Thefeels great, like an iPad Pro for less, and it works (like all current iPads) with trackpads and keyboards. But those accessories don’t come included. There are multiple sold-separately keyboard case options with trackpads. One, by Apple, is extremely expensive. Another from Logitech is nearly half the price.
Now that iPads, and many iPadOS apps like Apple’s Pages, Google Docs and Office 365 support them, I recommend getting a keyboard case with a trackpad. I looked at earlier this year, and now have done the same with the iPad Air’s two best options. I’ve been trying both out, and each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Logitech Folio Touch ($159): Best for protection
Logitech’s bulky case isn’t pretty, but the folio-style design has wraparound protection that Apple’s Magic Keyboard lacks. The Air snaps right in. The case also works with the 11-inch iPad Pro, since they’re identically sized with the same rear connectors.
The Folio Touch has a fantastic keyboard, with a bonus row of function buttons that control screen brightness, keyboard brightness, play/pause, volume, Home Screen and search shortcuts. Apple’s Magic Keyboard doesn’t have these, oddly.
The square, plastic keys are raised above a textured surface underneath and have solid travel: They feel like a regular laptop/Chromebook keyboard. The trackpad beneath works fine, and is large enough for gestures (it supports all the same multifinger gestures as Apple’s own Magic Keyboard, and works as reliably).
The Folio Touch’s keyboard is attached to the case, flopping out to rest on a desk while a kickstand behind the iPad Air adjusts at multiple angles. But this works best on a flat table or desk, like a. You could try to balance this on your lap, but it gets weird. Still, the case’s support for a wide range of angles means you can bend it back further than the Apple Magic Keyboard.
Finally, the biggest benefit: The Folio Touch works for everyday nontyping use and Pencil work. There’s a cutaway part of the side where the Pencil 2 can snap on, plus a loop to hold Logitech’s. The keyboard can fold around if you’re just drawing or playing games, which is something Apple’s Magic Keyboard can’t do either.
Apple Magic Keyboard ($299): Best for lap typing
Apple’s very fancy and very expensive Magic Keyboard makes the iPad Air look like a futuristic MacBook. I loved the, but that was on the 12.9-inch version. The Air uses the 11-inch iPad Pro Magic Keyboard, which is similar with a smaller, slightly more compressed footprint.
The iPad Air snaps onto the keyboard case’s back with magnets, just like the iPad Pro, and hovers above the keyboard when opened, looking elegant and minimal. There are some benefits but also some drawbacks here.
The keyboard and trackpad are, again, excellent. Apple’s key mechanism is just like its newest MacBooks, with backlighting and comfy travel. The trackpad’s great for iPadOS 14 navigation and gesture-based shortcuts. The Magic Keyboard’s footprint is pretty small, too, which could be a benefit for small desks or commuting. It’s also great on a lap.
The Magic Keyboard also has an extra USB-C pass-through port for charging, which you could use while simultaneously accessing the USB-C on the side for other accessories or dongles.
What the Magic Keyboard lacks is versatility. The case only bends to very specific angles, and on the iPad Air/11-inch Pro version it doesn’t even angle up as far as I’d like. It’s like a laptop with an extremely limited hinge.
While it’s slimmer than Logitech’s case, it’s still pretty dense and adds more weight than you’d expect. The snap-on magnetic design feels sturdy, but also lacks protection on the sides. I don’t know what would happen if I dropped the iPad Air with the Magic Keyboard on, but I don’t think the results would be pretty.
The keyboard has some drawbacks, too. The Magic Keyboard lacks the extra function keys of Logitech’s folio case, and the trackpad is smaller. The palm rest area is smaller too, because the keyboard is shifted farther down. Logitech’s keyboard ends up feeling more expansive.
You could snap a Pencil 2 on the iPad Air while it’s in the Magic Keyboard case, but using the iPad Air for portrait-mode work or sketching would mean popping the iPad out of the case. The Magic Keyboard isn’t made for anything other than typing or landscape-mode work, and can’t bend back to use for normal everyday browsing and use. That’s the weirdest part of the Magic Keyboard, even though I love using it a lot more than I expected I would.
Also consider Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio ($179): Best slim case with keyboard benefits
Apple’s older keyboard case lacks a trackpad and backlit keys, but it’s an interesting ultraslim option. It just snaps around the Air’s back and hugs it with magnets. That means it won’t offer any real drop protection at all, but it stays on in a laptop sleeve or bag. At least it has a back cover, which Apple’s Smart Keyboard for thelacks.
The Smart Keyboard Folio only opens to two angles in keyboard mode, and the keys feel mushier and the typing surface less sturdy. But the keyboard part flips back to allow normal unobstructed iPad browsing and Pencil sketching; it feels like the perfect case if you’re mostly going to use the iPad Air without a keyboard but may occasionally want a keyboard on hand if necessary.
If you’re a person doing full-time writing on the iPad, the Magic Keyboard may be worth it for the comfort and lap convenience, and it’s a better fit for narrow places like trains or airplanes (if you’re ever using those anytime soon). But, the Logitech Folio Touch has an excellent keyboard too, plus extra function keys, a more protective bulky case, it’s a lot less expensive, and it just might be a better fit on your bigger desk.