Last month I was sad to report that the new iPad Pro keyboard/trackpad combination from Brydge, the makers of my longstanding favorite iPad Pro keyboard, was just not good enough. The keyboard and price were both impressive, but the trackpad experience itself was poor compared to pretty much any other pointing device you can connect to an iPad.
At the time, I expressed some hope that Brydge might be able to turn things around by updating the trackpad’s firmware. And that glimmer of hope got a little brighter last week with the release of a firmware update app that improves clicking and scrolling features.
Unfortunately, the update that Brydge rolled out along with the app doesn’t really do anything to fix the fundamental failings of the Brydge trackpad experience. Cursor movement and two-finger scrolling is still jerky and unreliable in ways that other trackpads and mice aren’t.
It is a shame that the people who spent hundreds on their Brydge Keyboard are getting probably the worst trackpad keyboard they can for an iPad. I was thrilled with my Brydge 10.2 keyboard, but sadly Brydge seems to have shot themselves in the foot with this keyboard. They knew it was a risk to make a pseudo trackpad made to trick the accessibility trackpad support that showed up in early iPad OS 13. Now that iPad OS 13.4 has come out with full-fledged trackpad and mouse support this workaround Brydge has made is useless and inconvenient.
I hope that Brydge makes a turn for the better, but I am not holding my breath.
With the Magic Keyboard coming out for the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros, many people–including myself–were left longing to have a better keyboard and trackpad option for their 2019 iPad 7. Thankfully, Logitech didn’t leave people like me out of their lineup, they instead created the Logitech Combo Touch. Does it have a futuristic floating option? No, but it does offer more than any other keyboard on the market for the 2019 iPad 7, iPad Air 3, or 10.5” iPad Pro.
With 20 years under their belt, Logitech knows what it takes to make a worthwhile typing experience. That said, getting to the point where I could use all of the keys as intended took some time and a trip to the Logitech support website to get there.
Some Keys Weren’t Working
When I first set up this case I decided to test out the keys. After my first Brydge keyboard, I feel like I have to do it to ensure that nothing is dead on arrival. When testing it, I noticed that the apostrophe (‘) key and the backslash () key were not functioning. What was more interesting was that when I held down Shift and pressed the quotation mark (“) key, it accurately typed on the screen.
I was perplexed at this; it was obvious the key wasn’t the problem. I did more digging and noticed that Logitech offers an app to update the firmware on this keyboard. Hoping that there was some kind of firmware update, I installed it on the app to see if Logitech came up with a fix. Sadly, there was nothing.
At this point, I felt like the only way for me to get this issue fixed was to either wait for some kind of firmware update from Logitech, if there ever would be one, or contact Logitech in hopes they know a workaround on this. I spoke with Logitech Support about this issue and they had a quick fix for my issues.
According to Logitech, iOS 13.4 has an issue where the hardware keyboard settings don’t recognize all of the Combo Touch’s keys. The fix for this was to open up Settings and go to General>Keyboard>Hardware Keyboard and change the layout from Automatic to the US option. Once I did that, every key worked as expected. According to the Logitech Expert, I chatted with, this is an iOS/iPad OS bug. At first, I felt like this was a Logitech screw up, but after updating from 13.4 to a 13.5 public beta the issue resolved itself without issue. Hopefully whatever caused this issue is fixed with the upcoming iOS and iPad OS update, if not it would be a real pain for people to make this change manually.
Better in Every Way
Once I managed to get the issue with my keyboard fixed, I was finally able to try it out and see how it worked. Logitech has a track record for making keyboards with solid typing experiences, and this one is no exception. The key travel is much deeper than the Butterfly keys on the Smart Folio Keyboard and allows for a much more comfortable typing. The responsiveness to the keys is quick and precise, I never feel like a key isn’t recognized when I type on it. Finally, the size of this keyboard fits even my big hands. Coming from my MacBook Pro, It did take some time to get used to it after working on a full-sized keyboard. That said, I was able to make the switch in a matter of minutes.
There is one thing that I wish Logitech, and really every keyboard manufacturer would change. The egregious arrow keys.
Much like older MacBook Pros, the arrow keys have full-sized left and right arrow keys but have half-sized up and down arrow keys, making a three-key sandwich. As someone that never managed to get used to this kind of setup. I desperately want all four arrow keys to be uniformly half-size–which is also known as the inverted T setup. As someone that writes a lot on my iPad, seeing this bad sandwich-looking arrow keys setup makes me feel as if I am being punished for wanting to quickly move around my text with a keyboard rather than tapping on a screen or using the trackpad. If anyone has any ideas on how I can get used to these arrow keys I am all ears. For now, I will be looking down and placing my fingers on these atrocious arrow keys every time I need to use them.
Logitech Control App
One new thing that came with this keyboard was the Logitech Control app. Turns out, Logitech has listened to their users cry for more control over their keyboard. In the app, you can update the firmware of the keyboard, if they ever send one, as well as change settings to the physical keyboard. You can increase the backlit time on the keys from 10, to 30, or even 60 seconds. Furthermore, you can adjust the fade for the backlight keys making the time it takes to go from lit to unlit slower or faster.
By default, both settings are at their lowest setting, but I personally don’t mind if the keyboard stays lit longer. I decided to make my keys stay lit for 30 seconds instead of the default 10 seconds. Given that this keyboard is powered by the Smart Connector, one can assume the longer you leave your keys backlit the faster your battery will drain. I don’t know by how much, but I suspect LED lights don’t take much power to stay illuminated, and I would rather grab for my charger a few minutes sooner if that means I can see the keys I am typing on in the dark.
The keyboard case is primarily covered in a fabric akin to nylon. It has a heather gray look to it, which makes for an elegant looking computer. My only concern, which is the same as the Smart Keyboard, is that over time your hands will make this clean fabric turn from a heather gray to a smeared brown. Even if I were to wash my hands every time I use it, I know that over time the oils and dirt my hands will dirty this fabric. That said, if Logitech were to use a plastic or metal alternative, I don’t think it would be as inviting and comfortable as the fabric lining they chose is. My hope is that this case won’t be ruined over time, but it is a risk I am willing to take.
One thing I may do in the future is to wipe down the keyboard with a microfiber cloth dampened with water. That is the most common way Apple has instructed people to clean their Smart Folio keyboard. Granted, the Smart Folio Keyboard doesn’t have exposed keys that are susceptible to water damage. If this keyboard does become grimy and dirty looking I will take my chances and try to clean it as best I can.
This keyboard case does allow for you to remove the keyboard itself and have it act simply as a tablet with a kickstand. The Surface-like design allows for the iPad to be angled for any viewing mode you want. You can go from watching a YouTube video to writing notes with your Apple Pencil in a matter of seconds by lowering the iPad and opening your handwriting app. I absolutely love that you can use your iPad in any way you want with this case attached. If we were to compare this to the Brydge keyboard, you would never have been able to use that keyboard case for drawing on your iPad, as it was strictly only for laptop-style work.
If you are hoping this case is slim and sleek, you’re going to be disappointed. This case is a beefy monstrosity. Once you put on the keyboard and the kickstand case on your petite iPad, it more than doubles in thickness. In fact, it is almost as thick as a 2010 MacBook Pro, you know, the one that had a disc drive still in it.
While considering buying this product, I looked at other reviews before making my decision and every single one of them spun this thick case as something about being ultra-protective of the iPad. Personally, I am not here to protect my iPad from a 30-foot fall with half-inch plastic encasing my iPad. That said, the thickness isn’t as blasphemous as it’s previous predecessors like the ironically-named Slim Combo. While I would like this case to be slimmer, I really am not sure where Logitech could slim anything down. The kickstand is a perfect thickness and allows the iPad to be in a wide range of angles without compromise, the plastic going around the iPad is on the thicker side but that will only make the edges thinner, and the keyboard needs to be as thick as t it is because key travel is important and Logitech knows that.
I am not an engineer, nor do I play one on TV, but as I think more about this keyboard case the less I can find a simple way to make it any slimmer without compromise. So, if you want a keyboard with a great typing experience that is smart-connector compatible, you have to sacrifice a few millimeters and a few extra ounces to make that happen, or buy the Apple Smart Keyboard with the inferior, yet slimmer, Butterfly keys.
At the end of the day the thickness doesn’t bother me enough to consider not using it, but if you decide to buy this keyboard know that it is a keyboard that has more to love than most iPad keyboards. Not to mention, it’s the best keyboard case that offers trackpad support for these iPad models.
The most anticipated feature on this keyboard is the built-in trackpad, and it doesn’t disappoint. All of the gestures that Magic Keyboard uses are available for this keyboard, and they work flawlessly.
The trackpad, compared to the Magic Keyboard, is a tad smaller measuring in at 3 ¾” wide by 2 1/8” long while the Magic keyboard trackpad for the 12.9” is 4” wide and 2 1/8” long. Both the Combo Touch and the Magic Keyboard pale in comparison to the 2017 13” MacBook Pro coming in at 5 5/16” wide and 3 5/16” long. While it may seem small compared to the MacBook Pro trackpad size, it isn’t a dealbreaker.
I haven’t seen the Magic Keyboard for the 12.9” in person, but from what I can tell the reason for the both the Magic Keyboard and Combo Touch being close in size is because the Combo Touch doesn’t need room for the keyboard to float atop the case like the Magic Keyboard does. In fact, the only thing keeping this keyboard from bumping right up to the iPad itself is a small section of the case used to keep the plastic keys from touching the glass screen. Logitech did a beautiful job in making every millimeter of this case count, and users like myself are grateful for that.
There is one thing about this trackpad that is different from that of the Magic Keyboard, though. The trackpad for this case is a “diving board” style trackpad while the Magic Keyboard is one solid piece like that of the MacBook and MacBook Pros. To explain, you can click at the very top of a Magic Keyboard without issue, while with the Logitech Combo that top part is cannot be depressed for a click because it depends on that top part as a spring to allow the rest of the trackpad to be depressed. Thankfully, there is an easy fix for this.
If you want to save yourself from worrying about whether you have your hand on the right part of the trackpad to click, just turn on “tap to click” and you can use this trackpad without any of the aforementioned issues. To do this, open the Settings app and go to General>Trackpad and turn on Tap to Click. Once that is enabled, you will no longer need to press down on the trackpad at all to click, you simply tap on the trackpad and all will be well. Once I turned this setting on. my issues with the trackpad were immediately resolved and I have been using it joyfully since then.
If you have an iPad Air 3, 10.5” iPad Pro, or the 2019 iPad 7 and are looking for a keyboard, you should pick up this keyboard immediately. It’s bulky and not as slim-looking as the Apple Smart Keyboard, but it is a hell of a lot better to type on and offers trackpad support when seemingly no one else does. With the price-point less than the Smart Keyboard it is a no-brainer that this is the superior keyboard for anyone looking to use an iPad for their work.
The Touchtype Pro is a new Keyboard case allowing iPad users to connect their 3rd generation iPads with the Magic Keyboard, and it is available on Kickstarter until May 17th. I received a prototype review unit from the creator of the Touchtype Pro, Salman Sajid, and this seems very close to the final product for me, and it is something I think many iPad users will love.
The Magic Keyboard
The Magic Keyboard was my keyboard of choice when it came to my 10.5” iPad Pro. I was never happy with the Smart Keyboard, nor was I thrilled with the Logitech Slim Combo. The only thing that came close was the Brydge 10.5 Series II, but even that was not a full sized keyboard, making my hands feel cramped after an hour of typing on it.
The Magic Keyboard wasn’t just my pick because of the size, it is also because something about the feel of the keys always felt like the perfect amount of travel and tactile feel for my taste. So for the last year of me using the iPad Pro 10.5” I had it accompanied with the Magic Keyboard. Now with this Touchtype Pro, I am able to use the Magic Keyboard in tandom with the iPad Pro 12.9”. This case has a lot going for it, but there are a few things I would like to see in the final product.
Look and Feel
The quality of the look and feel of this keyboard is out of this world. I love the microfiber cloth inside the case. It is soft and feels like it is actually helping preserve the screen and keyboard from dust and grime. The outer shell is a cross between the look of plastic leather and the feel of polycarbonate, which is very pleasing in the hands as well as to the eyes. The craft put into this shows every single time I look at it or have it in my hands. It isn’t easy to make a keyboard case look good both open and closed, but I think that the Touchtype Pro is the exception to that. This case looks very business casual and can be something any workplace will be happy to see in use.
Using the Touchtype Pro
This Touchtype Pro brings the reliability of the Magic Keyboard together with the iPad Pro. Put simply it unites the best iPad with the best standalone keyboard. It allows people to write with the freedom of a full sized keyboard that is reliable and perfect for all typists out there.
One problem with the Magic Keyboard is you can only buy it as a white version from Apple, for me I think if there were a black version it would make this look even better. Secondly, the Magic Keyboard doesn’t have backlighting, making it a bit more difficult to write with when you are in a dark area, or if you are a night owl like myself and don’t want to wake up your spouse. However, if you’re not in need of backlighting all the time this keyboard does have a function row as well as the knowledge that a spec of dust won’t ruin it forever.
The process of folding and unfolding the Touchtype Pro takes some getting used to, and has a bit of a learning curve, but after a few tries I managed to get it down to a science. I am also a big fan of the train track of magnets allowing users to adjust the viewing angle of the iPad Pro to what ever angle you prefer when typing. For me, it seems to fit perfectly when I have the front flap folded over and the keyboard resting right on the edge. The case looks sleek and the angle is perfect for my eyes.
The design of this case is admirable with their choice to make it possible to fold away the Magic Keyboard and have a viewing only mode for when I just want to watch a movie or read a book on my iPad. This is something that other cases, including the Smart Keyboard Apple has made for the iPad Pro, don’t have. I miss the old 1st generation Smart Keyboard cases because it was created with a viewing mode in mind. I am not sure why other 3rd party keyboard haven’t done anything like that with their cases for the latest iPads, but it is refreshing to see someone make that decision, and the Touchtype Pro makes it easy to use.
This case does come with its flaws though.
The magnets connecting the keyboard aren’t strong enough to stay connected when I am moving it from a typing mode into a viewing mode. It also collapses on me when I am trying to quickly fold it up to take with me on the go. This isn’t the case’s fault entirely, I know that there were times I was too cavalier with me packing this iPad up and that caused me to be less than delicate on the case itself. If I gingerly move the keyboard away it works every time.
I have spoken with Salman, the creator of this product, about this and he has expressed to me that the magnets in this prototype are not the ones going out to Kickstarter backers. Those who pay for the keyboard on Kickstarter or retail will be getting ones with stronger magnets to avoid this problem. After speaking with Salman on the phone about this I know he cares deeply about this product, and I have full faith that he will fix this before he ships them out to users.
All in all this keyboard case has a lot of great things going for it, and if you are someone like me wanting a full sized keyboard, the Touchtype Pro is a fantastic option worth looking into.
That said, this keyboard is $100 retail, and along with the case costing $100 retail, it makes this keyboard case setup the most expensive of any compared to Apple’s Smart Keyboard, Logtiech’s Slim Folio Pro, and the Brydge Keyboard. That said, you can get a used Magic Keyboard, like I did, on eBay for around $55. Making this less expensive than the Smart Keyboard as well as the Brydge Keyboard. So if you did have to buy both this case and a Magic Keyboard it wouldn’t be outside of the competition.
Now, if you are like many who already own the Magic Keyboard, a $100 case like this one isn’t asking for a lot. In fact, I would argue that this case is worth $150 on its own. There isn’t a case out there that offers this much versatility and usability for the latest iPad Pros. If I am being totally honest I am sad to have to send this case back as I see it being a keyboard case I can use day-to-day.
if you want to get yours, act fast. You can get yours at a discount until May 17th by backing it on Kickstarter and find out more about it on their website.
This is just a quick little tip for iPad users out there. If you are like me and using the Smart Keyboard or any keyboard that doesn’t have an Escape key you can press command + . and that will most likely work as a way to escape from any text input you are in. I have found it to work in Google Sheets, Things 3, Safari, and several other apps. Your mileage may vary but for me it seems to work more times than not.
Are you one of the many people affected by a MacBook keyboard failure?
If so, you now have the slightest hint of what it’s like to live with a disability. You can’t use a product like everyone else and it’s preventing you from achieving your goals.
Maybe you say “screw it” and write an article for the Wall Street Journal without those keys. Or maybe you hang on desperately to an old laptop (these words are coming from a MacBook purchased in 2013.) An external keyboard might be a temporary workaround.
But there is a clear distinction here: you have a course of remedy. You can take the laptop in for service or choose a different model. And while a failing keyboard is definitely a problem, it pales in comparison to someone’s permanent disability.
Craig makes a great point here on this matter and I think that it is something many of us don’t think about regularly, including myself. Apple has done great work for accessibility for those with disabilities and I hope they continue to do so. That said, the burden also falls on the developers, and I hope they are paying attention.
With my iPad only lifestyle, there has been a pain point that’s been present with a lot of iPad Pro users: keyboards.
There never seems to be a perfect keyboard for the iPad that is agreed upon with everyone. In fact there are a number of choices that seem to have some sort of drawback no matter how you look at it.
I like to to think of iOS keyboards like that of trail mix. By that I mean there are lots of options, but you are never satisfied with what you get.
The Magic Keyboard is the peanut, simple yet reliable and gets you where you are going. However, it is missing the sweetness and delight that you want. With no backlighting and a Bluetooth only connection, you often have to wake it from its all too frequent sleep mode just to get the keys to work with the iPad. Sure you can simply tap an arrow key when you want to use it, but when it is such a prevalent and repetitive thing to do it becomes tedious and tiring.
The Sunflower Seed
The Smart Keyboard is the sunflower seed. Small and plentiful, but doesn’t provide enough sustenance in its own. The Smart Keyboard is the most frequently recommended keyboard for an iPad Pro, but it doesn’t check all the boxes. Again, with no backlighting working on the keyboard in a dark room just doesn’t work. Now as a step up from the Magic Keyboard it does have a Smart Connector, but with that comes sacrifice in keyboard size. Especially in the 10.5 iPad. The key size is small, space between keys takes some getting used to, and even some less used keys are squished to fit the footprint necessary to be used as a Smart Cover.
The Logitech Keyboard is the raisin of the bunch where some people like and is “healthy” competition in theory. In reality it sucks and nearly everyone hates them. Honestly the bulky keyboard ironically named Slim Combo seems to be a slap in the face to the people who decided to buy it. It has a Microsoft Surface knockoff okickstand in the case making the footprint of this keyboard when in use take up more space than any other keyboard I have used. It does have backlighting, but the keys are even more cramped than that of the Smart Keyboard. This is the one keyboard I tell almost everyone to steer clear from because the cons outweighs the pros ten to one.
Finally, the Brydge Keyboard is a lot like the cheap M&M knockoff in trail mix. It seems like the best option but it still tastes awful once you bite into it. I had high hopes for the Brydge Keyboard when it was first announced. It’s only issue for me was that it had a Bluetooth connection, but I was willing to let that go for what it offered. The backlit keyboards and comfortable keyboard layout alongside a detachable clamshell design looks both functional and beautiful. Sadly, much like trail mix, the execution was lacking and it ended with a hunk of aluminum that barely worked properly. The keys were mushy and unresponsive in all 3 models I received when I order this keyboard. I have heard from people that you need to expect to send your keyboard back a few times before getting one that works properly, but to me that isn’t acceptable in this ecosystem where a product that costs over $100 needs to be checked for quality and most likely sent back several times before a customer is satisfied. With that said, if you are willing to deal with that kind of hassle the Brydge Keyboard is worth a shot, the support team there is very nice and responsive, but you have been warned.
I am not sure what the answer to this is, but as of right now I am sticking with the Smart Keyboard because portability and connectivity are my two biggest needs in a keyboard for my iPad and nothing compares to the Smart Keyboard in these areas. I also am a fan of the butterfly key switches in the Smart Keyboard as I have gotten akin to the MacBrook Pro keyboard when I was using it. I am able to write without much incidents of mistakes and I have zero latency and missed keys when writing on it. So for now this is what I am using.
With that said if a new keyboard came into play for my 10.5” iPad that executed on these areas and other things like a backlit keyboard and a better key layout I would happily spend my money on it. Sadly, I am not sure we will see anything new come to these iPads with the shadow of new iPads on the horizon, so I won’t be holding my breath.
Writing on a keyboard is something many people take advantage of when they use their computer or laptop, but iPad users have the burden of shopping around for a keyboard as an accessory.
The reason this is more of a burden than many think is because no keyboard is perfect. With three different iPads out on sale from Apple today, to call the market divided would be an understatement.
When I first wrote for this blog I posted a story about how I used the Logitech Slim Combo for my 10.5” iPad Pro. I said that the key travel and features like backlighting and media buttons were the reason why I chose it over the Apple Smart Keyboard. I also took some shots at the keys on the Smart Keyboard and the material on it. I was wrong. The Logitech Keyboard has since lost its varnish and the Apple Smart Keyboard is growing on me.
I purchased the Apple Smart Keyboard again earlier this week because I found myself hating having to use the bulky Slim Combo. I also was using my keyboard more on my couch and less on a desk. Using Logitech’s keyboard on my lap was like balancing china plates to get that keyboard to work for me outside of a desk setting.
Finally, the keys never felt right for my hands. This is the most problematic issue for me because if I can’t write properly then my brain will just tell me not to write at all. After leaving my iPad after writing a few hundred words to make food or use the bathroom, I noticed my hands needed to have an adjustment period from using the Slim Combo. This was very concerning because I felt like I was in the midst of an RSI issue. If my hands hurt when using a tool specifically made for writing then I need a new tool.
The Apple Smart Keyboard was my only option because of what I deemed necessary on a keyboard. I wanted something that was attachable to the iPad, portable, and used the smart connectors to power the device. Once I realized the Apple Smart Keyboard was the next plausible option, I took the plunge and tried this keyboard out one last time. I’m glad I did.
Writing on this after spending months with the Slim Combo feels like my hands can breathe and I have never had more relaxed hands when typing for a long time. I was worried about the key travel and if I would be able to write with them, but that has been the easiest part about using this keyboard. The main keys on this device are where you would think they are and the chiclet style keys are a welcome change to the cramped keys Logitech put together.
The thing that I found to be the most difficult to get used to is that fact this stand only had 3 positions: the traditional keyboard setup, the keyboard folded over for watching videos, and the usual setup where the keyboard is resting on the tri-fold to be used for playing games. Going from pretty much any conceivable angle with he adjustable stand Logitech had to only three options, all with different uses felt constraining.
I really miss the adjustable hinge on the back of the Slim Combo, it was great for when I wanted to watch a YouTube video or an episode of television on Netflix. I could set it anywhere I wanted and find an angle that worked for me to view it.
I haven’t watched much on my iPad since buying this but the times I did for the purposed of this review it wasn’t the perfect viewing angle but I adjusted just fine with it. I often found myself just using it in the keyboard position because of how small the footprint this case provides when compared to the Logitech Slim Combo.
All in all this keyboard isn’t perfect, but no keyboard is. It seems to be the best option for my plethora of prerequisites. The Logitech Slim Combo is still a great option for many, just not for me.
If you are in the market for a keyboard and find yourself trying to figure out which of these two is best for you I would buy it from a store that offers at lease a 14 day return policy and try each out before you make your final purchase. I did this, but I didn’t give the Apple Smart Keyboard enough time as I probably should have. If I had, then I probably wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.