The iPad is a versatile tool, and one of the ways it achieves this is by not featuring a BlackBerry-esque hardware keyboard: instead, the screen becomes a keyboard as and when it’s needed, which means you don’t waste chassis space on a keyboard when you’re playing a game or watching a movie.
But make no bones about it: an onscreen keyboard is a compromise. It’s convenient, yes, but the lack of tactile feedback makes it less satisfying and accurate to use than the keyboard on a laptop. For frequent iPad typists, therefore, a separate keyboard accessory may be a wise choice.
But which is the best iPad keyboard for you? Read on to discover the different types of iPad keyboard that are available, and some of the best models to purchase.
Note that for simplicity, in this article we’ve focussed on keyboards that work with the 9.7in iPad, but you can also take a look at our separate guide to keyboards for the iPad Pro.
Apple Magic Keyboard
The Magic Keyboard is a Mac staple, but it should be an iPad one too. It looks great, it’s easy to use, and it works with all iOS devices running iOS 9.1 and above. We tried it out with a number of iPads in our office and it worked fine.
The advantage of using a standalone keyboard such as this is that it has larger keys than most iPad keyboard-covers, and the keyboard panel is angled upwards at a more comfortable angle, so you can get down to some serious typing when you need to.
The Magic Keyboard also has a rechargeable battery that Apple says can last for a month between charges. And, of course, if you’ve already got one of these keyboards (or one of the older Wireless Keyboards which work with iPads too) then you don’t need to spend any extra money buying a brand new keyboard just for your iPad.
The downside is that it’s not really very portable, and doesn’t act as either a cover or a stand for your iPad, so you might still need to spend more money on accessories somewhere along the line.
You can also buy a larger version that includes a numpad for £129/US$129.
Brydge is known for making cases that turn iPads into MacBooks, and the 9.7in Brydge for iPad is no exception – in fact, it’s more MacBook-like than ever. The keyboard case is precision engineered from high-grade aluminium for a very Apple-esque feel, differentiating itself from softer cases on the market. It even features MacBook-esque black keys that are, of course, backlit and provide the most comfortable typing experience we’ve ever had on an iPad.
The experience was so comfortable and natural that we went to reach for a trackpad on several occasions thinking we were actually using a MacBook Pro. It also has the reverse effect, as we’ve started tapping the MacBook Pro display thinking it’s the iPad Pro.
It turns the iPad Pro from a tablet to a laptop, no question about it. It even offers a number of iOS-dedicated keys, allowing you to change the brightness of the display, control your media playback and more via the keyboard.
The clam-shell hinges of the Bryde provide a 180-degree viewing angle, which is more than can be said for most of its competitors, and features small pads at the front to stop your iPad screen from touching the keyboard when closed.
There is one downside though: the Brydge connects via Bluetooth and not the Smart Connector, so requires charging every so often.
Essentially, if you’re looking for a good looking, high-end keyboard case for your iPad Pro, there’s nothing better on the market than the Brydge Keyboards.
The 9.7in Brydge is compatible with iPad, both iPad Airs, and the old iPad Pro, and there’s also a smaller iPad mini 4 version on the way for just £99.99/US$99.99.
JETech Bluetooth Wireless iPad Keyboard
If you’re looking for something similar to Apple’s Magic keyboard but are on a budget, JETech’s wireless Bluetooth-enabled keyboard may be right for you.
Available in both white and black, this keyboard works with iOS, Android and Windows devices. It even has keyboard short cuts to suit the different operating systems.
The keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries, which should last you three months, though you will have to buy them separately.
JETech’s keyboard works with the iPad Pro, iPhone, iPad Air, iPad Mini and iPad 2,3 and 4. UK shoppers should know that it features a US layout, but at this price we’re not that upset.
Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard
Microsoft’s keyboards don’t have a reputation for being pretty, but they’re always well-built, comfortable to use, and sturdy enough to take a bit of a pounding when you need to do some serious typing or number-crunching.
The Universal Foldable keyboard is a bit of an oddity – and not only because it actually looks pretty great. It’s a standalone Bluetooth keyboard that will connect to any device that works with Bluetooth, including Macs and PCs as well smartphones and tablets. But, as the name suggests, you can fold it in half so that it’s really small and light when you need to carry it around with you. And when you need to do some work you can just unfold it again and start tapping away.
Despite being a Microsoft product, it even remembers to provide good support for iOS devices, and even has a Mac Command key so that you can switch between apps and use other familiar Mac shortcuts.
The keyboard is covered with a tough fabric to keep it safe, along with a water-resistant coating to protect it from the great outdoors (or, more likely, clumsy spills). The keyboard can pair with two separate devices, and allows you to switch between then whenever you want, and the rechargeable battery should last for up to three months between charges.
Griffin Wired Keyboard with Lightning Connector
Most of these keyboards use Bluetooth to connect to your iPad, but there may be times when Bluetooth isn’t an option. You can’t use Bluetooth when your iPad is in Airplane mode, and quite a few government and other offices will ban the use of Bluetooth as it’s a potential security risk. That’s when it’s time to go old school.
Griffin’s Wired Keyboard has a Lightning interface built into it, so that you plug it straight into recent iPhone or iPad model that also uses Lightning. It’s a 1m cable, so you’ve got a bit of room to play with when setting up your keyboard and iPad. It can’t be used as a cover, or as a stand, but it’s larger than most iPad keyboards and is raised at the back so that it sits at a more comfortable angle when you’re typing.
In fact, it looks rather similar to Apple’s Magic Keyboard – just with a wire – and has a similar set of function keys, including a Home button and the Mac’s command key for switching between apps. Ditching Bluetooth also means that the Wired Keyboard doesn’t need its own battery, instead drawing power through the Lightning cable.
Arteck Universal Backlit iPad Keyboard
Perhaps the most vibrant option of the lot, Arteck’s Bluetooth keyboard offers seven colours in its backlight gamut, which are also adjustable to two brightness levels.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery should last you six months between charges, though this is if you use the keyboard for 2 hours day and without the back-light.
The Arteck keyboard works with the iPad 1 and 2, Air, Air 2, iPad mini 1-3, and iPhone. It is also compatible with Android and Windows.
This keyboard comes with a two-year warranty.