Doqo iPad Pro Keyboard, hands on: An iPad in MacBook clothing

doqo-ipad-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    Not yet rated

If you want your iPad Pro to be a bit more of a computer, iPadOS 13.4 adds support for keyboards and trackpads and USB-C peripherals. Apple's own Magic Keyboard looks like a cross between a Microsoft Surface and the Vadem Clio (a 1999-vintage handheld PC that also suspended the screen in mid-air from the keyboard).

If you'd prefer something that looks a bit more like it comes from Apple and are happy to add quite a bit of extra weight (1.225kg) to your iPad Pro to get a lot of extra ports, the £160/$199 Doqo iPad Pro Keyboard is made from anodised aluminium (in silver or grey) and has a tapered clamshell design that's remarkably reminiscent of the MacBook, complete with backlit scissor-switch keys and a MacBook-size trackpad.

There are versions for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch 3rd Gen (2018) iPad Pro and for 2020 iPad Pro models, with ten different keyboard layouts including Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Italian, as well as the usual UK, US, French, German and Spanish.

doqo-ipad-main.jpg

The iPad Pro slots into the MacBook-like Doqo keyboard case, attaching via USB-C. Doqo models are available for 11-inch (above) or 12.9-inch iPad Pros.

Images: Doqo

You connect your iPad to the case with a USB-C cable and slide it into the top (depending how nimble your fingers are, you may be able to slide it in and dock it to the cable in one go). There's a cutout for the camera on the back and mechanical buttons for power and volume (you press on them and they push through and press on the matching buttons on your iPad). The snug fit makes it look like the keyboard is part of the iPad, but also means that you can't easily use the keyboard with other devices even though it will work with them -- you can plug in a Windows tablet and use the keyboard with it, but it's not going fit into the cutout in the case.

The case size leaves plenty of room for ports to take advantage of the new external device support in iPadOS. There are two USB-C ports on the left side, one of which supports the PD power delivery standard. This means you can charge your iPad Pro as well as powering the keyboard (if you don't do that, the keyboard uses power from the iPad), but it only goes up to 12W. Because there's also an HDMI port with 4K 30Hz video output when you use an external screen, the second USB-C port doesn't support video, just power and data. The right side has two USB 3.0 USB-A ports, a full-size SD slot and a small slot that you'd expect to be MicroSD but is instead a TF (TransFlash) slot. Although it's the same size as MicroSD, this is the format SanDisk came up with before MicroSD was standardised: TF slots usually only work with MicroSD cards up to 32GB in size, not 64GB and larger, so this is a strange choice.

There's much more of a bezel around the screen than before (this is particularly noticeable on the case for the 11-inch iPad Pro), so you're trading off sleek iPad Pro looks for chunky laptop styling.

doqo-ipad-backlit-keys.jpg

The keyboard is near full-size and backlit.

Image: Doqo

Top ZDNET Reviews

The keyboard has a row of function keys at the top, including wake and volume buttons if you don't want to reach up to the top, backlight levels (including turning this off to save battery power), screen brightness, app switching and media playback control keys. It has the usual set of Mac keys -- Command, Control and Alt -- if you're using apps that understand those. And unusually for something aiming to look like a Mac, it has both a forward Delete and a Backspace key. That will make perfect sense if you're used to a PC keyboard, but Macs have a single backspace key labelled Delete. The Backspace key is on the number row where Mac users expect it, while the Delete key is above on the function key row. You're not likely to be deleting the wrong thing because of muscle memory, but it's definitely PC terminology on a design that's otherwise so deliberately Mac-like.

The keyboard is near full size and the typing action is reasonable; you can both feel and hear the keys click, and there's a good amount of travel. But while the keyboard case is solid and doesn't bend or bounce as you type, the prototype we used had a little too much 'stiction' on the keys, demanding a pretty firm typing stroke and feeling rather clunky to type on. It's certainly not as smooth as the keyboard on an older MacBook. We also had a problem where the cursor would suddenly jump elsewhere in the text when typing in some apps.

That didn't seem to be caused by accidental touches on the large trackpad, which is a good size and handy for the new iPadOS gestures to scroll, pinch zoom, switch between apps, jump to the home screen, switch to multitasking or lock the iPad. It also controlled the new mouse cursor well, but again it's very clicky. Rather than being a solid trackpad that you tap, it's a large mechanical trackpad on which you press the front third, whereupon the whole trackpad moves (again you can both feel and hear that). If you tap in the top half of the trackpad you can move the cursor without depressing the trackpad, but we sometimes had to tap extra firmly to make that work and trackpad still feels as though it's bouncing slightly in place.

The final version of the keyboard will contain a battery so you don't run down your iPad's battery with the keyboard -- and with all the extra ports, you will end up draining your iPad's battery if you plug in a lot of devices. The battery wasn't in the early unit we tried so we couldn't test how much heavier the battery would make the already substantial case, or how much extra battery life it would give you. The Doqo website says it will be a 4,300mAh battery, while the instruction leaflet says 5,000mAh; either way, that's about half the capacity of the battery in an iPad Pro. 

What you get with an iPad Pro in the Doqo case is a system that's actually bigger and heavier than a MacBook Air, which doesn't run macOS. It feels like style over substance (although with this much aluminium there's plenty of substance here), and while it has the look of an Apple device it doesn't quite nail the industrial design -- the feel is more clunky and chunky than sleek. 

On the other hand, if you need to plug a lot of devices into your iPad, do a lot of typing and use a trackpad, this is an all-in-one way to get that -- and you can still pull the iPad out and use it as a tablet. There are lots of ways to get that option with a Windows device, but not so many alternatives for Apple users.

doqo-ipad-main2.jpg

You can plug an array of peripherals into the Doqo, which will have its own battery (4,300mAh or 5,000mAh).

Image: Doqo

RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT

iPad Pro 2020 hands-on: Faster, more powerful, and the trackpad changes everything

Apple's floating screens: From 2002's iMac G4 to 2020's iPad Pro

You can buy the iPad Pro's Magic Keyboard right now, orders start shipping next week

Got an iPad Pro? Here's how to make it even better

First look: Trackpads on iPadOS 13.4

Better late than never: Trackpad support is exactly what the iPad needed

Read more reviews

Top ZDNET Reviews