A lot of us who purchased the iPad Pro on day one are still awaiting delivery of our Apple Smart Keyboards. Some folks (like Dennis) purchased Logitech's $149.99 Logi CREATE Backlit Keyboard for iPad Pro, others are using a Bluetooth keyboard like the Apple Magic Keyboard or (in my case) the Logitech Keys-to-Go. A few weeks ago, I reviewed a Bluetooth solution from ZAGG that, while not designed specifically for the iPad Pro, worked quite well with it (ZAGG Messenger Universal Mobile Keyboard and Stand). Today we're going to take a look at a really inexpensive keyboard for the iPad Pro that doesn't use Bluetooth or the Smart Connector, but instead connects to the tablet through a Lightning connector. The AGP Keyboard.13 for iPad Pro is a combination case and keyboard that is currently selling for just $58.00.
The design of the AGP Keyboard.13 is unique; it's the first keyboard I've tested that uses a Lightning cable for power and data transfer from the iPad Pro. There's no need to charge up a battery in the keyboard, nor do you need to pair it through Bluetooth. You just pull the Lightning cable from a handy niche on the case, plug it into the iPad Pro, and you're ready to roll. In case you are concerned, the AGP Keyboard.13 has received an Apple MFi certification.
The case has a black leatherette exterior and a colorful elastic band that's used to hold everything tightly closed while in transit. Open the case, and you see four leatherette and elastic "corners" that are used to hold the iPad Pro in place. It's quite easy to install or remove the iPad Pro. The interior uses a gray microfiber material with a very "grippy" feel -- you'll find out why this is important in the Function section of this review.
On either side of the full-sized keyboard are small loops that are used to hold an Apple Pencil or other stylus, but it's the keyboard that is the star here. If you're used to one of Apple's traditional keyboards, you're used to having a bit more key travel than you'll find with the Apple Smart Keyboard. The AGP Keyboard.13 has a full 1.6mm of travel compared to the Smart Keyboard's 0.4mm, so it feels a lot more like a traditional keyboard.
The keyboard is waterproof, which is another plus. It has full IP63 protection, so the occasional spill won't ruin your day. The AGP Keyboard.13 is a bit larger than the iPad Pro itself with dimensions of 12.91 x 9.25 x 1.02 inches (328 x 235 x 26mm). This is not a lightweight keyboard, weighing in at 1.6 lbs. (725.75 grams).
The first news is good news: this keyboard will run as long as your iPad Pro has a charge on the battery. It's nice to know that you won't have to charge up the AGP Keyboard.13 on occasion; just plug it into an iPad Pro and you're ready to roll.
The feel of the keyboard is great! I actually like the feel and the play of the keys more than I do the Apple Magic Keyboard, which is what I use for everyday work. The AGP Keyboard.13 works with iOS 9's shortcuts, so holding down the Command, Option, or Control keys will show you what shortcuts are available in an app by displaying a translucent dialog.
When I first started typing on the AGP Keyboard.13 in Pages, I found that the onscreen virtual keyboard was taking over a lot of my view. Fortunately, there's a key just above the 6 key that has a little keyboard icon on it -- tapping that removed the virtual keyboard from my view.
There are some odd blank keys on the keyboard. While there are iOS-specific Home, Spotlight, reverse/play/pause/fast-forward, volume, and lock buttons on the top row, there are also four blank keys that could be put to use doing... something. Perhaps they could be used to control screen brightness, or maybe AGP could do something innovative like link them to the Workflow app so that tapping one would launch a user-defined workflow.
One think I wish the AGP Keyboard.13 had is a way to lock the iPad in the "full upright position". Many similar keyboards use a series of magnets to provide a way to hold the iPad in different orientations, while this keyboard relies strictly on friction from that grippy microfiber material. While that works fine on a table or desktop, it doesn't work that great on a lap. More than once, just shifting my leg caused the iPad Pro to flop backwards. Even some sort of small channel in the case that the "bottom" edge of the iPad Pro could lock into would be helpful.
Finally, AGP says that closing the cover should put the iPad Pro to sleep and opening it should wake the iPad Pro. Perhaps I have a prototype of the Keyboard.13, but the cover never did turn the iPad off or on. A quick test with a paperclip showed that the magnets necessary to perform that function were not in my review keyboard.
The AGP Keyboard.13 has a lot of things going for it; low cost, good keyboard feel, powered by the iPad Pro and it protects the tablet when it's not in use. There are just a few minor points and oddities that keep it from being an outstanding keyboard case -- the blank keys, the lack of a way to lock the iPad into an upright position for worry-free lap top use. Hopefully those are just quirks associated with an early prototype and will be addressed by the manufacturer soon.