The launch of the Razer Mechanical keyboard brings about what will likely be among the first of many accessories which are seeking to make the iPad a better desktop computer — something that is likely to seem comical for many. The validity of using the iPad as a desktop computer notwithstanding, as a full time iPad Pro user I am finding the ways you can use the iPad on a desk to be challenging to say the least.
I’ve tried quite a few combinations:
- Magic Keyboard + iPad stands
- CODE keyboard (via USB) + iPad stands
- Smart Keyboard Cover on iPad
- iPad Pro software keyboard, iPad on angled stand
None of these solutions are ideal for a full 8 hour working day. Before talking about which solution I find best, I want to first go over the basic problems of working with an iPad at a desk presents.
Screen Height and Arm Fatigue
When my iPad is resting with one edge on the desk, I experience zero arm fatigue while using the device — no matter how long I use it for. But, having the screen placed that low causes your neck to be looking angled downward the entire time — and no matter what, this is not good for you.
If you attempt to raise the iPad using an arm, or like stands, you invert the problem. Where your neck is now more comfortable, your arms now become fatigued. You cannot use an iPad without touch input — even if most of what you do is write. This is the constant battle you wage when using an iPad Pro as your main computer: neck comfort versus arm fatigue.
Of the three keyboards I regularly use, the Magic Keyboard offers the most comfortable typing experience — even over the CODE. There is however a caveat: Bluetooth. Using a Bluetooth keyboard with iOS is a terrible experience. It’s too hard to switch between using the hardware keyboard and the software keyboard when you use a Bluetooth keyboard. Instead of having a seamless transition between typing and holding the iPad, you have to turn something off as you switch working methods. It is a pain.
The CODE keyboard is hardly better. While I enjoy the pure typing experience of the CODE, my hands grow quickly fatigued. I am unsure if this is a byproduct of my lack of use of mechanical keyboards, or some other physical change. That fatigue aside, there is a practical consideration here: the CODE is too tall to work well with an iPad.
The keyboard often blocks the bottom edge of the screen unless you raise the iPad up high enough to begin experiencing arm fatigue while using the device. The second issue is the amount of wires this setup adds. You have the powered USB lightning connector hanging out of the iPad, a lightning cable plugged into the power adapter, and the USB cable from the keyboard to the iPad adapter. In other words: too many wires, it’s a mess.
This brings us to the Smart Keyboard Cover, which is my primary keyboard. The keyboard takes a lot to get used to, and I type a touch slower on it than on a “normal” keyboard, but it offers some large advantages. For starters it allows me to only use the hardware keyboard when I actually want to use the hardware keyboard. There are no wires. There is no external power needed. Of all the options it is not only the simplest, but the only one which works as you want and expect it to work.
The pitfall of the Smart Keyboard Cover is the tactile feel. Even though I like the feel, it’s most certainly not a traditional keyboard. Lastly, and this is the my biggest complaints: there’s no escape key. I don’t need this often, but when I do, I find it extremely annoying that this key is missing.
There are a lot of other options out there, but most seem to have far more obvious trade offs — and so far this has caused me to stay away from them.
How I Work
At times my desk has looked like a child’s science project, or perhaps a duct tape lovers dream setup, to an iPad laying in the middle of a walnut desktop. I’ve tried hard to test through many setups and to try and find what works best for me. Ultimately, I found that the simplest setup is what works best. Here’s how I work…
Desk + 12.9″ iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard Cover. Off to the side I keep an 9.7″ iPad Pro, usually lying flat on the desk with an Apple Pencil by its side.
I’ve found this setup to be the most ideal setup I could possibly create with my chosen platform of iPad. There is one thing more which I readily do to make this setup work even better: I often pick up the iPads.
I’ve found keeping your iPad on the desk, is to ignore what makes an iPad great. Anytime I have to read through things, or I engage in a task where I have no need for a keyboard I pick up the iPad and hold it while I work. While obvious, it is also important to remember how much more effective the iPad is if you hold it in your hands.