As much as we like the iPad, one of its greatest strengths is also one of its greatest weaknesses: it lacks a hardware keyboard. On an iPhone, you're mostly typing out texts so we don't mind the software keyboard, but for word processing, the iPad is frustrating, to say the least.
Dozens of companies have taken a shot at producing keyboards for iPad — some of them are part of a hard case, some attach to the iPad as a Smart Cover, and some are simply Bluetooth keyboards you can pair with. We've rounded up one some of the best and most popular options and put them through various trials to find out which ones can actually help you get things done. We'll tell you which ones are worth your money, and which are truly awful.
Note: since all of these keyboards have months of battery life (at a couple hours of usage per day), I don't mention battery life much in my reviews. Also, the WPM criteria is meant to be relative, providing the reader with some measure of how quickly I was able to type on each keyboard. Lastly, I also don't mention function buttons too frequently because they all have them. I do include a "Dedicated Fn buttons" criteria in the chart at the bottom of each review.
Apple Wireless Keyboard
Apple's signature Wireless Keyboard comes with the company's range of iMacs, but can also be purchased separately to use with an iPad. It's by far the biggest keyboard I tested, but it's also the best. Apple has perfected its tried and true formula for keyboards, and if you're a Mac user, you'll feel right at home with this thing. Keys are evenly weighted, provide hard feedback, and are very responsive. Spacing between the keys is enormous compared to every other keyboard I tested.
The hardware is heavy, since it's made out of durable aluminum. The keyboard doesn't come with any kind of protection (like every other keyboard I tested), so I'd recommend the Incase Origami keyboard case and stand ($29.95), which protects the keyboard while you travel but also elegantly props up your iPad. Another thing that sets apart Apple's wireless keyboard from almost all its competitors is that it includes no iPad-specific function keys like Home (especially useful), select all, lock, and photo gallery mode. It's a shame that Apple no longer makes an iPad-specific keyboard like it used to with useful function buttons that other companies have now adopted. The brightness, volume, and audio playback settings work great, however, and the Eject button secretly doubles as a means to make iOS's virtual keyboard disappear and reappear on your screen.
This keyboard is near-perfect but isn't as portable as keyboards as the Logitech Tablet Keyboard or Kensington KeyStand due to its weight and wedge shape. One feature that does lend to its portability is that it's powered by two AA batteries, which you can buy at any drug store, and which last a long time. If you want a keyboard that you'll feel immediately at home with, or if you want to take the plunge and replace your laptop with an iPad, the Apple Wireless Keyboard is impossible to beat.
You'll feel right at home with this keyboard
Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio
A new entry into the game, the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio's real standout feature is a solar-powered battery pack that never seems to drain. The Folio's solar cells are actually on its bottom, so they only charge when it's not in use. The bad news is that the solar cells are the only way to charge the folio, but the good news is that the cells will charge using even dim ambient light in the room. The Folio will work indefinitely if you leave it upside down on your desk when you're not using it.
The Folio is shaped and works a lot like the Adonit Writer Plus, except its keyboard is not removable. This is a good thing, because the keyboard on the Adonit would flop around as you tried to close the case. The Solar Keyboard Folio trumps the Writer Plus in every arena, and beats all the other "prop-up" keyboard folios as well. It's sleek, has great key response, and feels well put together. The keyboard is smaller than you'll find on its competitors, but only because it lacks a top function row. Also, the keyboard does emit a subtle plasticky rattle when you type, but I didn't find it too bothersome.
One feature unique to the Solar Folio is "Media Mode." If you insert the pegs beneath the iPad enclosure into forward slots on the keyboard (next to the Shift keys on both sides), the screen is now at an angle optimized for watching movies on a plane or on your lap. Even better, the bottom row of the keyboard (still exposed in Media Mode) doubles as function buttons for playback and volume. These pegs also serve as leverage when you're trying to remove your iPad, eliminating a frustration I found in many of these options.
At nearly $130, the Solar Keyboard Folio might not be cheap, but it's tough to beat for traveling typists who need a combination of battery life, protection, and keyboard quality. The only negative is the keyboard's both short and thin Delete buttons — beginner typists beware.
Media Mode is a killer feature
The Touchfire keyboard is in a class of its own, providing a conductive silicone layer of keys over the iPad's keyboard in hopes that it will improve your touchscreen typing. The Touchfire attaches to the screen using the same magnets a Smart Cover uses, and will also cling to your Smart Cover when you aren't using it. In my tests, the Touchfire does indeed improve your typing, if only because it ensures that your fingers fall into the right places. Each silicone key has four contact points with the screen, towards the middle of each key, and the edge of each silicone key is arched upwards so your fingers are guided towards the middle of each key. Even if you press down towards the edge of a key, the contact points in the middle of the key will likely hit first, which results in more accurate typing. Without the Touchfire, your fingers can easily slip between keys since the iPad offers no tactile feedback.
It's kind of a miracle that the Touchfire works, so it's too bad that it's so ugly. It looks like an iPad condom, and gets quite dirty and gross looking. You can clean the Touchfire using soap and water, but no matter how clean it is, you still feel like you're applying a bandage to a wound each time you unroll from its black plastic case and apply it to the iPad's screen.
At $49.99, the Touchfire is an expensive way to improve your touchscreen iPad typing without the need for batteries or on / off switches. It works as advertised and is super light and quiet, but it's still aesthetically unappealing. And remember: by using the iPad's software keyboard, you're losing half of your screen real estate.
It's gross, but it works
Logitech Tablet Keyboard
The Logitech Tablet Keyboard is very similar to Apple's official Wireless Keyboard, except this keyboard comes with a useful case / stand combination. Typing on the tablet keyboard feels quite natural, and very spacious compared to smaller keyboards. The tablet keyboard includes no separate function row, but instead maps these keys to the number row as secondary buttons activated by the Fn key. I actually prefer this orientation, since then you aren't accidentally pressing function keys instead of numbers or Delete. On the Adonit Writer Plus, for example, I sometimes found myself pressing the Lock function key instead of the Delete key right below it. Fortunately, Logitech gives the Home button its own key in the top left corner, since it's so frequently used.
But back to the keyboard, the Logitech feels great to type on, if it's a touch plasticky. Keys are large and separate, and the Delete and Return keys are standard in size, if not bigger than conventional keys. Yet, the Command key is as tiny as on smaller keyboards. The sleek black keys are adorned with modern turqouise accents in certain places, and rubber grips on the keyboard's bottom keep it firmly adhered to your table. Once you're finished typing, you can slide it into the case it comes with, which also functions as a stand with two angle settings for the iPad's screen. The keyboard case isn't as high quality as the keyboard itself, but does the trick and has a soft felt inner lining. Both sides of the case snap together using magnets, which is a great touch.
At $69.99, it's a great deal when you consider the Apple Wireless Keyboard plus Incase Origami cost $30 more.
Like Apple's, but with a convenient stand
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is the only product I tested that functions both as a keyboard and as a cover for your iPad. It's an ingenious design: on one side is a magnetic flap that attaches to your iPad exactly like how a Smart Cover would. When the keyboard cover is closed, it looks like you're holding two iPads face-to-face in your hands. The aluminum Logitech used surprisingly looks almost as good as Apple's.
To use the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, all you need to do is place your iPad into a magnetic slot on the keyboard side of the device. You'll hear and feel a gratifying, audible "click" when the iPad locks into place. No other keyboard offers this kind of peace of mind without entirely strapping your iPad down with a harness. If you look closely, you can see that Logitech glued a pad to the inside of the slot so your iPad doesn't get damaged. If you'd like, you can place the iPad in portrait mode inside this same slot, though there's no magnetic seal to guarantee it stays locked in.
The keyboard's keys aren't of as high quality as its aluminum back, but they're still decent. The keys are rounded off and spaced a reasonable distance apart from each other. While they certainly have a "chiclet" and plasticky feel to them, typing is fluid. One thing to note is that there's no dedicated function row like many of its competitors, though the number keys function as secondary function buttons.
The Ultrathin Keyboard Cover isn't the best keyboard I tested, but it's certainly the most convenient one. With its innovative function as both a cover and stand, the ultrathin keyboard cover proves Microsoft has the right idea with its cover/keyboard combo Surface Touch Cover. At $99.99, the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover Seems expensive for what you're holding in your hands, but I'd definitely recommend it.
The most portable and practical iPad keyboard
Adonit Writer Plus
The Writer Plus is a keyboard case for iPad made by Adonit, the guys behind the Jot Pro, one of my favorite styli for iPad. Like the Jot Pro, the Writer Plus is very thoughtfully designed and handsome but it can be pretty frustrating to use. First off, it might take you five minutes just to figure out how to turn the thing on. Most keyboards have a clearly marked Bluetooth on / off switch, but the Writer Plus instead has a tiny on / off switch on its bottom that you'll need a pen tip to flip. Then, you must hold down a "+" button in the top right corner of the keyboard to pair using Bluetooth.
Once the Writer Plus was paired, I found its keyboard to be surprisingly good. Its keys are small squares with matte tops that feel slightly rough to your fingers. Unlike with most small keyboards, its keys depress quite a bit (a good thing), and provide pleasantly clicky tactile response. One big bonus to the Writer Plus is that while the keyboard might feel firmly attached to the keyboard case body, a little tug removes it. Yet, the keyboard itself has no grips on the bottom and will often slide around on the table as you type. Still, it's a nice option to have, and gives you more flexibility for how much you can angle the screen. The first few times I used the Writer Plus, I found it pretty confusing to set up, though. Once you pop in an iPad, you actually have to peel the bottom-back of the case away from the iPad, which you use to prop up the case. The keyboard automatically turns off when you aren't using it, so you don't always need to use the on / off switch, but it still adds to the general confusion of using this case.
All of the adjustability in the Writer Plus works via magnets placed all around the case, and at the point where the keyboard attaches to the case. The magnets work, but don't feel strong. The Writer Plus clearly wants to stick in one position — where the keyboard rests directly on top of the bottom flap. If you want to angle the screen at a less vertical angle, the keyboard hangs off the edge of the flap and is uncomfortable to use. In this kind of situation, you'd want to remove the keyboard, but then it's sliding around! Once you're finished with the Writer Plus, you can fold it up flat, and the case's magnets turn off the iPad's screen. But, the keyboard is always in the way of using your iPad while it's flat on the table or on your lap. Even if you remove the keyboard, the rest of the case clumsily flaps around and is cumbersome. When closed, the Writer Plus also looks odd, lumpy, and asymmetrical.
The Writer Plus is a great keyboard, but isn't a great case for your iPad. On the whole it feels flimsy, especially in comparison with competitors from ZAGG and Logitech.
A hassle to open and close
Targus Versavu Keyboard Folio
The Targus Versavu is a handsome but heavy leather keyboard folio for iPad, featuring nice touches like a Moleskine-esque strap, faux-suede inner, and even a stylus holder. The folio also has a hole for your iPad's Apple logo to peek through, if you like that kind of thing. Once your iPad is securely fastened inside the folio, you can spin it around to orient it in either landscape or portrait mode, though either way the screen is positioned uncomfortably upright.
The Versavu's keyboard is a pleasure to use, featuring square, firm, and nicely spaced keys. However, the keyboard has no colon, semicolon, question mark, or slash keys. If you frequently use these keys (which I'm betting you do), you'll be stopping in the middle of many sentences to hunt down the Function key and then simultaneously press K, L, N, or M (the keys which house them as secondary functions). This also means that you'll frequently miss the apostrophe key you're looking for and hit Enter instead, since that key is one place over from where it would normally be. Due to this issue, it's impossible to recommend the Versavu, as nice as it looks. The keyboard is just too frustrating to use.
Where's my question mark key?
The Kensington KeyStand provides no protection from your iPad, but is a unique ultra-portable keyboard and stand. Unroll the Keystand, then fold up its cover into a triangle (like with a Smart Cover) to use as a stand for your iPad. A small plastic ridge ensures the iPad stays in place, either in portrait or landscape mode, but doesn't "lock in" the iPad the way the Incase Origami does. The KeyStand turns on, pairs, and turns off with just one button, which I really like.
While some keyboard stands angle the iPad vertically or almost upright, the KeyStand angles the iPad more horizontally. It's the most relaxed angle of the any of the stands I tested. It's generally fine, and means that it's easier to watch videos on the iPad without fiddling around with its positioning. But it's more horizontal stature means that it's picking up more glare from overhead lights.
The KeyStand's keyboard is very good, and while I don't like the giant arrow where "Backspace" should be, the keys are plenty large and deliver good feedback. The KeyStand looks full sized, but is in fact an inch or so narrower than the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Logitech Tablet Keyboard. The only issues I have with the keyboard are its rough-textured keys, small right shift button, and when the keyboard flexes inward a bit as you type on it. The flexing seems to be related to outside keys like "A" and apostrophe occasionally sticking. These issues are intermittent, and don't really affect the overall usefulness of the keyboard (unless you very frequently use the right Shift button).
Lastly, while the KeyStand is great on tables, it's tough to use anywhere else (like in a plane or on your lap). Many of its competitors feel more substantial and have a smaller footprint. The KeyStand puts a lot of weight on its foldable flaps, which don't always hold up. The KeyStand is a great deal at $69.99, considering the Apple Wireless Keyboard plus Incase Origami stand costs $30 more.
A great roll-up keyboard
ZAGG was one of the first, if not the first company to pioneer the now-common keyboard / case hybrid product for iPad. The goal was to both protect the iPad and provide a decent enough keyboard to use for traveling. ZAGG's third generation ZAGGfolio is no different, providing an incredibly secure and sturdy case for your iPad. It's the only folio I tested with a hard clip, to secure the folio, which ends up being a great feature compared to the Scosche's "dangling chad" clasp. Also, ZAGG seems to have spent a lot of time figuring out a good angle to stand the iPad at. Of the fixed-angle cases I tested, ZAGG's is the most pleasant to use, and fits in a nice place between more vertical and more horizontal-oriented keyboards.
One of the ZAGGfolio's best features is its removable keyboard. If you remove the keyboard from the housing, you end up with a keyboard tray and iPad slot just like you'd find on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. You can then use the iPad in portrait orientation, too. Some other cases have removable keyboards, like the Adonit Writer Plus's keyboard, but all of these then leave you without a built-in stand for your iPad. The ZAGGfolio enables you to leave its bulky housing at home — and you'll want to once in a while, because you'll need to remove the keyboard from the folio in order to expose a USB port for charging.
They keyboard on the ZAGGfolio is fantastic, aside from its small Delete key, which most of the other iPad-width keyboard options also suffer from. The keys aren't too soft and aren't too firm, providing for a pleasant and consistent experience. The most annoying things about the ZAGGfolio are its tacky carbon fiber weave casing, and how difficult it is to insert the iPad into the folio part of the case. I nearly damaged my iPad screen I a couple times since I had to squeeze so hard to remove it. It's a serious problem if you're going to be frequently inserting and removing your iPad from this case. Aside from these gripes, ZAGG has clearly learned a lot in this business, and has built the best durable keyboard case. It's a great deal for $99.99.
The most durable iPad keyboard
Scosche KeyPAD p2
The Scosche KeyPad p2 is a goliath of an iPad keyboard case, the heaviest duty of all the keyboards and cases I tested. It features a ton of leather, meticulously sewn stitching, and whale-tail-shaped kickstand to prop it up. The iPad slides sideways into the KeyPad, where a flap holds it in place (like with the Belkin). A magnetic clasp keeps it closed when you're not using it, but once you're ready to type, the clasp is always in the way. Unlike with the Belkin, the clasp just hangs there obnoxiously. There's not much you can do about it. The kickstand is also odd, and often collapses when you're tapping around on the iPad's screen.
Typing on the Scosche KeyPad is odd because of its mushy rubber keyboard, which is removable for typing on your lap. Keys don't press down very far, and the surface of each key is hardly larger than my fingertip. Somehow, I still typed pretty accurately on the keyboard, as mushy as it was. Like with a few other keyboards I tested, this keyboard scrapped some keys, which is a dealbreaker. The \ key, as well as the apostrophe key have been moved down between the space bar and left arrow key. In effect, it's the reverse of the issue I have with the Targus Versavu, which kills the colon / semicolon key in favor of the apostrophe. Both methods of creating a smaller keyboard are bad news, because they both move keys that your fingers have been accustomed to for years. Also, good luck finding the + / = key. For this reason, too, the Scosche KeyPAD p2 is impossible to recommend, unless you need an ultra-durable keyboard that you're content with hunting and pecking on.
A flap that's always in the way
Belkin YourType Folio
The Belkin YourType Keyboard Folio is a prop-up folio case that doesn't stand out in any particular arenas. The first thing you'll notice about it is that it's pretty tough to slide your iPad into the Folio's slip-case enclosure. A flap makes sure the iPad stays put once it's finally locked in, but it ends up being a hassle. I can't imagine wanting to pull my iPad in and out of this case too often.
The YourType is made out of a red and black matte material that's very prone to getting dirty, but is nevertheless very sturdy. Once you've propped up your iPad, you'll notice that it's angled nearly upright, and is tough to see unless you're slouching in your chair. You can remove the keyboard from the Folio (attached using velcro) and prop the screen up at a less intense angle, which is a useful feature.
The keyboard on the YourType is a real mixed bag. Function keys like Enter, Shift, and Backspace are all comfortable and large, and the rest of the keys feel clicky and responsive. Sometimes typing is perfect, but other times, the YourType doesn't register key presses. After a few experiments, I can conclude that light-fingered typists should steer clear. Making anything but direct and hard contact with keys might not register a key press. This especially applies if you're pressing down on the side or corner of a key as I often do.
One unique touch in this Folio is the magnetic clasp that holds it closed while you're not using it. The clasp snaps onto the back of the iPad's screen when you're typing, whereas the clasp on the Scosche KeyPAD p2 dangles helplessly over the top of your iPad's screen. In the end, the YourType is built well, but is ultimately crippled by its inconsistent keyboard.
Velcro is back
The Clamcase turns your iPad into a chunky plastic netbook, effectively providing protection, a keyboard, and a whole lot of heft to your portable computing set up. There's no trackpad on the Clamcase's handrest, though, which is at first glance kind of a mind-bender, though you'll immediately feel at home with the same oil-magnet plastic you'll find on most netbooks. Once you pop your iPad into the Clamcase's plastic enclosure, you can prop up the screen using the case's built-in hinge. The hinge also lets you flip around your iPad like an old spiral notebook in case you want to draw or use the iPad flat on a table. Just make sure you turn off the keyboard beforehand, or you'll end up typing accidentally.
The hinge is meant to keep the iPad firmly held in place, but the Clamcase is top-heavy and the iPad often wiggles and flops backwards — especially if you're touching it periodically as you type. It kind of defeats the purpose of the dual-function hinge since you so frequently need to use your finger to move the cursor on screen, yet the iPad keeps falling backwards. If you're typing hard or bouncing around at all, the screen also flops backward. I can imagine that with long periods of use comes decreased resistance from this already-inconsistent hinge.
During my tests, I found the Clamcase nearly impossible to type on since there's hardly any space between the very flat and square keys. You end up pressing down on multiple keys at the same time, which makes for a very frustrating experience. Part of the reason the keys are so cramped, it seems, is because Clamcase elected to use very large Shift, Enter, \, tab, and caps lock keys. In fact, while the keyboard as a whole is claustrophobia-inducing, these function keys on its sides are as large as on a full-sized keyboard. What makes this all even stranger is that there's also the most frustrating space bar I've ever used. It's not only short, but also narrow. Whereas most keyboards line up the left edge of the space bar with the C key and the right edge with the M key, the Clamcase's space bar lines up halfway inside of both keys.
Additionally, it feels like there is only one contact point under the space bar, so pressing its sides doesn't always work. One reviewer wrote: "I am having a few issues with the spacebar, but I think that is more due to me needing to acclimate to the keyboard, rather than the keyboard itself being lacking." Do you want to invest a lot of time getting yourself acclimated to a new keyboard? While I eventually got used to the Clamcase's keys after using the keyboard for a while, my space bar woes continued.
In the end, the Clamcase is very strange for the human brain to comprehend. The point of having a netbook instead of a tablet is being able to type on it, yet our whole office did its best and couldn't type at all on the Clamcase without swearing. It's also a small fortune at $150. We're keeping our eyes peeled for the Brydge, another piece of hardware that incorporates speakers, an aluminum body, and a better keyboard.
Epic space bar problems
No matter which keyboard you choose, typing for extended periods on an iPad is a pain. Why? For starters, the iPad is meant to be touched with your fingers, and as much command you might have over "next line," "next word," and "next paragraph" keyboard shortcuts, you don't quite realize how often you move your cursor onscreen until you type for a while on an iPad. This means you'll be touching the screen quite a bit as you type, a distracting and not always precise procedure. But for many, the iPad's battery life, flexibility, and instant-on ease of use make it a more compelling traveling typing solution than a laptop.
While using your finger as a cursor is annoying, typing using the Apple Wireless Keyboard is nearly flawless. It's the best keyboard I tested, combining responsive keys and plentiful spacing between them. If you're looking for features, the Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio is a winner. It never runs out of battery (unless you leave it in a dark room indefinitely), has a convenient Media Mode for watching movies on a plane, and has a decent keyboard as well. If you often carry around your iPad under your arm and require portability, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is an ideal companion. Lastly, if you require durability and protection, the ZAGGfolio is your best bet. Its keyboard is easy to get used to, and has a plastic clasp and hard body to make sure it stays both closed and secure.
If I had to buy just one keyboard for iPad today, I'd buy the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard because ultimately, you aren't making many sacrifices to get a keyboard as well-designed and as portable as your iPad.
Click here to compare our best bets for the different scenarios listed below:
THE BEST KEYBOARD: LOGITECH ULTRATHIN KEYBOARD COVER
TYPING: APPLE WIRELESS KEYBOARD
BEST FEATURES: LOGITECH SOLAR KEYBOARD FOLIO