Picking the Best iPad Pro Keyboard: Apple’s Smart Keyboard Not the Smartest Choice

By | December 5, 2015

Unless you recently came into an inheritance, or that special someone has been extraordinarily good this year, the iPad Pro is a bit pricey for most holiday gift lists. However for those Apple fans in your life that have already upsized to the Pro, there are plenty of accessories that make nice gifts. For business users and students, none is more important than a keyboard and although Apple released the specially designed Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro, it remains hard to get, meaning a Plan B is essential with Christmas just three weeks away. Not to worry, since there are several good alternatives that best Apple’s product on several fronts.

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In my experience, there’s no better iPad Pro-sized portable keyboard than the Zagg Messenger Universal. I’ve used both the Zagg and Apple keyboards for the last couple weeks and unless you value form over function (in this case thinness versus features), the Zagg is a better choice. Here’s my full discussion of why, In summary, although unlike the Smart Keyboard, the Messenger doesn’t double as a cover, it does fold into a compact, self-sealing case that’s just slightly thicker than the iPad itself. Still, the Zagg has several things to commend it:

  • A full row of iOS shortcut keys, including one I haven’t seen before to display the stack of running apps (equivalent to double-tapping the iPad home button).
  • Better key action: With a deeper profile, the Zagg uses a more traditional key mechanism that offers a longer key stroke and better tactile feel.
  • Works in portrait or landscape: Like all tablet keyboards, the Zagg folds into a stand, however since it’s wireless and not tied to a mechanical connector, the iPad Pro works in either portrait or landscape. Note, that due to the Pro’s size, it’s a bit top-heavy in portrait, so you have to be careful when using it on your lap in this orientation.
  • Good battery life: Zagg claims three months between charges, but I haven’t had it long enough to verify; I’m still on my first charge.

Read on for the details…

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Zagg Messenger Universal turns the iPad Pro into a laptop.

7 thoughts on “Picking the Best iPad Pro Keyboard: Apple’s Smart Keyboard Not the Smartest Choice

  1. Jeffrey

    I’ve tried the Zagg, the Logitech Create and the Smart Keyboard (the SK only in the store) and I think, hands down the best keyboard for the IPad Pro is Logitech’s “Keys to go”. Thinner than any other option. Durable. Easy to commute with. I think some keyboard reviews for the IPad Pro should start considering this option. It has been my final decision – pending trying out the SK long term once it is readily available.

    1. Kurt Marko Post author

      While the Logitech Fabric covered keyboard is very portable, it’s designed for smaller tablets like the iPad Air and Android devices, not the full-size Pro. As such, the keys are smaller than either of the models I reviewed and probably have even less travel than the Smart Keyboard. If it works for you, great, but I think most people would find a larger keyboard more comfortable and productive.

      1. Jeffrey

        Good Points. They are smaller, however, it is working great for me. When I had the Logitech Create keyboard/case, the Ipad Pro was actually larger and seemed heavier than my Macbook Air. I guess, to each their own. I’m excited to give the Smart Keyboard a try once it is readily available. In the meantime I guess I am one of the users that is willing to sacrifice size of the keyboard for portability. Great article and thank you for your response.

        1. Kurt Marko Post author

          Given your preferences for size and weight, you’ll love the Smart Keyboard. I do too and won’t give it up, however the Zagg gives a better laptop-like experience (in fact, I’m writing this on the Zagg :).

  2. Jeffrey

    ……Now if only I could get my hands on a Smart Keyboard 🙂 🙂 :).

    I wonder if Apple purposefully underproduced it so that Logitech and Zagg, et al. could get impatient purchasers like me to bu something else while we were waiting on it. Perhaps a conspiracy theory but I don’t know how Apple launched the IPad Pro as an enterprise device without having their needed accessories in greater supply than demand.

    Totally off subject, and sorry for the additional off topic reply, but have you found a docking station that you would recommend for multiple iOS devices? I.e.: IPad Pro, IPad AIr, two iPhones, and an Apple Watch? I think, perhaps, the device is too new (IPad Pro) but I can’t find any attractive charging dock/solution that is iPad Pro compatible.

    1. Kurt Marko Post author

      Re: docking station. Not sure what this means for iOS given that devices only have a single Lightning connector. I have a variety of stands I use for iPhone and iPad reading and love the Brydge keyboard that turns an iPad into a laptop (n version for the Pro), but I don’t see the feasibility or utility of a PC-like dock. For multi-device charging, I use one of the USB charging stations like this one: http://www.ianker.com/product/71AN7105SS-BA

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