Turn Your iPad into a Laptop WIth These Keyboards | IGN

Your iPad is really just an over-sized iPhone that happens to have a laptop-sized screen. So rather than struggling with the on-screen keyboard, it makes sense to add a real external keyboard. A real keyboard feels more natural and can help you type significantly faster. It also gives your apps more room to do their thing, because previous screen estate isn’t taken up with a virtual keyboard.

There are two ways to do that: you can get an integrated keyboard case, in which an iPad case doubles as a keyboard, or with a standalone keyboard. If you don’t need a case or just prefer a keyboard that isn’t tied to a specific model iPad, you’ve got a fair number of choices. We’ve rounded up the best keyboard options for your review. And stay tuned for the end of the article, where you’ll find a buying guide that highlights the most important criteria to look for when shopping for an external keyboard for your iPad.

TL;DR – These are the Best iPad Keyboards:

1. Logitech K380

Best Multi-Device Keyboard

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Logitech is no stranger to portable keyboards, and I’ve personally owned more than a handful of models. The K380 is a great all-around keyboard. It can connect to up to three different devices – say, your iPad, smartphone, and desktop PC – and switch among them with just a key press thanks to three color-coded shortcut keys at the top of the keyboard. The keyboard should connect to virtually any Bluetooth device you own, including Mac and PC, mobile device, and Apple TV.

It also has a distinctive look. In a world of keyboards with square keycaps, the K380 has round keys. I’m not sure that makes a huge difference ergonomically, but it looks unique. And yes, it feels fine when typing (though admittedly, your mileage may vary). Though this keyboard is on the larger side, it’s still short of full-size, which is a good thing for portability, though you might find some keys spaced a little close together for typeability.

This isn’t a rechargeable keyboard; it runs on a pair of AAA batteries. Logitech claims that you’ll get about two years of use before you need to change the batteries, which, if accurate, means that one set could very well last for the entire lifetime of the keyboard. It’s nice to not need to worry about swapping or juicing up your rechargeable batteries, since every other keyboard on the market can last a month, tops.

2. XIWMIX Ultra-Slim Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard

Best Backlit Keyboard

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The XIWMIX Ultra-Slim is one of the more eye-catching keyboards made for the iPad. It’s got a strong LED backlight that can be switched among any of seven different colors, including white, yellow, green, blue, and orange. And the color isn’t just for aesthetics; you can easily use this keyboard in a dark room.

Power comes from an integrated rechargeable battery. You get about 10 days of runtime on a charge, and the battery can be fully recharged in about two hours. If you don’t use it often, the battery should hold a charge between work sessions – it lasts on standby for about three months. And while the keyboard does have a power switch, it will automatically go to sleep after about 10 minutes of inactivity.

This somewhat-compact keyboard is highly portable and small enough to slip in whatever carrying case you have for your iPad. But in addition to using it with your iPad, you should be able to connect this travel keyboard to any of your Android phones or a Windows PC; there are a set of keyboard shortcuts that let you switch among them.

3. Sparin Bluetooth Keyboard

Best Budget Keyboard

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You’re unlikely to find a keyboard priced more inexpensively than the Sparin Bluetooth Keyboard. Though keep in mind that when you’re spending less than two Hamiltons, you’re not going to get a ton of functionality. What won’t you find here? LED backlighting, the ability to quickly switch among multiple devices, a rechargeable battery, or even a super rugged design.

Even so, this keyboard can get the job done. It’s close to full size, so the keys are spaced comfortably. The white finish is reminiscent of Apple’s aesthetic, so it’ll look like it fits in with your iPad. And you’ll get about a month of use out of the keyboard before needing to swap out the pair of AAA batteries.

But keep in mind that it has limited compatibility. Don’t expect to use the Sparin keyboard with a Windows PC or MacBook Pro, and there are other incompatibilities as well, such as there’s no Escape key if you insist on trying to use it with a MacBook. But you can use the Sparin Bluetooth Keyboard on any iPad or iPhone, and if that’s all you need from a keyboard, then this sub-$20 keyboard can get the job done.

4. iClever BK03

Best Folding Keyboard

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There was a time, when mobile devices were newer, that unusual portable keyboard designs like the iClever BK03 were much more common. Keyboards folded, collapsed, and rolled up. Some would strap to your wrist like a sci-fi gadget. There was even a line of laser projector keyboards that displayed a keyboard on the tabletop. These days, most of those exotic keyboards are extinct and we need to get by with the iClever BK03.

This device is interesting because it folds up for travel to something resembling a deck of cards (5.75 by 3.5 by 0.75 inches), but then unfurls to 10 by 3.5 by 0.3 inches. Unlike most of the other keyboards you’re going to find for the iPad which are made mostly of plastic, this model is made almost entirely of aluminum. That shows in the weight – 6.3 ounces – but also in aesthetics, ruggedness and durability.

Open it up and it powers on automatically, and it goes to sleep automatically after 15 minutes of inactivity to conserve battery life. It’s equipped with a rechargeable battery that iClever claims runs for over 80 hours of continuous use and can hold a charge while asleep for over 200 days. And while compatibility is limited, it can connect to iOS, Android, and PCs, and you can switch among three paired devices with a keyboard shortcut.

In actual use, it has one Achilles Heel – since the unfolded keyboard doesn’t lock rigidly in place, you can only really use it on a hard surface like a desktop. Most one-piece keyboards will work perfectly fine on a mushy bed or even in your laptop, but not the iClever BK03.

5. Omoton Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard

Best Desktop Keyboard

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Another low cost keyboard, this model from Omoton does everything you need a keyboard to do – as long as your needs are limited to typing on your iPad. That said, it also has limited compatibility with other devices as well. While Omoton doesn’t certify that it’ll work with Windows, it actually does connect to Windows-based PCs just fine. Don’t count on compatibility with Macs, though.

You get a full-size keyboard in the Omoton that feels comfortable on a desktop, and yet is still thin enough to pack easily in a travel bag. It sits at an ergonomic angle, as well, which is good on your wrists. That angle comes from the fact that the bottom holds a pair of AAA batteries which give you about a month or so typing between battery changes.

And despite the very affordable pricing, the keyboard looks pretty snazzy as well, mimicking the standard Apple white aesthetics. It may scratch and scuff easily, through, so you’ll want to be careful with how you pack and care for the keyboard.

6. iClever BK06

Best Ergonomic Split Keyboard

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If you suffer from repetitive stress injury (RSI) or just prefer the feel of an ergonomic keyboard, you’re generally out of luck when it comes to portable keyboards for the iPad — most keyboards are as straight as a ruler. The iClever BK06 is a split keyboard with an angled ergonomic layout, though – which might be perfect for your needs.

The BK06 divides the keyboard more or less in half, with 1-6 and Q-T on one side, and 7-Delete and Y- on the other. If you’re not already a split keyboard user, it will definitely take some practice to get used to; you’ll need to retrain some of your fingers to know where to find certain keys. But once you hone your muscle memory, you might love the more comfortable angle.

It’s not just an ergo keyboard; it also folds for travel, sort of like the BK03, also from iClever. But while the BK03 is all aluminum with mechanical hinges, the BK06 is a rubberized affair with a flexible membrane serving as a floppy hinge. It’s not as elegant, but it’s essentially unbreakable. It goes from 12.9 x 4.0 x.23 inches when unfurled for business to 6.2 x 4.0 x .5 inches when folded for travel. The keyboard also includes a rechargeable battery, and can run for about 40 continuous hours, or 30 days of standby.

And the keyboard is compatible not just with the iPad, but all iOS devices as well as Windows computers. You can connect to up to three devices at once and switch quickly among them with a keyboard shortcut.

What to Look for in an iPad Keyboard

When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone, he envisioned a radical device that had neither a keyboard nor a swipe zone for entering text via Graffiti-like gestures. Instead, the iPhone relied entirely on a touch screen for input, and a virtual on-screen keyboard when typing was needed. The iPad inherited that design philosophy, and it works well enough for limited amounts of text entry.  But if you have enough typing to warrant getting a standalone keyboard, you need to make sure it’s one that’s convenient and comfortable.

Start with size. Many iPad keyboards are well-short of a full-size desktop keyboard, which means the key spacing will be tighter. Can you type on it without introducing lots of typos? Also consider how it’ll pack for travel. Some fold up and can literally fit in a pocket; others need to be slid into the same backpack or bag as the iPad itself. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits in with your lifestyle.

Since you’ll spend your time pounding on the keys, it’s important that you like how they feel. That’s generally determined by the kind of switch under the keycap. Mechanical switches generally are not an option in a portable keyboard, but you may be able to choose between membrane and scissor-style switches. Scissor switches usually have a much shorter travel than membrane-based keys, which means the keyboard can have a lower profile for portability; they’re also quieter and require little force to depress. The good news? Virtually all iPad keyboards rely on short-throw scissor switches.

All iPad keyboards are Bluetooth devices, but some can pair with as many as three devices and you can fast-switch among them with just a key press. If the keyboard is somewhat universal or multi-platform – able to work with your phone, tablet, and PC, that extra convenience might be important.

And don’t forget about the battery. Standalone keyboards can’t draw power from the iPad itself, so they’re going to rely on batteries — either built-in rechargeable battery, or disposables that you’ll need to swap out occasionally.

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Dave Johnson has been writing about gaming and tech since the days of the Palm Pilot. See him shout into the Twitter void @davejoh
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