RE­VIEWED

iPad Pro Smart Key­board

iPad&iPhone user - - FRONT PAGE - Ash­leigh Allsopp

£139 inc VAT ap­ple.com/uk

The iPad Pro launched on 11 Novem­ber, and with it came a new and Ap­ple Pen­cil sty­lus and Smart Key­board ac­ces­sory de­signed specif­i­cally for the iPad Pro re­view. We’ve spent time with all three, but here we’re fo­cus­ing on the Smart Key­board, which is not only a key­board to help bring lap­top func­tion­al­ity to the 12in iPad, but also acts as a stand and a case to pro­tect the iPad’s screen.

Typ­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

I’m writ­ing this re­view us­ing the iPad Pro Smart Key­board, and am sur­prised to find that it’s suit­ably speedy once you get the hang of it. To be­gin with, I was mak­ing mis­takes in al­most ev­ery word, but it only took a few para­graphs to fig­ure out the po­si­tion­ing of the keys and the amount of pres­sure re­quired, af­ter which my typ­ing speed came back nat­u­rally and I al­most for­got I was us­ing it.

That’s while I’m sit­ting at a desk though. One of the big is­sues with the iPad Pro key­board is that it can’t be used on your lap. It’s not sturdy like the key­board on a MacBook, so you’ll need to find a solid sur­face to rest it on.

Each let­ter key is slightly con­cave – the cen­tre of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual key is a tiny bit lower than the outer edges. This helps your fin­ger find the its place on the key quickly and eas­ily, to pre­vent you from mak­ing mis­takes and to help speed up your typ­ing.

The big­ger keys like the shift and delete keys aren’t dipped, but you’ll still find that they’re easy to tap when re­quired, and you’ll find that there are all of the keys you’d ex­pect from a nor­mal full­size key­board. You’ll also find a ded­i­cated key for switch­ing to other iOS key­boards like the emoji key­boards or a third-party op­tion you’ve in­stalled.

What’s sur­pris­ing, though, is that there are no ded­i­cated iOS keys on Ap­ple’s Smart Key­board. Third-party key­board mak­ers have been in­clud­ing but­tons as short­cuts for the Home but­ton, search, bright­ness and me­dia con­trols.

Ap­ple has de­signed iOS 9 to work with the Smart Key­board, mean­ing you can use sev­eral short­cuts to get things done faster like you can with your Mac.

You can find out what the short­cuts are in any app by hold­ing down the Com­mand, Op­tion or Con­trol key.

De­sign

You’ll find that the Smart Key­board can hold your iPad at an ideal an­gle for use while typ­ing, and that it’s sturdy even when you need to use the touch­screen of the iPad it­self. It’s also ideal for watch­ing movies or FaceTime calls even when you don’t need to use the key­board it­self. The stand can only be used in land­scape mode, of course, as the key­board is con­nected to the longer edge of the cover, but that should suit most users.

I re­ally liked feel of the Smart Key­board’s ma­te­rial, too. It’s smooth to type on but it’s also durable, made with cus­tom-wo­ven fab­ric that we imag­ine will hold up against grimy fin­gers small spillages thanks to its seam­less de­sign. When be­ing used as a case, all parts of the Smart Key­board that touch the screen are cov­ered in a soft mi­crofi­bre ma­te­rial, and the out­side is a polyurethane ma­te­rial. It’s a bit dis­ap­point­ing that it’s not made with leather con­sid­er­ing the price of the case, and we know from ex­pe­ri­ence that the polyurethane looks well-worn af­ter a few months of be­ing car­ried around in a bag. It’s also only avail­able in a dark grey colour at the mo­ment – we’d have liked a navy blue op­tion too.

Plus, the cover only pro­tects the front of the iPad so the back is vul­ner­a­ble to dents and scratches. You’ll need to in­vest in an ad­di­tional Smart Key­board com­pat­i­ble shell case to pro­tect the alu­minium back. Ap­ple’s own of­fer­ing costs £65.

Where the Smart Key­board’s de­sign does shine is in its low pro­file. It’s only 4mm thick, which is pretty

im­pres­sive, so you’ll hardly be adding any bulk to the iPad. It does weigh 336g, though so you’ll find that it adds a bit of weight.

One of the big­gest down­falls of the iPad Pro’s Smart Key­board for us here in the UK is the lack of a UK key­board lay­out. The only op­tion you’ll get is a US English key­board lay­out, which means no pound key. That’s dis­ap­point­ing when you con­sider how much money you’ll be spend­ing on the key­board. It costs a whop­ping #(there’s an ex­am­ple of the prob­lem with that lack of a pound key)139, which is a hefty sum once you’ve al­ready shelled out for the iPad Pro it­self, which will set you back over £600.

Bat­tery

You’ll never need to charge the iPad Pro’s Smart Key­board. In­stead, it con­nects to the tablet us­ing mag­nets in the Smart Con­nec­tor and uses

con­duc­tive ma­te­rial to pass data from the key­board to the iPad and power from the iPad to the key­board.

Price

As men­tioned, the iPad Pro will cost you £139. That’s a lot of cash to spend on an iPad ac­ces­sory, par­tic­u­larly when you con­sider that you can get the Magic Key­board for £79 from Ap­ple and that’s com­pat­i­ble with your Mac as well as iOS devices, and of­fers an over­all bet­ter typ­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Of course, the Magic Key­board isn’t as con­ve­nient to carry around and lacks the stand and cover func­tion­al­ity, but if the Smart Key­board was around that price point we’d be much more likely to buy it. For £139 we’d like to see a back cover, back­lit

keys and the but­ter­fly key de­sign, as well as colour op­tions and a UK key­board lay­out, too. Maybe we’re ask­ing a bit much, but Ap­ple is ask­ing for a bit much from us, too, we think.

Ad­di­tion­ally, you’ll find it tricky to get your hands on a Smart Key­board at the mo­ment. On Ap­ple’s on­line store it’s sug­gest­ing you’ll have a wait of three to four weeks at time of writ­ing.

Mac­world buy­ing ad­vice

We’re torn about the iPad Pro Smart Key­board. It has po­ten­tial, but there are things that need to be sorted be­fore we’d rec­om­mend spend­ing £139 on it. We need to see a UK lay­out, more colour op­tions and pro­tec­tion for the back of the iPad Pro. For now, there are third-party op­tions like Log­itech’s Cre­ate case, which is not only cheaper at £110 but also in­cludes ded­i­cated iOS keys, back­lit keys and pro­tec­tion for the back of the iPad.

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