Q. The $169 keyboard that Apple sells for its iPad Pro looks nice, but is it worth the money? What does it do that other iPad wireless keyboards can’t?
A. Apple’s Smart Keyboard is expensive, but it was designed specifically for use with the company’s newer, larger iPad Pro tablet. The keyboard is flexible and can serve as a kickstand to prop up the iPad Pro for watching video when you are not using it for typing, and it can also function as a screen cover for the device when you are not using either part. The Smart Keyboard’s typing surface is seamless, so debris and spilled liquids cannot get under the keys (as can happen with traditional keyboards), and the finish is stain- and moisture-resistant. Some keyboard shortcuts that work on the Mac can also work on the Smart Keyboard.
The iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard are linked via the Smart Connector interface, which has three small, round magnetic contacts on the edge of each device. The Smart Connector passes data and power back and forth between the tablet and keyboard — and frees the iPad Pro’s Bluetooth radio for use with another peripheral device.
However, Apple’s keyboard is not the only one that can make use of the Smart Connector. Logitech makes a Backlit Keyboard Case that can also link with the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector and, as the product’s name suggests, offers illuminated keys. Special iOS shortcut keys for things like screen brightness and volume are included, and costs a bit less, at $150.
The iPad Pro has the option of using a keyboard with Apple’s new Smart Connector technology, but just about any iPad model can pair up with a Bluetooth keyboard.
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If price is more of a factor than connector or industrial design, a regular Bluetooth keyboard paired to the iPad Pro is probably the least expensive option for adding real keys. For example, Zagg’s Messenger Universal for iPad Pro connects via Bluetooth and costs $70. Apple’s older Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard is also priced around $70 (or less) and pairs easily with any iPad model; the company’s newer $99 Magic Keyboard is also Bluetooth-equipped.