So, I finally bit the bullet and bought the new 10.5" iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. After using the keyboard for 24 hours, I have some thoughts. On a separate, but related note, the new iPad is great. My last iPad was the iPad 3, so this new iPad is a beast by comparison. By the way, I'm writing this quick review on the Smart Keyboard.
My first big assignment with this keyboard (and the iPad, too, for that matter) was writing and constructing the blog post for this week's episode of Four Brewers (my beer podcast). It wasn't a long post, but it was long enough to allow me to get my feet wet with the Smart Keyboard.
I will say that this keyboard is a bit odd looking. My initial impression is that the keys themselves should and could be larger. I find that I need to focus harder on the keyboard to hit the smaller key targets. I understand why they are smaller for this device, but if you look at the empty space between the keys, it looks like Apple could have made them a bit larger. It kind of stresses me out when typing because I'm prone to make more typing errors. Also, having backlit keys would be so nice. I'm spoiled by by MacBook Pro keyboard.
The keys themselves feel a bit mushy and the tactile feedback is lacking, to say the least. The sound of the keyboard is fine while typing--you definitely know when you've hit each individual key--but the overall experience is lacking. Also, the keys themselves require only a very light touch, which is something I'm not used to, coming from a 2014 MacBook Pro keyboard where the keys require a bit more force. I assume that if I use the Smart Keyboard more that over time, it will feel better and more natural.
The Smart Keyboard is already feeling more natural to me and a bit more comfortable. I really want to like this keyboard. I want the iPad to be my ultra-portable device for editing podcasts, photos, and video. I'm playing with the idea more and more of leaving the house to do these things, not because I don't like being at home, but because I just need to get out more. Having the power of a MacBook Pro is fantastic, but it is after all, a 15" laptop that is more intrusive in a public space than an iPad.
Side note: constructing a blog post in Wordpress' stock interface does not work well with the iPad. Uploading photos is a pain (I upload a low resolution photo to Wordpress for the blog post that is linked to a full resolution version on Flickr), editing specific HTML items in the post is cumbersome, and my overall workflow is just gone. I don't really want to get into that now, but I'm sticking with my MacBook Pro for constructing blog posts for the foreseeable future.
Now, let me say a bit about the larger on-screen keyboard.
Apple claims that both the 10.5" iPad Pro Smart Keyboard and on-screen keyboard are both now considered to be full size keyboards. There's some spec out there that proves this to be correct, but I don't really care to do the research.
First impression of the on-screen keyboard is how fluid my typing is on it. It's nothing like typing on the Smart Keyboard, obviously. The key targets themselves are larger and when combined with Apple's predictive typing technology, it just feels easier and less stressful to type on for shorter periods of time. It's kind of weird how much I enjoy typing on this keyboard.
The one downfall to the on-screen keyboard is that it literally takes up half the screen on the 10.5" iPad Pro, which is to be expected. I suppose if I wanted a better on-screen experience that I should have went with the 12.9" iPad Pro, but then that would defeat the entire purpose for why I bought the 10.5" iPad Pro, which is for ultra-portability.
Overall, the on-screen keyboard is pretty nice to type on. Honestly, I can totally see a future where laptops have an upper and lower display, similar to a Nintendo DS. Typing like this doesn't seem too foreign to me. Kids in school right now are typing on glass on their school-issued iPads. That will be the norm for them in the future, and I think I'd be ok with that future.
In summary, these keyboards both get the job done. While I still prefer my MacBook Pro keyboard, in a pinch, these would do just fine for me.