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Review: Apple iPad Smart Keyboard for 9.7 inch iPad Pro
3.8Overall Score

Price (RRP): $229
Manufacturer: Apple

One feature on the iPad Pro can only be used with style of accessory: the dock connector, and it can only talk to keyboard cases. Right now, Apple’s Smart Keyboard is the only keyboard case to fill that void, but is it a void worth filling?

Features and performance

iPad owners have more choice than any other tablet when it comes to picking a keyboard for their tablet, but iPad Pro owners will get a different kind of choice.

One of the features the tablet arrives with is a magnetic dock on the edge, and just like its larger 12.9 inch sibling, this magnetic dock can link up with a keyboard. Specifically, it can connect to an Apple keyboard.

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Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the 9.7 inch iPad Pro is the official name, and it is pretty much what the name suggests: a keyboard made into a Smart Cover case with silicone backing and a hint of fabric along the inside, basically making it an origami-esque Smart Cover except with a power keyboard built into the design.

This is specifically for the iPad Pro, also, and that’s because of that magnetic dock, with the edge lining up with a row made for the 9.7 inch iPad Pro and only the 9.7 inch iPad Pro.

Your older iPad models won’t know how to connect with this and neither will the 12.9 inch iPad Pro which his just too big and would look rather silly.

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When connected to the right sized iPad Pro (right sized for this 9.7 inch model, that is), the tablet fits seamlessly and even folds the back into place for you, providing a triangular backing to lean the iPad Pro against which is comfortable and easy to type against.

The keys still sound a little strange — like typing on thick bubble wrap — but it’s something you can get used to. But as compact as Apple has managed to get the button-less keyboard, it also may also be a touch too compact for some hands.

Strangely, it’s not the 9.7 inch size that makes it too compact, and the sheer number of excellent keyboard cases for the previous 9.7 inch iPad models demonstrates just how little that factors into the situation.

No, it’s more the fact that when crafting the keys for the Smart Keyboard case, Apple has just made them really small, with some of the largest gutters and margins you’ll ever see on such a small keyboard.

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We get why: the fabric-based keyboard doesn’t use buttons, relying more on a membrane sort of design allowing you to press a flat icon down and achieve some semblance of tactile feedback as the key pushes into place. That makes it similar to those flat roll-up keyboards you’ve been able to find for yonks, but far better engineered.

Still, this design means the keys have to be smaller, or they do right now anyway until Apple finds a way to map that design so that you don’t need as much space around the keys.