I’ve had a love-hate relationship with iPad keyboards for over a decade. When I first started using an iPad, I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I would ever want to use a keyboard. Yet, the way I use an iPad has changed over the years. I tried different keyboards, and, to my surprise, I found they had more utility than I thought they would.
My favorite keyboard was always the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio. I had one in 2017 for my 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and I got another in 2019 when I upgraded to the 11-inch iPad Pro (first generation). It was light, portable, and offered a decent amount of protection. Best of all, it never needed to be charged.
However, the last few months have not been much fun. My Smart Keyboard Folio was no longer as reliable as it used to be. I frequently had to disconnect and reconnect it in order for the iPad to recognize it was attached. Then, one day, it stopped working altogether.
A replacement was needed, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the $179 that Apple wanted me to pay. So, I looked at the alternatives, and after some research, I ended up buying the Zagg Pro Keys for iPad Pro, (affiliate link). For me, it’s a far superior keyboard. Here’s why.
The Zagg Pro Keys for iPad Pro is compatible with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation of 11-inch iPad Pro. It measures 7.625 x 10.06 x 0.89 inches and weighs 1lb. The size is fine, but I have to admit that the weight took a little while to get used to. It doubles the weight of the iPad. The case is not a lot heavier than the Smart Keyboard Folio, but it is noticeable.
The keyboard connects to your iPad via Bluetooth and charges with a USB-C cable. The cable is not included, but because it has the same connector as an iPad Pro, you already have the cable you need for charging. The battery life is rated for one-year on a single charge, based on one hour of use each day.
Like Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio, the Zagg has two viewing angles. The iPad snaps into place with magnets and sits securely even while typing on your lap. The viewing angles are fine. They don’t offer a whole lot of flexibility, but they are very reminiscent of Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio.
The Zagg Pro Keys has a detachable design so that you can use the iPad without a keyboard if needed. It comes in two pieces. A rubberized case for the iPad that’s designed to withstand drops of up to 6.6 feet and a keyboard that uses magnets to securely attach itself to the iPad.
If you have an Apple Pencil, there is a spot for one at the top of the iPad case, and the magnetic flap that folds over the case when closed will ensure that it doesn’t get knocked off when stored in your bag.
The volume buttons are a little stiff, and the volume down button is half the size of the volume up button in order to accommodate the Apple Pencil. However, they work well, and I have no real complaints here.
The speaker grills, on the other hand, are really good. They are forward-facing and do a really nice job of directing the sound towards you instead of out the side of the iPad.
Otherwise, the fit and finish are very good. The materials are high quality, and everything is made to measure. Nothing is loose, or looks like it will break anytime soon. Zagg did a nice job here.
Zagg describes the keyboard as having laptop-style keys. I’m not entirely sure what they were going for with that description, but they work well, and I adapted to them pretty quickly. They have more travel than a typical Apple keyboard, but I doubt it will be a problem for most users.
The keyboard is backlit and can be configured in one of seven different colors. I sorely missed backlit keys when using Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio, so this is a huge plus for me. Another useful upgrade is the function row on the keyboard. It includes media controls and volume buttons, but my muscle memory will often tap the power key when reaching for the delete key.
Among the remaining features on this keyboard is multi-device pairing. You can pair up to two devices to the Zagg Pro Keys. One will always be your iPad, but if you want to type something on your iPhone or even a second iPad, you can program one of the buttons to automatically switch to that device.
I haven’t owned this case long enough to test Zagg’s one-year battery claim, but it’s good to know that you can check the battery level of your keyboard by holding down the Fn key and the Ctrl key. This flashes a light on the power key to indicate your current charge level. Three green flashes mean 50% or more power, two green flashes represent 25–49% power, and one green flash means you are at less than 25% power.
Although you can turn the keyboard off when not in use, I never do. However, it will turn off automatically if you fold the keyboard back against the rear of the iPad. This saves battery but will also prevent accidental key presses.
As I stated above, I really like this keyboard case. Is it perfect? No. It’s a little chunkier and heavier than I would like, but I am reassured by the additional levels of protection that this brings.
The keyboard keys collect a little more fingerprint oils than I would like, but that is easily fixed with a microfiber cloth. Besides, the dedicated function row and backlit keys make this seem like a minor annoyance.
I don’t love the idea of having to charge this keyboard, but if I only have to do it a few times a year, I can live with that. What’s more, it takes the same charging cable as my iPad Pro and the charging port for the keyboard is on the same side as the charging port on my iPad.
Then there is the price. Apple wants $179 for their Smart Keyboard Folio. The Zagg Pro Keys is just $109. If you purchase it on Amazon, (affiliate link), you will save even more. So, with the additional features that Zagg has added, the value proposition is high.
I’m not saying I will never buy another Smart Keyboard Folio from Apple, but right now, I am very happy with the Zag Pro Keys for iPad Pro. It does everything I need it to, and then some. If you are looking for a good alternative to Apple’s keyboards, this is tough to beat.