Tablets have become popular because they are so versatile; each is already functional as a simple slate, but add on a keyboard and an iPad or Windows tablet becomes as useful as a laptop.
But you don’t want to use just any add-on keyboard. We’ve tested plenty of them, and so can point you toward the best.
Best Tablet Keyboards: iPad
The iPad Pro models are positioned as 2-in-1 laptop/tablets, so naturally Apple offers an Apple Smart Keyboard designed specifically for all of them, whether they have a 12.9-inch display ($169), a 10.5-inch one ($159), or a 9.7-inch one ($149). No matter the size, this accessory is super slim and lightweight, and uses a connector added to one edge of the Pro series specifically for keyboards. It’s easily removable, and can also be configured into a kickstand, with the keyboard hidden. Some people don’t like the fabric-covered design, though.
Another outstanding option is the Logitech Slim Combo, which is available for the 12.9-inch ($149.99) or the 10.5-inch ($129.99) iPad Pro. This is more protective than Apple’s offering, if bulkier, because it includes an enclosure for the tablet. The keyboard itself can be swiftly removed, and communicates with the iPad over the keyboard connector.
Or there’s the excellent Brydge 12.9, Brydge 10.5, Brydge 9.7, or Brydge 7.9 for any Apple tablet, not just the Pro models. A pair of hinges also serve as clamps to turn the iPad into a clamshell. The Brydge keyboards are heavier than rival devices, but their all-aluminum casings make these look very professional. They use Bluetooth, as many of Apple’s tablets don’t have the keyboard connector.
There are other very good Bluetooth keyboard cases designed for the more affordable 9.7-inch Apple iPad (2017). At the top of the list is the Logitech Slim Folio ($99.99), which functions as both a keyboard and a protective case. As this is a smaller device, there’s no room for a big keyboard. The design isn’t as flexible as it could be, but nevertheless is one of the best options available for this tablet.
Beyond this, iPads can use just about all the items listed in the “Multi-Device” section below.
Best Tablet Keyboards: Surface Pro
Many people mistakenly believe Microsoft’s Windows 10 tablets come bundled with a keyboard, but the Surface Pro Type Cover is actually a separate purchase, with the base model starting at $129.99. After several iffy versions years ago, the more recent Microsoft Type Cover is quite good, with decent key separation. No matter the version, it attaches directly to the tablet via a magnetic connector designed specifically for keyboards, and depends on the kickstand built into the computer. A trackpad is included, naturally.
Of course, shoppers don’t have to choose Microsoft’s offering. The rival Brydge 12.3 uses a quite different design that converts any of the recent Surface Pro models into a traditional clamshell shape, eschewing the kickstand. It uses Bluetooth to communicate with the computer, and includes a useful keyboard and trackpad.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many third-party keyboards designed specifically for the Surface Pro. Fortunately, these tablets can make use of the many options designed to work with a range of mobile computers.
Best Tablet Keyboards: Multi-Device
Not every tablet gets a keyboard designed specifically for it. Fortunately, there are quite a few that can be used with any model. Plus, these are well suited for families or other groups who have multiple tablets, as they can be shared much more easily than a single-device model. Virtually all of these use Bluetooth.
Among the best tablet keyboards available is the ZAGG Messenger Universal. This is the largest of the multi-device options we’ll discuss, as it was designed to work with full-size tablets. As a bonus, this means it has a big keyboard, and there’s a built-in kickstand. There’s no trackpad, however, so Windows and Android users will probably want to carry a mouse, too.
Those with a smaller tablets should consider the Logitech Universal Folio ($59.99). Unlike the Messenger Universal, this product also functions as a case that can be configured for devices in the 9- to 10-inch range. As this is designed for mid-size models, the keyboard is a bit smaller than a typical laptop’s. Again, there’s no trackpad on this Bluetooth device.
Those who occasionally want a keyboard for their tablet might be interested in the iClever IC-BK08 Portable Tri-folding Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad ($79.99). This is very portable, but still manages to cram in a trackpad, benefiting both Windows and Android users. There’s no stand to hold up the tablet, however.
All the keyboards mentioned so far have been portable, but the ZAGG Wired Lightning Keyboard ($49.99) is for office use. The highlight of this product is use of use: just plug it into the Lightning port on any iPad or iPhone to start typing. A stand is extra, though, and iPads can’t use trackpads.