This Smart Connector keyboard case from Logitech won't make your iPad Pro look pretty, but it's the best of the bunch.
I've been using the iPad Pro as my main laptop computer for seven months. There have been ups, downs, and interesting discoveries throughout this journey, but none bigger than this: I can't use the iPad Pro to do my job without a physical keyboard case, and there's none better than the Logitech Create.
I love the idea of the software keyboard, and I appreciate all Apple's done to try and improve it for both the iPad Pro and even bigger iPhone models in iOS 9. But try as I might, I hate the ergonomics of typing directly onto the screen. Maybe my eyes are used to having the screen at an angle, but I just can't get into the same rhythm or feel the same connection when using the software keyboard.
As such, when I got my iPad Pro, the first accessory I picked up was the $150 Logitech Create. I assumed I'd return it — how much typing was I really going to be doing on the iPad Pro, anyway? — but figured it would be good to try out the options out there. To my surprise, I found myself constantly using the keyboard case with my new tablet.
Falling in love with typing
The Logitech Create has a few things going for it when it comes to the iPad Pro:
- It uses Apple's Smart Connector technology, so you never have to worry about charging it or switching its batteries.
- The keys are full-size.
- They travel well. I can type as fast on the Create as I can on a MacBook Air or Magic Keyboard.
- The keys are (optionally) backlit, which is huge for working on anything in low light.
- The keyboard is coded to iOS's keyboard shortcuts to quickly bring up Spotlight, switch between apps, and select or move your cursor through writing.
- There's a function row designed for the iPad.
Backlighting and good key feel are necessities for me when it comes to a keyboard, but it's that last bullet point that sold me on the Create in terms of the iPad Pro. The function row (and, to a lesser extent, iOS's built-in keyboard shortcuts) make this keyboard almost as powerful a way of navigating your iPad as the touchscreen — and when writing is involved, I sincerely believe the keyboard is the superior way to navigate.
Take switching between apps, for example. Use Command-Tab on an external keyboard, and you can bring up a quick App Switcher, much like you would on the Mac. You can tab through apps or use the arrow keys to find the application you like, then release to switch to that app.
This is, by far, a much faster and more precise way of switching applications than opening the Multitasking screen, and it unlocks a huge bit of iPad Pro functionality I wouldn't otherwise have had access to.
But every keyboard with a Bluetooth connection or Smart Connector can do this. What makes the Create special is the additional home row above the number pad. On a traditional keyboard, this is reserved for Function shortcuts; on the Create, each button is tied in to a specific function on the iPad Pro. Instead of an escape key, there's a key to return home, trigger Siri, or, when pressed simultaneously with the Lock key, take a screenshot. There are keys to adjust the brightness of your screen and the keyboard backlight. There are buttons to launch Spotlight search, or bring up a third-party keyboard (and cycle between different ones, if you have multiples installed). You have access to music and volume controls. You can even shut down your iPad by pressing and holding the Lock button.
Now, I'm the first to admit that not everyone is going to need a row of function keys to get the most out of their iPad Pro' I'd bet most users get a keyboard for their iPad because they want to type an email every now and again rather than use on-screen digital keys. But if you're considering using the iPad as your primary laptop, it makes a huge difference in the versatility of the machine.
And that's the beauty of an iPad over something like a MacBook: that versatility. I can use the keyboard and quickly switch apps, then set the iPad flat against the keyboard's back and sketch on it, or use my fingers to work on a music composition. The Create gives the iPad Pro the ability to work like a laptop, sure. (Heck, when seated in the keyboard case, it's indistinguishable from something like a Surface or a convertible laptop.) But it also lets the iPad be an iPad when you need it to be, and do so anywhere you choose.
The elephant in the room
Unfortunately for the Logitech Create, that far superior typing experience and seamless Smart Connector use comes with a pretty literal millstone around the iPad Pro's neck: The hard plastic case that covers both the keyboard and snaps onto the back of the iPad Pro.
There's no getting around it, the Create's outer shell is far from the most attractive thing to put on an iPad. The nylon is tough and sturdy: great if you think you may rough up your iPad down the line, but it's also heavy. The Create alone nearly doubles the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's weight at 2.5 pounds. Together, they weigh more than 4 pounds. It's, frankly, a pretty awful tradeoff if you're used to carrying a 2-pound MacBook or 3-pound MacBook Air.
It comes down to three things: protection, backlight, and versatility.
You can absolutely pick up a Bluetooth keyboard or Apple's Smart Keyboard in lieu of the Create, but that requires taking care of either more accessories, or adding an extra rear cover to the iPad if you have the Smart Keyboard attached. The Smart Keyboard is $169 to the Create's $150, and getting a rear cover for the iPad is an extra $69; if you're worried about protecting your iPad, you're going to pay a significant premium to use Apple's proprietary accessories.
The backlight is also one of those features I don't realize is "must-have" until I try and type on a keyboard without it. I work with my iPad Pro in all sorts of places — including the passenger seat of a car and dim keynote auditoriums — and though I rarely look at my keyboard while typing, backlight support provides extra comfort in those darkened areas. A keyboard that has a backlight is going to win my support far over one that lacks it, especially when that keyboard also has extra iPad-specific function buttons.
"Okay, Serenity," you may say. "There are Bluetooth keyboards that do what you want. Why not just get that and be done with it?" This is where versatility comes into play.
When I work on my iPad Pro, I want to be able to do anything, anywhere. If I want to write on my iPad while riding in the car or on a bus, I want it to be quick and easy to both take out and put away. I want to be able to write in my lap, but also be able to immediately transition to drawing or editing images if necessary. I want my computer to conform to what my tasks are, rather than having to shoehorn in accessories to make what I want possible.
In short, I prefer the Smart Connector and all-in-one experience the Create provides because it lets me work wherever I choose. I don't need to precariously balance a Bluetooth keyboard on my lap while also perching my iPad on the edge of my knees, or worry about my Bluetooth connection dropping, or forgetting to charge the case.
The Logitech Create could be a lot less heavy. It could offer more resting angles so that people who prefer their screens further back can still use the keyboard case. But even with some major nitpicks, it's still the best "pro" keyboard for an iPad Pro I've seen.