 11 ounces with the case/stand, and under 7 ounces without, the Flex won’t add much to your load. One complaint: The dedicated “Siri” key in the lower-left corner of the keyboard is really just a second Home-screen button…which means that if you accidentally hit it (which isn’t difficult to do given the keyboard’s smaller-than-standard layout), you’re whisked out of your app and back to the Home screen.
Also from Zagg is the $70 ZaggKeys Universal Tablet Keyboard and Stand. Though its individual keys are similar to those on the Flex, the body of the keyboard is slightly convex. Zagg says this is a more ergonomic design, but I’m not convinced—thanks to the curve, I found it a bit more difficult to reach the top row of keys than on the Flex. And the Universal is about half an inch deeper, front edge to back, than the Flex, and slightly thicker thanks to its curved shape. But the Universal fixes the Flex’s annoying Home-button placement, and it’s even lighter than the Flex at 6.7 ounces by itself or 10.4 ounces with the included travel case. (The case doubles as a tabletop tablet stand while you’re using the keyboard.) If you’ve got an Android or Windows tablet, a switch on the back of the Universal changes the special-function keys to work with those platforms; the downside to this flexibility is a useless-to-iPad-users Start key that displaces the left-hand Option key.
Latest update: Updated prices and product names; added mention of Anker T300. Previous update: Added Zagg’s ZaggKeys Universal and InNuevo’s InNuevo Keyboard; updated prices; removed Kensington KeyStand Compact Keyboard & Stand, which has been discontinued.
Stand-alone keyboards: Wired
Most iPad keyboards connect wirelessly, using Bluetooth. But there are times when Bluetooth isn’t an option, such as when you’re on a plane and not allowed to use wireless technology, or when you don’t want to worry about battery life or charging the keyboard. And some situations just aren’t suited to Bluetooth pairing, such as a classroom full of iPads that share a keyboard or two, or if you’re looking for a keyboard for someone who may not be tech savvy enough to deal with potential pairing issues. In these circumstances, a wired keyboard is a better option—you just plug in and start typing.
The downside to the wired approach is that your iPad’s stand or case must keep the tablet’s Lightning- or 30-pin-connector port accessible, but the upside is an instant, no-hassle connection, along with the capability to quickly move the keyboard between devices. (Wired keyboards are powered by your iPad—they don’t require charging or batteries.)
The best wired iPad keyboard I’ve seen is Macally’s $60 iKey Wired Keyboard. Available in two versions, the iKeyLT Lightning Wired Keyboard (shown here, for Lightning-connector devices) and the iKey30 30 Pin Wired Keyboard (for older, 30-pin dock-connector devices), this keyboard features full-size keys in a standard layout, and it connects to your iPad (or other iOS device) using a 3-foot cable. It also includes a few other niceties, including dedicated keys for undo, redo, and taking a screenshot, as well as keys for typing €, £, ¥, .com, .net, .org, and .biz. Both models come with a fold-up iPad stand, but that stand is flimsy and feels like an afterthought.
A close second is Belkin’s $60 Secure Wired Keyboard for iPad, also available in both Lightning-connector and 30-pin versions. This one is quite a bit larger than the MacAlly model—specifically, it’s a bit thicker and a couple inches deeper—but it offers widely-spaced keys with longer key travel, resulting in a typing experience that feels a bit closer to that of a desktop keyboard than a laptop. The keys are slightly mushy, but I suspect that many people will still prefer them for their tactile feedback. Because of the keyboard’s desktop-style size, the arrow keys are large and separated from the main keyboard area, and the keys along each edge (Tab, Caps Lock, Shift, Enter, and so on) are considerably larger than on most portable keyboards, making for easier touch-typing. The Secure Wired Keyboard is designed for use in schools and feels exceptionally sturdy—it should hold up to reasonable abuse. The downsides here are that the keyboard offers fewer special-function keys than you’ll find on the MacAlly model (just media-playback-control, volume/mute, Home, and screen lock), and the two-foot cable might be too short for some situations.
Honorable mentions: Griffin Technology’s $60 Wired Keyboard for iOS Devices is the lightest and most compact wired keyboard I’ve tested, making it a nice option for travel—it looks and feels a lot like the Targus Bluetooth stand-alone keyboard mentioned above, only with a silver-plastic body instead of black (and without the Targus model’s handy overlaid number pad). The low-profile keys are roughly the same size as those on Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, though they don’t have as much travel or tactile feedback—I occasionally didn’t press a key firmly enough to register a keystroke. The keyboard uses a 3.5-foot cable, and is available in both Lightning-connector and 30-pin versions.
Logitech’s $60 Wired Keyboard for iPad, also available in both Lightning-connector and 30-pin versions, is another solid offering designed specifically for schools. It features a rugged, spill-resistant design and a shorter cable. However, the Logitech keyboard is even thicker than the Belkin model, and its keys aren’t quite as responsive.
Latest update: Added Belkin Secure Wireless Keyboard and Griffin Technology Wired Keyboard for iPad. Previous update: Added Logitech Wired Keyboad for iPad.
Desktop keyboards and desktop/tablet hybrids
If you generally use an external keyboard only when at your desk, you might want to consider forgoing travel-friendly size and weight in favor of some desktop niceties. Several vendors make keyboards designed to be used at a desk that add features you won’t find in a portable model. Other vendors make keyboards that can pair with multiple devices—say, your desktop computer, your laptop, and your iPad—and let you easily switch your Bluetooth connection between those devices, so you can use a single keyboard with all your gear. You’ll still need a stand, but you’ll have one less keyboard on your desk.
Recommendations: I already recommended (in the stand-alone keyboard section, above) Logitech’s excellent Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811 and Wireless Solar Keyboard K760. Each of these models can pair with multiple devices, and each works great as a keyboard for both an iPad and a desktop computer simultaneously. They’re my favorite multi-device keyboards.
Matias, the well-known maker of mechanical-keyswitch keyboards such as the Quiet Pro, offers a number of desktop/iOS hybrid models. The $200 Tactile One Keyboard is a full-size desktop keyboard that uses the same excellent keys as the popular Tactile Pro but adds Bluetooth and a USB 3.0 hub. You connect the Tactile One to your computer via USB, and to your iPad (or other iOS device) via Bluetooth; a button on the keyboard lets you toggle between the USB and Bluetooth connections. A cushioned pad, positioned between the main key area and the numeric keypad, lets you keep your smartphone close at hand. (The One line is officially designed for the iPhone, but it works just as well with the iPad.)
If you prefer a compact keyboard, Matias’s $50 Slim One Keyboard is based on the same concept as the Tactile One, but instead of a full-size keyboard with a number pad, the Slim is about the size of Apple’s wired keyboard and uses similar flat, low-profile keys. Those keys are pretty good as iPad keyboards go, though they’re not quite as good as the keys on Apple’s own keyboards. Both One keyboards are handy if you tend to use your iPad at your desk for, say, reading and posting to Twitter, or for taking quick notes.
Honorable mentions: Matias’s $100 One Keyboard is similar to the Tactile One but uses less-expensive (and less-tactilely-pleasing) keys; it also includes a USB 2.0 hub instead of USB 3.0.
Like Logitech’s Easy-Switch K811 keyboard, Kanex’s $69 Multi-Sync Keyboard can pair with multiple iOS devices and Macs simultaneously, letting you switch between paired devices with a button press. But the Multi-Sync also includes a USB port for connecting directly to your computer, leaving you with all three Bluetooth slots for iOS devices (or other computers). The Multi-Sync also offers a full-size design, complete with a numeric keypad, and it includes a great iPad stand that I also recommend separately in the next section. However, the Kanex keyboard’s keys aren’t nearly as good as those on the Logitech or Matias models.
Finally, it’s worth noting that you can use many standard USB keyboards with an iPad via Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter for Lightning-connector iPads, or the older 30-pin version for 30-pin-dock-connector iPads. As long as the keyboard doesn’t require too much power—for example, some keyboards with backlit keys need more juice—it should work fine, though you’ll miss out on iOS-specific keys.
Travel stands My current favorites for travel are Kanex’s Foldable iDevice Stand ($20 for two), Cooler Master’s $30 Jas mini, Twelve South’s $40 Compass 2 Mobile Stand, and Rain Design’s $40 iSlider iPad Pocket Stand. The Kanex stand weighs less than an ounce and folds into an almost-flat package, yet it offers multiple angles and is surprisingly sturdy. It’s also a fantastic value. The stylish Jas mini weighs just 2.7 ounces, but it’s made of anodized aluminum and is available in multiple colors. My only complaint is that the lip on Jas mini’s cradle is a bit shallow for an iPad in a case, especially if that case has a smooth finish.
The Compass 2 is heavier (8.2 ounces) and it offers just two angles—one upright and one for onscreen typing—but it’s more stable than the iDevice Stand and Jas mini when used with an iPad in portrait orientation, and it folds up to a size that’s not much larger than a few pens. (Compared to the original Compass, the Compass 2 is more stable, especially in portrait orientation.) The iSlider (7.5 ounces) is the bulkiest of the bunch, but it’s also the sturdiest, and its clever design offers a range of angles, from nearly horizontal to nearly vertical.
Less-portable stands If you’ll be using your iPad/keyboard combo mainly at your desk, consider Heckler Design’s $49 @Rest for iPad, a heavy, rock-solid stand that offers several angles and compatibility with a range of cases—it would be tough to find a more-stable stand. Rain Design’s $40 iRest Lap Stand lifts your iPad higher than most, and it doubles as a comfortable stand for propping your iPad in your lap when you’re lounging. For something more compact, Gogo’s $25 Stump Tablet Stand is a staff favorite—thanks to its chunky profile, sticky bottom, and nearly 9-ounce weight, it offers a stable base that doesn’t slide around, yet it doesn’t take up much room on your desk.
Stands for Apple’s Wireless Keyboard If you’re using Apple’s own Wireless Keyboard, a slew of stands are available that are specifically designed to pair it with an iPad. A longtime favorite is Incase’s $30 Origami Workstation, which encloses your Wireless Keyboard in a sturdy travel case that unfolds into a solid iPad stand when it’s time to get to work. The stand even works in a pinch for typing on your lap.
A similar, though less svelte, option is the Touchtype ($49 for polyurethane; $99 for leather), a folio-style case that holds both your iPad and Apple’s Wireless Keyboard for travel. When you’re ready to type, slip the keyboard out of the case and the case becomes an iPad stand for either portrait- or landscape-orientation use. However, the current version of the Touchtype doesn’t fit the iPad Air or iPad mini.
The $40 Nimblstand is a nifty Apple Wireless Keyboard stand for those who need to type and draw. The keyboard slides into a groove in the front, and your iPad rests in a thin cradle just above the keyboard. A stabilizing wedge in back allows your iPad to lean much farther than with most stands, even in portrait orientation, making it easier to view the screen while typing. When you want to sketch or draw—or just to read something on the screen without hands—you move that wedge to the other side (under the keyboard), flip the stand around, and the Nimblstand’s second cradle holds your iPad at an even-closer-to-horizontal angle that’s great for onscreen strokes. There’s even a slot to hold a Wacom Bamboo Stylus.
MyKeyO’s $35 silicone Executive Restt is weighted in the rear for a flexible-yet-stable design. The front of the Restt fits Apple’s Wireless Keyboard perfectly, and a wide slot in the rear props up any iPad in either orientation, even in a thin case—though it’s tough to press the iPad’s Home button in portrait orientation. What makes the Restt unique is a slew of organizational features: You get two stylus/pen holders, two business-card slots, and—my favorite—a hidden desktop organizer. Just lift the front of the keyboard, like the top of an old-fashioned school desk, to reveal five small compartments for desk supplies. The Restt is available in eight colors and comes with a five-year warranty. (MyKeyO also sells a $70 version that includes the company’s own Bluetooth keyboard.)
If you’re looking for something with a bit more style, the German-made Woody’s TabletTray (67€) is CNC-carved, hand sanded, environmentally friendly, and fits Apple’s Wireless Keyboard precisely. It’s available in your choice of walnut, cherry, or maple—I’m partial to the walnut model. A slot at the rear holds your iPad (any size, even in a thin case) at a pretty good angle in landscape or portrait orientation; a cutout at the front of the slot lets you access the iPad’s Home button in portrait orientation. It’s a very attractive package that looks great on a desk, and it also works well for typing on your lap, though when used on your lap with a full-size iPad, it’s more stable in landscape orientation than portrait. (The company ships to the U.S., or you can purchase from AhaLife.)
For something a bit more minimalist, and portable in a pinch, Ethic’s $15 WingStand consists of two small pieces of plastic that slide onto the cylindrical rear edge of the Wireless Keyboard. These plastic pieces form a cradle for your iPad or other iOS device in landscape or portrait orientation. The WingStand isn’t very versatile—it doesn’t work with thicker cases, it’s intended for use only on a desktop or other flat surface, and it works only with Apple’s keyboard—but it’s sturdy and inexpensive.
Finally, if you’ve got Apple’s Wireless Keyboard or InNuevo’s InNuevo Keyboard (mentioned above), the $115 Dockr 2 (iPad 1, 2, 3, 4) is an interesting option. It looks much like a laptop, but when you open the lid, the base offers a well that’s custom-fit for either of these two keyboards; the lid becomes an adjustable stand that holds any iPad model in portrait or landscape orientation. (It doesn’t hold the iPad Air or iPad mini firmly, so you won’t want to carry those iPad models inside; the iPad 1, 2, 3, and 4 fit more securely.) The Dockr 2 also includes a set of Bluetooth speakers and a battery that adds a bit of extra use time to your iPad. The speakers are fairly tinny, and the case is plasticky and bulky, but the Dockr is great on your lap, and it could be a nice option for a classroom. (The company sells the Dockr 2 and InNuevo Keyboard together for $150.)
Latest update: Added Cooler Master’s Jas mini, MyKeyO’s Restt, and Woody’s TabletTray; updated prices. Previous update: Added Kanex’s Foldable iDevice Stand, Gogo’s Stump Stand, the Nimblstand, and InNuevo’s Dockr 2; updated prices; removed Griffin Technology’s Xpo Compact Universal Tablet Stand, which has been discontinued.
iPad mini keyboards
Apple’s iPad mini and Retina iPad mini have turned out to be even more popular than their full-size counterparts. But the mini’s smaller screen means that it’s even more difficult to do serious typing using iOS’s software keyboard—which for some people will make a physical keyboard that much more appealing.
However, all the usability trade-offs I mentioned for iPad keyboard cases affect iPad mini keyboard cases even more: Because the iPad mini has a considerably smaller footprint, any keyboard case that tries to match that footprint must incorporate an even more-cramped keyboard, with even smaller keys, than would a keyboard for a full-size iPad. Most iPad mini keyboard cases we’ve tested omit some keys altogether, or at best relegate them to fn-key-enabled functions of remaining keys.
I’ve tested many iPad mini-sized keyboard cases, and while they vary in design and key quality, I’ve found most of them to be exceedingly frustrating to use for touch-typing. A number of them have keyboards that just feel cheap and flimsy, and most are so cramped, and have enough keys in non-standard locations, that I couldn’t type a sentence without multiple errors. Others, such as Genius’s LuxePad i9010 Ultra-Thin Keyboard for iPad mini, Kensington’s KeyCover Hard Shell Keyboard for iPad mini, Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad mini and Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad mini, and Zagg’s Mini 7 (formerly called ZaggKeys Mini 7), use higher-quality keys, but in the case of the Ultrathin models, some are just too small for comfortable use, and on the LuxePad i9010, Hard Shell Keyboard, and Mini 7, larger key size has been achieved by placing some keys in non-standard locations and by overlaying commonly used keys, requiring the fn key to access the overlays.
In short, if you’re a hunt-and-peck typist, some iPad mini keyboard cases may be acceptable to you, but touch-typists like me will largely be disappointed. That said, there are a few models that stand out from the rest.
Recommendations: As you may have guessed, I don’t have any strong recommendations here. If you’re a touch-typist, and you don’t need to type on your lap, consider going with a stand-alone keyboard instead. (Even if you do need to type on your lap, consider a stand-alone keyboard with one of the lap-friendly stands or cases recommended above.) You’ll get a much better typing experience, you won’t ruin the iPad mini’s thin profile and light weight, and you can leave the keyboard behind when you want to travel light—which, if you’ve got an iPad mini, is likely a good deal of the time.
Honorable mentions: If you truly need a keyboard that fits the iPad mini’s profile, a few models get my limited recommendation. If you don’t mind a bit of extra bulk, Zagg’s ZaggKeys Mini 9 (officially discontinued, but currently available for as little as $19 on Amazon.com) forgoes an iPad mini-matching footprint in favor of a better typing experience. The Mini 9 is about an inch and a half wider than the Mini 7 mentioned above (9.6 versus 8.1 inches), but is the same depth and thickness. Your iPad looks a bit odd in the Mini 9’s too-long case, but it fits snuggly (almost too snuggly—it’s a bit of a challenge to remove the iPad, especially the iPad mini with Retina display, which is slightly thicker than the original model). In return for putting up with this extra length, however, you get a keyboard that’s about the same size as you’d find in a standard iPad keyboard case. In other words, the keyboard is somewhat cramped, but entirely useable, with all the keys in the correct places. The Mini 9 even lets you type in your lap. Though the Mini 9 was one of the first iPad mini cases on the market, it’s still my overall favorite, despite the larger-than-a-mini size, because I can actually type on it.
Zagg also has a couple other decent offerings, the $100 Folio for iPad mini (formerly called ZaggKeys Folio for iPad mini) and the $100 Cover for iPad mini (formerly called ZaggKeys Cover for iPad mini). Each uses the same backlit keyboard and is roughly the same size as the iPad mini itself. The main difference is that the Folio uses a plastic back shell that holds your iPad; the Cover features a hinge into which you slide the iPad, using your iPad itself as the lid of a makeshift laptop—the Cover doesn’t actually cover the mini’s backside. (If you read the sections on keyboards for full-size iPads, above, these are simply iPad mini versions of Zagg’s standard Folio and Cover keyboards.) The keys aren’t full size, but most of the main keys are large enough and, as we pointed out in our review, you can actually type on them. To fit everything, however, other keys are half-width, while a few serve fn-enabled double duty. The result is, as with other iPad mini keyboards, a good amount of compromise, but if you want a keyboard that matches your iPad mini’s footprint, these two offer the best set of compromises we’ve seen. (Which to choose? Check out our full review for the relative merits of each.)
Finally, New Trent’s $41 Airbender Mini and $36 Airbender Mini 1.0, like the full-size Airbenders mentioned above, have cramped keyboards with keys that feel just okay. But as with their larger siblings, after opening the case/screen on the Airbender Mini, you can rotate the iPad into portrait orientation; the hinge can detach from the keyboard to become an independent stand for a more ergonomic typing setup; and a quick-release clip lets detach your iPad completely from the stand/hinge for use sans keyboard. The Airbender Mini’s case section is all-over protective: There’s a rigid shell on the back; a plastic front with a use-through, transparent screen cover; and a silicone jacket that wraps around everything.
The Airbender Mini 1.0 is less rugged—its case is a thinner shell without the silicone jacket or screen protector—and instead of using a removable hinge/stand, the 1.0 uses a laptop-style hinge that also swivels 180 degrees (much like the Clamcase, above). The result is that the 1.0 has a considerably thinner profile, though it loses a lot of the versatility of the non-1.0 Airbender Mini.
Latest update: Added information about the Airbender Mini 1.0; updated names of Zagg keyboards; updated prices. Previous update: Added mention of Kensington and Genius iPad mini keyboards and Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad mini.
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