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On April 20, Apple announced the M1-powered 2021 iPad Pro (5th gen) in two familiar sizes – 11-inch and 12.9-inch. As we expected, in terms of design, the new tablets are almost exactly like last year’s iPad Pro models, aside from a very slight thickness increase to accommodate larger batteries. Regardless, the new 2021 iPad Pro models do work with some older keyboard cases made for earlier models, for example the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio. But in order to be safe, here we’ll focus on the best keyboard cases that were specifically made for the 2021 iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch.If you’d like to follow Apple’s vision of the M1 iPad Pro as a computer replacement, getting a keyboard case is a definite must. Especially with iPadOS 15 just around the corner, which we expect to further push the iPad into computer-replacement territory.
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Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro
Although identical to last year’s variant, a new Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad has been released for the new M1 iPad Pro. The Magic Keyboard takes center stage in the iPad Pro’s marketing materials, so it is clearly the keyboard case Apple wants you to get in order to have the best possible iPad Pro experience.The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro shines with its cool design, adjustable viewing angles, additional USB Type-C port and most notably, the fact that it’s a backlit keyboard with a trackpad.
Its most significant downside, aside from the price, is that this keyboard case is quite weighty. According to MacRumors, the Magic Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 is 710 grams, more than the iPad itself. The 11-inch variant too is weightier than the 11-inch iPad Pro at 641 grams.
Additionally, the Magic Keyboard uses a rubbery outer material similar to the one we’ve seen on the Smart Keyboard Folio, which isn’t exactly a durability champion and collects dirt easily, so extra caution is needed when using it.
Note: Currently Apple hasn’t released a new Magic Keyboard iteration for the 11-inch 2021 iPad Pro, only the 12.9-inch one.
Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Pro
This keyboard case is so thin and light that it can easily trick people into thinking it’s just a case and nothing more. But it actually features a nice, albeit not backlit nor very tactile keyboard. And it’s actually not as super light as may appear, at about 297 grams (0.65 pounds), but it’s still the lightest out there.The Smart Keyboard Folio notably has no trackpad, but in all honesty, the iPad doesn’t really make great use of mice or trackpads yet, so it’s not as big of a loss as the lack of backlighting. On the upside, this keyboard case can double as a stand for your iPad Pro, offering two viewing angles. And in addition to that, its keyboard half can be flipped around to the back of the iPad like a normal case, which conveniently disables the keys.
I personally got used to the Smart Keyboard Folio’s tiny key travel quite fast and find it enjoyable to type on, but a major gripe is how quickly it can get dirty no matter how protective you are. Its outer rubber-like material easily collects all the dirt from every surface you place it on.
Note: Currently Apple hasn’t released a new Smart Keyboard Folio iteration for the 11-inch 2021 iPad Pro. However, we’ve tested the iPad Air 4 Smart Keyboard Folio on the 11-inch 2021 iPad Pro and found it to be compatible.
Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard Case with Trackpad for iPad Pro
Unlike Apple’s own iPad keyboard cases, this one made by reputable brand Logitech actually features a sturdy outer material. Its keyboard part is detachable, so it can turn into just a protective case with a kickstand when needed.
The Logitech Combo Touch features function keys, has a backlight and a trackpad, plus a cutout for an optional Apple Pencil 2. It is definitely a great case to consider if you prioritize adjustable viewing angles and toughness over lightness. Because indeed, it is not the lightest keyboard case at 574 grams (1.2 pounds).
Do I need an iPad keyboard?
This is a great question to ask yourself before dropping a hefty sum of money, especially on a first-party keyboard. Many iPad apps and games don’t take any advantage of attached keyboards, so if you’re hoping to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or navigate through VLC with a keyboard – you will be disappointed. You can’t even navigate through the home screen with the arrow keys without enabling an accessibility feature first, which isn’t a deal breaker but is good to know in order to set your expectations. Physical iPad keyboards are best utilized mostly in writing-oriented apps or, to put it simply, wherever there is a text field.
In any case, it is definitely worth having a keyboard case if you’re doing a lot of messaging or writing. iPad keyboards work great for browsing the internet, writing social media messages, notes or even essays. Plus, keyboard cases double as regular cases and kickstands, which, let’s face it, most of us need anyway.