If you really want your iPad Pro to be a laptop, a new crowdfunding keyboard called Libra may be of interest. It is a keyboard case with a laptop-style design, similar to the Brydge model I tried a while ago, but there is a big difference: it has a trackpad.
In case you didn't know, iPadOS has rudimentary mouse support. It is not very refined and is buried in accessibility settings, but it is there. However, until now, its use has required an external mouse or this strange touch-sensitive keyboard that I tried a few months ago. The Libra is the first solution I know that gives you a laptop-style trackpad.
I write a lot on my iPad Pro, and the constant need to get to the screen when I edit text is probably my biggest complaint about the device. It feels much more natural to be able to keep your hands in the same position when writing and editing. What Steve Jobs said about touchscreen laptops is actually more true for the iPad Pro than any other Windows alternative, because at least those also allow you to use a trackpad.
So, how good work does the Libra do? Actually, better than I expected. The trackpad is not as good as what you would get on a MacBook, of course. It is smaller, on the one hand, and does not allow you to click from anywhere on its surface. But its performance is surprisingly solid. I have used many, many worse trackpads on computers with operating systems designed for them.
The Libra trackpad has limited gesture support. You can swipe down with two fingers to scroll, while a three-finger swipe returns you to the home screen, which I found quite useful. The creators of Libra, Sentis, say they are working on more gestures like pinching to zoom, but it doesn't work right now and it's unclear how it would be compatible with iPadOS.
For me, the most important thing is that the trackpad works well to point the cursor and drag to select text, and it does. The Libra takes a while to get used to, no doubt, and it is clear that iPadOS is not intended to be used in this way all the time. The cursor returns to the center of the screen each time you return to the home screen, for example, while the slightest touch of the trackpad counts as one touch, which may cause some unexpected entries. But within the narrow context of writing and text editing, I enjoy using the Libra. It is certainly better than touching the screen.
The keyboard itself is not spectacular, and the keys are a bit small, the width is fine, but I think the capitals could have used a millimeter or two more in vertical height The RGB backlight is also dim and uneven. However, it is not a bad experience, and I imagine that most people would prefer the key feeling to that of the current Apple MacBook line. The metal body feels reasonably resistant, with a MacBook Air-style wedge-shaped design and a "space gray" finish that is a good combination for Apple.
My favorite unexpected feature of Libra is that it doesn't have one but two USB ports – C ports: one for charging the keyboard and another for charging other devices. The 4,000 mAh battery should be good for up to 200 days of battery life, so you can plug your phone for a charge in a hurry. You can also do it from the iPad, of course, but it is a good option if you are trying to save energy on the tablet.
There are a couple of problems with the Libra that I hope to have. see fixed before it goes to final manufacturing. The keyboard uses hinges similar to Brydge, but they are not so good, they do not grab the iPad hard enough, so it can slide quite easily. I wouldn't feel comfortable throwing the combination in a bag like I would with a laptop.
Nor do I think that the 120 degree opening angle is wide enough: I find it difficult to see the Libra screen when I use the Libra in my lap. The situation is better with a desk, and I'm 6 feet 4 inches tall, so it's probably not a problem for most people, but hopefully a portable-style keyboard will be more suitable for using Skirt. Again, it is not a problem with Brydge, which opens up to 180 degrees.
However, the Libra has a unique selling point, and it is one that works better than I thought. If you are a writer, the trackpad makes a big difference in the productivity of the iPad, and I hope to see a more polished version of this product, from Sentis, Brydge or whoever, later. Meanwhile, the Libra is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter and is available from $ 109, and shipping is expected to begin in January.