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Double review: Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, the official iPad Pro accessories

Just over two months ago, I published my full review of the iPad Pro and I purposely left out of it not only to not dwell too long, but also for the sake of focus comments on its two official accessories, the Smart Keyboard it's the Apple Pencil.

9.7-inch iPad Pro lying with Apple Pencil next to 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard

But there is a doubtful promise: I also wanted to bring you my impressions of these by-products, and here they are.

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Smart Keyboard

Years after third-party manufacturers launched accessories of this type and Microsoft itself adopted the idea as standard on the Surface, Apple made a patent that it originally registered in August 2011 a reality: an iPad case with a built-in keyboard.

For what he called Smart Keyboard, Apple basically created an “extended version” of its traditional Smart Cover already using the same material (polyurethane, lined with soft microfiber) but with a new foldable surface where the keys are. Although thin, this area adds considerable thickness to the accessory that is not evenly distributed when folded.

The great advantage of the Smart Keyboard compared to all cases with keyboard that existed until now came from a novelty that Apple built into the iPad Pro's own hardware: its Smart Connector. it is through these three small magnetic circles that the cover “sticks” to the tablet and allows not only data transmission regarding the keyboard's own power. That is, it does not use the Bluetooth interface and does not even have a built-in battery.

Switch from the MacBook Pro keyboard to the somewhat weird Smart Keyboard. If you have to be constantly jumping from one to the other, you are likely to experience some discomfort. But I set out to use the iPad Pro with its Smart Keyboard for a whole day and, after a short period of adaptation, the typing experience was totally normal / pleasant for me.


The Smart Keyboard was released in a smaller version for the recently announced 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but evidently the one that I have used for months is the larger model for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Both have exactly the same number of keys, but in the larger one they are slightly larger / more spaced. One thing that the top line with function keys is sorely lacking, that is, there is no way to control volume, brightness or multimedia playback from the keyboard. This is already boring, but perhaps the most important omission of all is the key Esc which, at least for me, makes a damn miss.

Still at the pace of criticism, it is a pity for Apple to launch such an accessory without backlighting on the keys (and she had made the same mistake with the Magic Keyboard). The cost of this must be minimal, the battery consumption is very low and I doubt that the lights would make the accessory thicker than it already is. In other words, to type in the dark, you need to depend on the illumination of the screen on the keys (and / or your typing practice).

Although it makes the iPad Pro look like a laptop when used with the Smart Keyboard, the experience is not exactly the same. First, we can't adjust the screen angle, the Smart Keyboard offers just one and that's it. Second, as the Smart Keyboard is as soft / flexible as a Smart Cover, it is quite difficult not to say impossible to use it, for example, in bed, on your lap.

Apple Smart Keyboard on iPad Pro (by )

One thing I highly value when I'm working to be worthwhile is useful on the screen, so I have a MacBook Pro with a 15-inch Retina display and put OS X in the “Bigger Space” setting for the resolution. I say this because the space we "won" without the virtual keyboard occupying the iPad screen is simply immense. I find this of immeasurable value for those who really want to use the iPad (be it the Pro or not) as the main work device, and of course it applies to any keyboard created for it (not just the Smart Keyboard).

Apple has already implemented several keyboard shortcuts on iOS and its native apps, and little by little developers have done the same. To find out which ones are available, just press and hold the key (Command) of the Smart Keyboard for 2-3 seconds.

Until a while ago, whenever I was going to use the iPad Pro to watch something, I opened the Smart Keyboard and put it in the typing position. This would be a negative point of my review, if I had rushed and written it before discovering it here:

Ways to use the Smart Keyboard

Believe me: the way to watch videos is not so obvious, so much so that I talked to two friends who had been using the iPad Pro for months when I found out and they didn't know about this “trick” either. You need to open the Smart Keyboard completely, touch the keyboard to the back of the iPad Pro and slide it down so that it is locked behind the supporting “triangle”. Yes, there is no disrupting keyboard and a much better viewing angle!

In addition, it is worth remembering that the Smart Keyboard is first of all also a Smart Cover, so protect the front of the iPad Pro well when closed. It does not only offer protection for the rear, something that Apple solved in the case of the iPad Pro with the silicone cases.

Apple Pencil

Here my analysis will be much more technical than anything else, because as an illustrator I am a great cook. Still, I have the full capacity to tell you that the Apple Pencil the best stylus already created for a tablet.

Apple Pencil from iPad Pro (by )

And I say this by focusing on precisely what matters most in such an accessory: what we expect when we are going to use it. By combining technologies embedded in the pencil itself and on the iPad Pro screen, Apple has managed to absurdly decrease the latency in the strokes, implement a natural pressure sensitivity system and still allow us to use the Apple Pencil as a real pencil on paper, tilting it to get different visual results. And that naturalness extends even to the support of the hands on the screen, which are “ignored” by the touchscreen while you use the Pencil.

The shape of the Apple Pencil itself is a bit curious. It is a perfect cylinder, which I personally like but it can be strange for those who are used to using hexagonal pens / pens, for example. It is also a little longer and heavier than I expected before I caught it the first time, with its center of gravity positioned more towards the top. The feeling, when placing it in the hand, of a robust and modern pencil.

The Apple Pencil obviously has a built-in accelerometer. One of the cool things that Ma explored based on this is an intelligent hibernation system for pencil, which saves your battery. So, if you leave it standing on the table it will automatically “hang up” and disconnect via Bluetooth from the iPad. But just move it a little bit (like when we are going to get it to write / draw) and immediately everything is restored.

The battery life proposed for the Apple Pencil is more than satisfactory: 12 hours of continuous use when fully charged, with a fast charging mode that provides 30 minutes of use by connecting a mere 15 seconds to the Lightning port of the iPad Pro.

Recharging the Apple Pencil battery

Incidentally, everyone already knows but I have to mention this review: weirdly hanging the pencil from the bottom of the tablet for charging, but unfortunately it was the best way Apple found to make it practical and allow the iPad itself to power the battery Pencil. It also comes with a little adapter for anyone who wants to use a conventional Lightning cable and connect it to a USB port, but I doubt anyone would prefer to do that.


Like someone who does not work with illustration, at first glance I criticized the fact that Apple did not make the top end of Pencil a virtual eraser. However, I followed some expert reviews and many said that this is absolutely necessary, as the process of physically reversing the position of the pencil in your hand to erase is more time consuming / complicated than simply touching the virtual rubber tool and continuing to use the tip itself main stylus (and this with respect to any one).

The Apple Pencil, without a doubt, a “No-brainer” total for anyone who works with illustration / drawing or even has the pleasure of writing with their hands. Yes, because making quick notes with him also shows! And, of course, taking advantage of what is gained in terms of usefulness with the iPad Pro's 12.9-inch screen, it is certainly one of the main reasons for someone who will decide to invest in this tablet.

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