If BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is going to work properly be it for business or education, you are going to need some extra hardware to make your tablet go further. Here, we look at the top 10 keyboards for iPad. The line-up includes keyboard covers, keyboard folios, keyboard clamshells and standalone keyboards for the latest iPad Air and iPad mini as well as previous generation iPads.
So you have decided to take your iPad to work or school. While the on-screen keyboard is great, it takes up valuable screen estate that could otherwise be used to look a spreadsheet, document or website. Enter the optional Bluetooth keyboards. Once detected and installed, it automatically replaces the on-screen keyboard, freeing up those extra space for your apps.
Unlike the on screen keyboard, it also gives its users the tactile feel of typing on a keyboard instead of tapping on the flat screen, although a screen over skin is available that overlays your screen but you won’t enjoy the benefit of extra screen real estate.
These optional keyboards comes in all shapes and sizes, some as standalone, some doubles up as a cover for the screen and detach or attach via magnetic latches and others comes with a cover to form a folio case. See quick list below:
- Keyboard Covers – detachable hard shell or plastic keyboard and doubles up as a screen cover when not in use. This may restrict use of cover for your iPad and expose the back of your iPad.
- Keyboard with Folio Case – provides all round protection for your iPad and folds up to form a book style/folio case. Your iPad will have to stay with the keyboard all the time as there is no quick way of removing it from the case easily.
- Keyboard with Laptop style Clamshell Case – together with the iPad, this takes the form of a laptop, attached along the long edge of the iPad, the keyboard act as a base for your iPad and work together in a clam shell format.
- Standalone Keyboard – Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard is a fine example of such as combination. Logitech and Microsoft (yes, it works with Apple, while the shortcut keys are different) do standalone keyboards too as we will see.
Since iPad Air and iPad mini, when you are in the market for a keyboard, and unless it is a standalone keyboard, you have to ask yourself, which device are you buying it for. Generally, keyboards for iPad 2, 3 and 4th generation will work with each other as they are not very different in dimensions. Still it is best to get one that is the right fit.
You might still be able to find keyboards that will fit the original iPad 1 but these are in short supply. If you are looking for a keyboard (case) for your new iPad Air then you will need to look for one designed specifically for it, as the iPad Air is smaller and much thinner than its predecessors. If you are buying for iPad mini, there is no difference between keyboards cases that will fit the original iPad mini and the new iPad mini with Retina display.
- Aluminium screen cover attach to iPad with magnetic clip with instant on/off for you iPad
- Single optimal typing angle when docked for typing, dock in portrait or landscape
- Long battery life up to 6 months between charge (based on 2 hours per day use)
- Dimensions and Weight: 241.2 x 189.85 x 9.96 mm, 327 g
The only downside is it restricts the use of a skin or all-round body cover for the iPad.
- Same as above but designed for iPad Air
- Long battery life 125 hours, up to 2 months between charge (based on 2 hours per day use)
- Dimensions and Weight: 240 x 169.5 x 7.3 mm, 330 gram
As before, this restricts the use of a skin or all-round body cover for the iPad.
- Same as above but designed for iPad mini
- Long battery life
- Dimensions and Weight: 200 x 140.7 x 7.3 mm, 208g
Again, apart from the iPad’s screen, Keyboard Cover does little to protect the iPad’s body, leaving it exposed. If you are comfortable with this then keyboard covers are for you.
- Extremely thin and light with lightweight aluminium alloy (air-craft grade)
- Large and well spaced keys
- 3 viewing angles with magnetic dock that automatically switches the keyboard on when docked
- Battery life 264 hours of active use, 4300 hours of standby time (iPad 3, 4G 160 hours, 80 days at 2 hrs/day)
- Dimensions and Weight: 0.9 x 8.6 x 11 inches, 589.7g
For those who want more than just keyboard covers, Belkin offers a hard shell for your iPad with attached keyboard base that doubles as screen cover. However, in typing mode, you will be restricted to only portrait view. Users complain that the keyboard cover does not put the iPad to sleep when shut. Other reviewers have commented that the rear plastic snap-on, one that attaches the iPad shell to the keyboard feels rather fragile.
- 2 viewing angles for optimal comfort for typing comfort adjustment
- Keyboard in hard case – protection and flexibility in a hard case
- iPad protection with any Snap Shield
- No edges around the keyboard for non-intrusion typing
- Battery life 60 hours active use, 2000 hours standby
Unlike the ultra thin keyboard covers from Logitech, the Belkin Fast Fit has a secure frame (protruding fold) on one side, together with the magnetic clasp, it holds on the iPad securely and snaps in place. The presence of the magnetic clasp also gives the iPad the autowake function. The two viewing angle is also a bonus give as with the trutype keys complete with tactile feedback and well spaced keys. As you iPad docks to the keyboard by dropping it into the rails, there are two for the dual viewing angles, you can choose a portrait or landscape view. There are some neat shortcut keys that let you adjust volume, control music playback, copy and paste text.
Keyboard with Folio Case
Folio typically come with plastic, leather or polyurethane cover and offers all round protection for your iPad. It opens and closes as you would a book, and restricts the use of the iPad to only landscape mode when in typing mode. It typically folds flat hiding the keys away when used in tablet mode but doesn’t latch in place.
- 2 sided protection folio style
- SecureLock system
- Dual-view stand with magnetic clasps
- Battery Life 125 hours (up to 3 months)
- Dimensions and Weight: 149 x 215 x 19.3 mm, 286g
- FabricSkin keyboard with full size keys and iOS shortcuts
- Ultra-thin, ultra-light all in one design
- 2 sided protection (front and back) folio style, membrane scissor type keys, fabric skin keyboard
- Dual view; upright with keyboard exposed or lay flat with keyboard hidden
- Secure Lock system, with clips for easy iPad release
- Battery Life up to 3 months based on 2 hours/day
- Available in Carbon Black or Urban Grey
- Dimensions and Weight: 255 x 185 x 18.5 mm, 425g
While the FabricSkin keyboard makes the keyboard folio lightweight and thin, and still gives you the tactile feeling of typing on the keyboard but the membrane cover and fabric skin over the keyboard may not suit everyone and dampens the key stokes.
- Not the thinnest or lightest but does the job and offers comfortable typing
- Magnetic clasps gives your iPad mini an ideal angle for typing
- Put iPad to sleep mode when closed, and wakes when open
- Full all round protection for your iPad with full edge surrounds
- Dual view; upright with keyboard exposed or lay flat with keyboard hidden
- Battery life up to 3 months based on 2 hours per day use
- Dimensions and Weight: 207 x x 150 x 25 mm, 395g
Although it felt bulky and tad heavy, it is a great option for both kids and adults as it offers full protection for your iPad Mini. At this price, this is one of the more affordable iPad Mini Keyboard Folios in the market. The iPad is held securely in place with moulded rubber foam. On the other hand, it meant that there is no easy or quick way to take out the iPad once it is fitted.
- Bluetooth Keyboard with Backlit keys
- Ultra-thin aluminium design
- Island style & shortcut keys
- Magnetic closure
- Stand holds iPad at optimal viewing angle
- Dimension and Weight: 195 x 25 x 250 mm 229g
A departure from the soft shell folio cases we have seen so far, ZAGG Profolio Plus is an aluminium and plastic hard shell folio case. It’s strongest features in the line up of folio cases would be its backlit keys allowing you to type in the dark.
- 3-in-1 case for the iPad with multiple viewing angles with keyboard removed.
- Case complete with sheep skin exterior and microfiber interior, includes holder for stylus
- Removable keyboard held on to the case with magnets meant you don’t have to be right in front of the screen
- 83 keys with iPad media shortcut, home button, volume and brightness
- Battery life 100 hours active use, 60 days standby.
- Dimension and Weight: 280 x 220 x 5 mm, 630g
It may not have the same appeal compared to the other makes given its blandish design, but Kensington is a reputable name nonetheless and given this price, it’s one of great value. This is the only folio case in the line up to feature a removable keyboard and separate case for the iPad. While the keyboard, folio case and iPad can be banded together when shut with the mole skin notebook like elastic band (magnetic clasp for the iPad Air version). The sheepskin leather case may appeal to those who like the executive feel and couldn’t care much for polyurethane covers and a stylus band is definitely a bonus (stylus sold separately).
- Ultra thin and compact
- Form fitting surround holds iPad securely in place and provides all round protection
- removable keyboard with 6 rows of keys enables multiple viewing angle
- Magnetic clasp secures the folio when closed
- Dimensions: 262 x 258 x 38 mm
Here is the more grown up KeyFolio keyboard case, part leather case, part plastic that wraps around the iPad providing all round protection and still spotting the removable keyboard. As with KeyFolio Pro, the Exact lets you decide if you wish to travel with or leave the keyboard at home. Removing the keyboard is easy as it snaps on to the cover using magnets. With the keyboard off, it meant that the iPad can be angled at different points, giving you full flexibility in adjusting your viewing angle. The KeyFolio Exact PLUS comes with backlit keyboard with 7 selectable colours.
Keyboard with Laptop Style Clamshell Case
ZAGG Keys iPad Air Case Folio (Clamshell) with Backlit Keyboard (also see iPad Mini)
- Portable Bluetooth Keyboard
- Keyboard backlit with interchangeable colours with 6 Rows of Island Keys
- Battery Life 3 Month
- Available in Black
- Dimension & Weight: 242.6 x 17.7 x 173.2 mm 531g
As with its folio cousin, ZAGG Clamshell Folio for iPad Air comes with backlit keys and all round protective case BUT the similarity stops there. With its unique hinge design that offers over 135° of viewing angles, this Clamshell style folio turns your iPad into a laptop, lets you decide the best viewing angle to suit the typing conditions (lap, desk, counter).
- Island style full QWERTY keyboard
- 360º patent pending hinge offers unparalleled versatility
- Aluminum enclosure and polycarbonate shell providing all round protection
- Special function keys provide instant access to your most often used features
- Available in Silver (brushed aluminium)
- Battery Life: over a month
Here is a clam shell style keyboard that will turn your iPad into sometime that looks like a MacBook, especially when you have a black iPad. The aluminium brushed enclosure, the black keys on the keyboard and the nice little touches around the hinge may cause others to mistake your iPad for the MacBook Air. The 360º hinge allows the iPad to open flat, fold backward (beyond 180º ) as a stand or fold back to back so that you can use is a tablet. Not so sure about exposed keys but I guess they can be turned off when not using them. The only thing lacking now is the touch pad 🙂 … more photos below.
Standalone Bluetooth Keyboard
- Low profile, anodised, aluminium enclosure
- Crisp, responsive keys
- Intelligent power-management system conserves battery life
- 2 AA batteries included
- Dimensions and Weight: 32 x 13.8 x 3 cm, 458g
- Comes with keyboard case that unfolds and doubles as iPad stand.
- 4 AAA batteries included (non rechargeable)
- Dimensions and Weight: 31.2 x 14.7 x 3 cm, 771g
Logitech Bluetooth EasySwitch Keyboard for Mac, iPad and iPhone
Want a keyboard to rule them all, I meant all your Apple devices, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV here is your answer. Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811. As standalone keyboard goes in this line up, this one comes with rechargeable batteries built-in, and you can recharge this with USB cable. It also comes with self illuminating keys that automatically adjust its brightness according to room lighting condition. There are three quick Bluetooth profile switching buttons to quickly switch from one device to the next. Did we mention the self illuminating keys, apparently it detects motion, and lights up when you are ready to type.
We will be updating this list as we go, you never know, there might be another iPad keyboard around the corner.