Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard for iPad Review
I have been on the hunt for a good keyboard for the iPad Air 2 for a long time, and I think I've finally found the best option in Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard. I was not expecting Microsoft to be the creator of a solid iPad keyboard, but here we are, and it's great.
This keyboard has a couple key selling points, but my favorite is that it has a built in stand that allows you to use your iPad on your lap without it feeling awkward or unstable. There is is a good 3-4 inches of keyboard that sit behind the iPad and supports it well on any surface. This is an all-too-uncommon trait in iPad keyboards and stands. Most will work well on a flat surface like a desk, but almost all fall flat on their face (literally) when you try to use them on your lap. It's maddening how great tablets are for portability, yet how useless they typically are for using a keyboard on your lap, and this keyboard addresses this wonderfully.
The most amazing part of this is that the iPad is held quite securely in the keyboard stand. This shouldn't be a big deal, but compared to pretty much every other keyboard/stand made for the iPad, it's not a given. Even Apple's smart cover, which I really like, is a really flimsy stand; poke at it too hard and it will collapse under the pressure. I've gone to town on the iPad (seriously, basically smacking it), and can't get it to fall down. And if you use the Smart Cover with your iPad, Microsoft's keyboard will hold the iPad up with the smart case attached1. You never worry about the screen on your laptop falling off, and that all too rare a feeling with iPad stands.
The next best thing about this keyboard is its build quality. The keyboard folds in half when not in use2, and the soft touch plastic body feels like a nice, quality piece of tech. No, it's not brushed aluminum like an Apple product, but it still has a very nice feel and I've caught myself turning this over in my hands just admiring it from different angles.
That brings us to the keyboard itself, which is really what everyone wants to know about. The standard keys only feel okay compared to a desktop keyboard like the Apple Magic Keyboard or any decent mechanical switch keyboard, but it is the best iPad keyboard I have tried to date3. Keys feel very soft and have basically zero audible feedback. The lack of noise when typing is actually totally fine for a portable keyboard, since you likely will be using this in public places where having a clicky keyboard makes you the most annoying person in the room.
Meanwhile, the soft feeling when typing takes a little getting used to, but does not bother me at all at this point. That's not to say I wouldn't love to one day upgrade to a version of this keyboard that had keys that felt more like the Magic Keyboard, but I'm not exactly pining for that day either. These keys are responsive, reliable, and sized just right to be a very comfortable typing experience.
As far as size goes, it does take a little getting used to if you're coming from a desktop or laptop keyboard. At 9.5 inches wide, the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is 13% narrower than Apple's Magic Keyboard, which I use as my Mac keyboard. It has basically an identical layout, but that narrower body does take a little getting used to. I've gotten used to the change and am now able to type at full speed on there keys, but it took a few days of getting used to the new size and my fingers to build new muscle memory.
In addition to the standard keys, Microsoft has been good enough to include some extra controls along the top of the keyboard that are convenient on an iPad. All the expected media controls are here (play/pause, volume, next/previous, mute), and there are also dedicated buttons for going to the home screen, locking the device, and bringing up Spotlight. I've used so many keyboard in the past that didn't have these dedicated controls that I have just memorized the keyboard shortcuts for these (CMD+H to go home, CMD+space to bring up Spotlight, etc).
One final thing I should mention is that the keyboard has a three way switch so you can sync with 3 different devices. Each spot on the slider is labeled Windows, Android, and iPad/iPhone, but you can use each setting for any type of device. If you're living that multiple-iPad lifestyle or want to use this with your phone or desktop as well as your tablet, it's simple with this keyboard.
I love this keyboard, and before you ask, of course I wrote this review entirely on it. It's a fantastic keyboard and it's absolutely worth your money. It retails for $79, but can often be found for much less. I have not written about many iPad keyboards before because I have never been that impressed with them; I've considered them a necessary evil in many cases. This one bucks the trend and comes with a glowing recommendation.
- But just barely with the Air 2, so I suspect any older iPads will not fit with the case attached. ↩
- As a great extra touch, the bluetooth connection automatically turns off when you close the keyboard and turns on immediately when opening it. You get to save battery life without even thinking about it. ↩
- Note that I do not have experience with any iPad Pro keyboard, so one of those might be better. I'm just not familiar with them. ↩