With iPadOS Accessories Ditch Your Laptop or MacBook
Best Apple iPad Keyboard, Mouse, External HardDrive, USB adapters
The new iPadOS makes it possible to add some accessories to your iPad to make it a replacement for your MacBook or Laptop. Pair it with a Bluetooth mouse, a smart keyboard and a Bose QC35 headset to take your iPad to the next level and increase your productivity.
The best features we like in the new OS include:
- pin widgets to the left side of the home screen (just like in Windows or on a MacBook)
- open two apps side-by-side (and even float a third app over those two)
- open multiple copies of the same app simultaneously
- three-finger swipe gesture for “undo” command
With the new OS, it goes beyond the actual software and user interface. The greatest new capabilities are for new hardware support.
Best Mouse Accessory for iPad
Yes, it’s finally possible to connect a mouse (“pointing device” in Apple speak) to the iPad. Now that’s progress! Before you get too excited though, Apple designed the cursor to simulate your finger-point. So instead of a thin blinking line, it’s a big, gray circle. Maybe this will improve with the next software release.
We prefer a wireless Bluetooth mouse, since these are generally inexpensive with a lot choices. We don’t recommend going for a high-end mouse with many features since you can’t really take advantage of those right now.
To activate this, go to: Settings > Touch > AssistiveTouch > Pointing Devices > Bluetooth Devices
This Rechargeable Bluetooth Wireless Mouse , about $14 , has a good feel and is responsive. The built-in Lithium Polymer battery lasts at least 6 months between charges, and then powers up with a standard micro-USB cable.
If your hand is slightly larger, you may want a more ergonomically fitting mouse like the Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse , about $23. Battery life is around 10 months, and then you’ll need another AA. We like the rubber edge grip, and the scroll wheel is nicely responsive.
If you decide you prefer a wired mouse, that’s also possible but you’ll need another piece of hardware to make the connection to your iPad. One potential issue with a wired mouse is that your iPad may decide it requires too much power, and won’t be recognized / enabled.
For pre-2018 iPad, you’ll need a “USB-A to Lightning adapter”, and for the newer iPad Pro you’ll need a “USB-A to USB-C adapter”. FYI – wired mouse use the “USB-A” connector which is why you need the adapter to interface to your iPad.
The Apple produced USB-C to USB Adapter is about $18, or you can buy the AmazonBasics USB Type-C to USB for about $8. We’ve been happy with AmazonBasics in our other cable tests, so can recommend saving the $10.
Attach the adapter to your iPad, and plug the mouse into the adapter. Now you’ll need to set your iPad to recognize the new hardware:
- Open Settings
- Scroll down to Accessibility, and select
- Select Touch under the Physical and Motor section
- Check the toggle setting for AssistiveTouch at the top – select to ON
- Exit, and then repeat most of the Bluetooth mouse set-up:
- Settings > Touch > AssistiveTouch > Pointing Devices
With a mouse tail or Bluetooth, you can now move around your screen without having to use your finger!
Best Keyboard Accessory for iPad
When buying an iPad keyboard, you have the option of a snap on that attaches to your iPad or a separate device. For the attached keyboard, remember to get the one that is sized for your device since these also do double duty as the cover / screen protector.
The separate keyboard has the advantage that you can position it where you want relative to the iPad (which is effectively the screen).
Sometimes its more convenient to have some distance between the keys and the screen. These usually have a greater key depth / feeling to them as well. The disadvantage is that you now have another piece of gear to carry around. We prefer to have a stand-alone at the office, and putting the iPad in its stand.
Apple has their branded products, and we’ve found these to be very good. They magnetically snap onto the iPad, and are powered from your device. The “smart” connector is also the data connector, so snap-on keyboards don’t need to use Bluetooth or WiFi.
These are also the most convenient and lightest option.
Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro 10.5, about $80, this is the #1 Bestseller on Amazon for iPad Pro keyboards. This also available for all the other sizes of iPads.
Third party companies also make Apple keyboards, and typically work with Apple to make sure they meet all the design and inter-operability requirements.
Logitech iPad Pro 10.5 inch Keyboard Case , about $98, available in either black or blue. You can also get this for the larger 12.9 inch Pro. We like the full-size backlit keys, including smart iOS shortcuts.
The key-depth / travel gives a true laptop-like typing experience on iPad Pro.We like the feel and movement of the keys, and prefer to the shallower Apple version. This does add a little more thickness to the overall keyboard, but worth the trade-off.
It’s also nice that the rear hinge / stand can be set to position the screen from 50-degrees to 90-degrees, so you can pick the optimal viewing angle. The other thing we like is the stitched loop at the top of the case to hold your Pencil or Stylus.
Brydge Keyboard for iPad Pro 10.5 inch, about $130 , is forged out of a single piece of high-grade aluminum and available in 4 colors (silver, space grey, gold and rose gold) to match your iPad. An “Amazon Choice” product, this gets good marks (just be sure to get the more recent 2nd gen product, which resolved some issues in the original design).
Similar to the Logitech, it has a full iPad keyboard with dedicated iOS special function keys giving you the functionality of an iPad and the productivity of a laptop.
Rather than use the magnetic smart connector, Brydge relies on a low-energy Bluetooth communications to interact with your iPad. The replaceable AA batteries should last about 12-months with normal usage.
We like that the keyboard has 3-levels of back-light intensity, so you can select how bright you’d like it.
The Brydge has a hinge design where you basically slide your iPad into two clamps which are attached to the keyboard base. This provides a very sturdy connection, and also has the benefit of letting you position the screen anywhere from fully closed to completely flat. A full 180-degrees of movement.
Best USB-C Adapter Hub
You’ll want to make the most use out of the single USB-C port on your iPad, and we suggest the Satechi Pro Hub Adapter ,about $60.
It’s make of scratch resistant aluminum and is the most compact iPad hub we’ve found.
Just plug the adapter into the USB-C port on the iPad, and now you have all the ports you’d typically find on a laptop or MacBook. You get 4K HDMI, USB-A 3.0, SD Card Reader, a 3.5mm Headphone Jack and the USB-C port (for power only).
You can also get a version that has a SD Card Reader instead of the Headphones .
Best External HardDrive
It’s now easy to add external storage for your iPad. So no more worries about how many photos, videos and files you can put into your iCloud account. You can off-load all of them to an inexpensive hard-drive, which also make it very easy to share your files with your friends and families. More importantly, you can create a local, physical back-up of all your documents and data in case you ever lose or break your iPad.
You’ll need one of the adapters mentioned above for the USB-A connection.
These have been supported since the start, but it’s always good to check out the latest offerings and get a new stylus (especially if you are like me and frequently lose them). These basic devices are inexpensive and can make iPad interactions easy (especially if you haven’t plugged in the new mouse yet):
#1 – Adonit Mark Stylus Pen , about $10
#2 – AmazonBasics Capacitive Stylus , about $8
#3 – Wacom Bamboo Solo Stylus (4th Generation) , about $15
You can find our complete review, along with a dozen stylus choices in: Best iPhone, iPad Stylus Pen For Drawing, Writing and Navigation
Of course, with the iPad Pro you can move up from the passive pointers to an “active” pencil that brings a host of new features.
Now you can pair and charge wirelessly and change tools, like a pencil to an eraser, with a simple double-tap. We like the new Apple Pencil attaches magnetically onto the side of your iPad Pro. Once attached, it automatically pairs with your device and wirelessly charges.
Apple Pencil (2nd generation) , about $125, for iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (3rd generation) and iPad Pro 11‑inch
If you have an older device, you can still get alot of benefits from the original pencil.
Apple Pencil (original), about $95, for iPad Air (3rd generation), iPad mini (5th generation), iPad (6th generation), iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (1st and 2nd generations), iPad Pro 10.5‑inch, and iPad Pro 9.7‑inch
With the right headphones, you can use Siri to stream your music. And the new OS allows you to use Spotify and Pandora, as well as Apple Music. We like that Apple let’s us pick our streaming service. So just say, “Hey Siri, play John Legend on Spotify”.
We like to enjoy some music while working, and need great audio especially when playing video games and streaming.
Sometimes we like quiet to focus on the task at hand, which means excellent noise cancellation is a must.
If you need to make a call or do a video conference, a quality built-in microphone is essential.
Our ultimate favorite are the Bose QuietComfort 35 (QC35) Series II , about $350.
Read our in-depth review at: Best Wireless Noise Cancellation Headphones
Recap of Accessories
You can find more information, details, customer comments and also order with our Amazon links:
Rechargeable Bluetooth Wireless Mouse , about $14
Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse , about $23
Apple USB-C to USB Adapter , about $18
AmazonBasics USB Type-C to USB , about $8
Satechi Pro Hub Adapter , about $60.
Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 , about $30
Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro 10.5, about $80
Logitech iPad Pro 10.5 inch Keyboard Case , about $98
Brydge Keyboard for iPad Pro 10.5 inch, about $130
Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB , about $50
AmazonBasics Capacitive Stylus , about $8
Apple Pencil (2nd generation) , about $125
Apple Pencil (original), about $95
Bose QuietComfort 35 (QC35) Series II , about $350
Now you can do more with your iPad, and just maybe be able to finally replace your computer.