The iPad is a versatile evolution in computer design (yes, I said “computer”) with use cases that grow as its hardware and software start to flex their muscles. However, if you want the full-blown vision for the device that Apple wants you to have, the overall cost escalates quickly. In this article we’ll explore some cheap yet effective iPad accessories that can do the same and in many cases, even more.
While majority of the users are intrigued by it’s recent “pro” cred, few have been able to successfully draw out (pun alert!) the creative and productive animal hiding inside the iPad. A lot of us have just stuck to passive content consumption, watching videos, reading e-books and browsing the web on the intermediate screen of our lives.
Is there a productivity monster stuck inside?
Apple has been trying hard to get people to take this device seriously for years. The recent launch of the Pro variants have come with some powerful hardware under the hood and ever since iOS 13 and the “iPadOS“ rebranding of the software it has truly started to show potential. But with the Apple Pencil Variants costing $99 or $129 apple keyboards costing $170 or even $349 (if you want “magic”) the price of being a “pro” becomes restrictive.
You’d assume, however, that splurging for all these slick accessories would make your iPad the true “laptop-killer” it was born to be. Well I’m here to tell you that the budget accessory setup that I’ve developed not only gives you a Pro grade iPad for cheaper but also beats Apple at its own game
The Apple Vision...
So let’s first talk about the shortcomings of Apple’s current vision of their ultimate setup (Magic Keyboard, et al) before I wax eloquent about my setup and how it truly unleashes the beast
Don’t get me wrong, I have all the respect for one of the best design-centric consumer tech makers of the world. But in an effort to maintain their elite status they constantly strive to create “product islands” which are quite alluring in what they propose to do but are often unreachable for the most of us [cough, Mac Pro, cough]
In the case of the iPad Pro, Apple’s dream kit of the, lets say 512 GB 12.9 inch iPad Pro (with cellular!), the magic keyboard, a USB-C dongle and the Apple Pencil together set you back by…Oh my God!!
And yet, with all that fire power, Apple had to compromise on the key factors of weight, freedom of movement, ergonomics and versatility all at a premium cost.
Let me tell you what I mean
- The combined weight of the 12.9-inch iPad with the magic keyboard is about 3 pounds (1362 grams) while the 13-inch MacBook Pro weigh in at 2.8 pounds (1290 grams). Don’t take my word for it, ask The Verge: Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard weighs more than a 13-inch MacBook Air
- Although the floating hinge looks sweet, especially in Apple’s trending “barely there” profile photo, the degrees of movement is limited (between 90 to 130 degrees). It also does not allow you to get the iPad to play nice in portrait mode, which is essential for several great apps and for certain web content to render the way it was intended
- The problem with the iPad+Keyboard ergonomics is the same as every laptop out there. To put it simply, all laptops are a pain in the neck, literally. Just not designed to be used by humans in their natural form. I wonder if the makers have noticed that the distance between our eyes and the natural resting position of our hands isn’t 12 inches/30 centimetres (which is what most generous 15-inch laptops provide as the space Between the highest point of their screens to the lowest point of their keyboards). I’m about six feet tall and my hands are about 22 inches/55 centimetres apart when I’m sitting at the ideal typing position. Consequently, I end up hunching over a table at a cafe looking like nosferatu to the lady who actually came there to buy coffee. The iPad had a chance to do something different but the native accessories don’t seem to allow that
- The current design of the magic keyboard needs you to have a naked iPad in order for the magnetic contacts to engage. This means that when you detach the iPad for some lying-down reading time on your couch or “on the go” reading on the subway, it’s scratch city
So, how can we make it better?
Let’s get started. Here’s a quick look at my setup
Choose the right iPad for you. Is 12.9 necessary for everyone? I personally find the 11 inch more suitable for on-the-go assignments and one hand reading. Also, the cellular option is overkill, I never get caught in a situation where I’m outside with my iPad and I don’t have my phone with me. Which means that I just use the hotpot from my phone to keep the iPad connected
Let’s fix the iPad’s stance. We need an at home and at cafe mode to get this right
This stand (or similar) from AboveTEK https://amzn.to/2X4oY6b offers freedom of movement on your desk that will help you keep the iPad at eye level whether you’re watching a movie, framing yourself in the family FaceTime hour or following that recipe while at the kitchen Counter. It handles like an expert for both portrait and landscape modes with a sturdy base
On the go
While not as versatile as the at home solution, it isn’t as heavy either. https://amzn.to/2X40k5G Clocking in at 0.51 pounds/236 grams it weighs a far cry from the magic keyboard’s 1.56 pounds/710 grams. Plus you can comfortable place your iPad in portrait or landscape. Alternately you can pickup amazon’s own solution which is cheaper and lighter still
Or this one from Lamicall which also does the job cheaper: https://amzn.to/2AbTmCI
The typing experience. In a word, Bluetooth. Separating the viewing experience on the iPad from the typing experience solves ergonomics, future-proofing and multiple-platform compatibility in one fell swoop. You cannot beat having the iPad propped up on the stand at eye-level while a portable Bluetooth keyboard rests on you lap or at a desk where your hand is supposed to be! Take a look at this option https://amzn.to/3c99PEV
At 0.9 pounds/423 grams the Logitech K380 works with iOS, Windows and Android. It comes with a 2 year battery life and key travel that’ll make you question where the “magic” in the magic keyboard should be. And media function keys (remember those). Also, its under $30…that’s all I’m going to say
That's impressive! Tell me more
Now, depending your workflow, you can choose to pair all of this with the following accessories To take it even further
- Apple pencil https://amzn.to/3c5GQBR
- This awesome dongle from HooToo https://amzn.to/2XNOBrd
- An optional Apple Pencil holder to look extra cool at home https://amzn.to/3gqTvmn
- And a multi-platform mouse, now that the iPad plays nice with it https://amzn.to/2M47mks
Seems like a lot? Well, with all of this bought and paired with a 512 GB 11-Inch iPad Pro my total bill stands at just $1535!! A good $221 shaved off the comparable combo from Apple’s shelves (let’s not even look at the 12.9 variant cost for the same, where the savings are upwards of $400)
The benefits don't stop there
- This accessory bundle supports older iPads, cheaper iPads
- Can be paired with your laptop and mobile phone
- Will also not become obsolete when Apple launches the next iPad with a different connector in the future.
- All this while remaining lighter, modular and iPad-cover friendly
(You do have that $200 burning a hole in your pocket). This accessory combo also becomes part of my Work From Home: Beast Mode setup (Post Coming Soon!) to give you a seamlessly productive environment.
Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. Which means that, at no cost to you, I get a small commission if you choose to buy through my links. Please go through my Disclaimer notes for more info