Apple has promoted its Smart Keyboard with the new Smart Connect function. This features a physical connection on the iPad Pro to use with accessories which eliminates the need to use a Bluetooth connection and gets rid of batteries in the keyboard as a result.
In addition to the Apple Smart Keyboard, the Logi CREATE Keyboard Case is the only other option using the Smart Connect technology. After using both we put them head-to-head in several categories typical for tablet keyboards to see how they compare.
Apple and Logitech have taken different paths in the design of their keyboards. The Smart Keyboard features the company's minimalist look that's been taken to the extreme as at first glance it looks like a simple iPad cover with no keyboard.
It does have a keyboard and it's slim, with low profile keys covered in fabric. The keyboard is very attractive as is the smart cover.
Logitech took the practical route with the Logi CREATE. It is a typical portfolio with a clamshell design for a laptop-like experience. The gray metal keyboard deck is like a Macbook as are the black chiclet keys.
Design winner: Apple
While both accessories serve as cases for the iPad Pro, the Logi CREATE fully covers and protects the tablet. The iPad Pro is snapped into the lid of the portfolio and while this makes the case thicker and heavier (0.78in, 25.6oz) than the offering from Apple, some may prefer the extra protection.
Apple's Smart Keyboard is not a case so much as a cover, the objective being the minimal design. This works well but the back of the iPad Pro is exposed in the bag during transport.
Case winner: Logi CREATE
The acid test of any tablet keyboard accessory is how well it works for lots of writing. The two keyboards are radically different. The Logi CREATE have keys that are much like those on MacBooks, black chiclet keys with decent travel. Typing on it is natural and it can handle rapid typing. The small palm rest in front of the keys makes long work sessions comfortable.
Apple's Smart Keyboard looks radically different because it is. The entire keyboard is covered with a fabric that at first blush would indicate the keys are soft and mushy. That's not the case as Apple has infused technology that resuts in the keys feeling solid. The keys are very shallow given the thin keyboard but travel is adequate for rapid typing.
The typing experience on the two keyboards is very similar and both are good. After writing thousands of words on both I don't have a favorite. The physical keys on the Logi CREATE get a vary slight nod but I put that down to feeling more familiar than the keys of the Smart Keyboard.
Keyboard winner: Tie
Since the two cases are so different it's worth ranking them based on overall function. This includes features found on one and not the other.
The Logi CREATE funcdtions as a keyboard case well, with no missing features that add value. These include backlighting on the keys that work like that on MacBooks. It automatically comes on when needed and shuts off when not.
The Smart Keyboard has no backlighting and when I switch to this after using the CREATE I really miss it. It's a function of the special covered keys but still lacking compared to Logitech's case.
Another feature missing from Apple's keyboard that is available on the CREATE is a top row of iPad control keys. These include the Home key, screen brightness, backlighting, and media controls. These are very handy for performing common actions without resorting to multi-key shortcuts.
The minimalist design of Apple's Smart Keyboard resulted in a very small keyboard size and this left no room for the top row of control keys and that's a disadvantage compared to the CREATE.
Another area where Apple's case falls short is with the design of the cover. The multiple ways the case must be folded to get the keyboard in the proper position for typing can only be described as awkward. This is unusual for Apple products, especially how manipulating the cover doesn't feel natural. It's so out of the ordinary for Apple design that I was initially shocked how bad it is. I've gotten better using it over time but it still doesn't feel right.
Function winner: Logi CREATE
In spite of the extra features, the Logi CREATE case is only $150 while the Apple Smart Keyboard is $169.
Price winner: Logi CREATE
Which one should you buy?
The Logi CREATE fared well in our head-to-head comparison. It has important features the Apple Smart Keyboard lacks and for a lower price.
Apple's case is a reasonable solution for many iPad Pro owners wanting a thin case. This writer usually grabs the Logi CREATE before heading out for the day.