Steve Kovach/Tech Insider
The first reviews are in for the iPad Pro, Apple's giant tablet that launches this week.
Critics love the iPad Pro as a tablet but are skeptical the device can actually replace their laptops anytime soon. But there was one aspect of the iPad Pro almost every critic agreed with: The $170 Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is overpriced and underwhelming.
TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino praised the keyboard’s sealed design that prevents spills and splashing from affecting any circuitry, but he said “the feel of the keys are a bit musky for my tastes and isn’t nearly as good on the rapid fly as a MacBook keyboard.”
Bloomberg’s Sam Grobart calls the Smart Keyboard “clever, but a little clumsy.” He notes “you can’t really use it on your lap, much less perched on your legs while sitting in bed.”
Lauren Goode from The Verge was much less forgiving of the keyboard in her iPad Pro review:
“Due to the taut layer of laser-cut fabric covering it, the keys felt comparatively shallow and rough,” Goode said. “It’s not backlit. It can only prop the iPad up at one angle (unlike Microsoft’s Surface). And while most common shortcuts work, depending on the app — Command + Tab tabs through open apps, Command + Z erases your last entry — the entire top row of the Mac keyboard is missing on the Smart Cover keyboard. This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first until you consider that a) you’re missing things like volume and brightness keys and b) those keys are present on accessory keyboards that cost much, much less than $169.”
Comparing the Smart Keyboard to two other keyboards — Logitech’s Create keyboard for iPad Pro, and Apple’s MacBook Pro keyboard — The Verge’s Walt Mossberg ranked the Smart Keyboard “dead last.”
“I was disappointed with Apple’s optional keyboard case,” Mossberg said. “It’s essentially a shallow Mac keyboard, with keys like Command that mean something only in Mac OS X, but not a single shortcut key to an iPad function, like Home or Search. It’s also not backlit, and it has only one angle in which it holds the screen. Additionally, it’s so light and small compared to the screen that I find it difficult to balance properly on my lap for typing. It’s also really costly, at $169.”
Mossberg said he kept “looking for shortcut keys that weren’t there” and “kept wishing for a trackpad, so I didn’t have to keep reaching for the screen.”
Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham had similar complaints. “There’s no hardware or software indicator for the Caps Lock key, for instance, making it hard to tell that it’s engaged without actually typing,” he said. “There’s no row of function keys, which could have been dedicated to media playback and volume and brightness controls (among other things) the way they are on a Mac keyboard. The fn key has been replaced by a key used to bring up alternate keyboards (including emoji), which is nice for iOS but deprives you of common shortcuts like fn-backspace for delete. There's no backlight either.”
Almost every review we’ve found had at least some issues with the $170 Smart Keyboard, particularly with its value proposition and its lack of useful features for getting stuff done. Luckily, third-party keyboards are there to fill the void. Notably, Logitech is selling its Create keyboard for iPad Pro for $20 less than Apple’s optional keyboard, and that accessory comes with plenty of useful keys and it charges directly through the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector. We look forward to reviewing this accessory for Tech Insider.
In the meantime, be wary of the Smart Keyboard if you’re thinking of purchasing an iPad Pro — or, at the very least, go and try out the Smart Keyboard at an Apple Store, and see if you like it.