The iPad Pro is a beast of a tablet with the ‘Pro’ being the key to unleashing it. Two of these accessories will work with any iPad while the Anker 555 USB-C hub needs the Pro version’s USB-C port.
1. Folding Case
A folding case is extremely helpful in making your iPad Pro akin to a laptop. While a good case can provide protection, the best cases offer multiple ways to prop up the iPad for viewing. This will be key when coupled with #2 below.
On a previous model of iPad I had purchased a case with an integrate keyboard. This added bulk I didn’t always want and it left images of the keys on the iPad Pro screen.
With my iPad Pro purchase last year I also bought the standard Smart Folio case from Apple. It’s nothing fancy and there are cheaper versions on the market (just look at everything Amazon offers), this was a simple purchase for me. It costs $79 and comes in a variety of colors.
2. Portable Keyboard
With the larger iPad Pros the onscreen keyboards are decent. But if you’re like me, you enjoy the tactile feedback of pushing keys down. It helps with touch typing as well.
Right now I am typing this blog post on a cheap-ass $17 keyboard. It comes in black, white or rose gold. I picked white because there was a $4 off coupon for that color (normally it is $21).
This keyboard by Emotion is the same size as the smaller iPad Pro and has a multi-colored keypad, meaning you can choose the color of backlighting (or turn it off if you hate it). I thought this was stupid until I realized in different lighting sometimes the yellow made the keys easier to see and sometimes the red was better. Purple makes everything harder, while white is decent. Anyway, it has seven colors to choose from.
It charges via a microUSB port, can be turned on and off and has all the function and cursor keys you need. It also has volume, brightness and other cool keys. The only downside is there are no Command, Option, Control keys on the right side of the space bar and it is missing the escape key.
It does come with two special keys: one is to go to the home screen from any app and the other is a lock key for quick control of the iPad. The home key will also wake up the iPad and, if you have face recognition turned on, it will unlock your machine as well.
The battery lasts long enough and is (obviously) magnetic, so it sticks to the outside of the iPad Pro case/tablet. Or you can stick the Apple Pencil to it to help keep your stuff together.
When the keyboard is turned off, you can use the on-screen keyboard as normal. Or, while it is on (and maybe in the other room?) just hit the keyboard key on the screen and the on-screen keyboard will come back to life. This way you’re not stuck to ONLY using the external keyboard.
3. Multi-port USB-C Hub
Ah! This thing (Anker 555 UBS-C Hub is the one I bought for $80) has been my favorite add-on to any device in a long, long time. It made my iPad Pro into a a tablet that can almost replace my MacBook Pro laptop for most travel.
I know, a lot of qualifiers in that sentence. Let me explain.
This hub connects to the USB-C port on your iPad Pro. That’s the big advantage of this iPad over the regular versions that have a Lightning port.
Then hub has multiple inputs available, including:
- One USB-C ports with 10Gbps transfer speeds
- One USB-C Power Deliver(PD) port – 100W input and 85W output (15W for the hub)
- Two USB-A ports (the kind you have to decide which way is up and always get it wrong) with 10Gbps transfer speeds
- Full size HDMI port for outputting video and audio in 4K@60Hz
- 1 Gbps Ethernet port in case you still use a hardline
- SD and microSD card slots!
The last one is my main reason for buying. I want something that can read cards from my drone or action cameras while allowing for an external hard drive to be hooked up. I can copy the cards to my iPad Pro’s internal memory and/or to an external drive (be it a 5TB travel drive or something like the SanDisk SSD unit).
Here’s an example of my Mavic 3 Cine drone hooked up to the iPad Pro and an external SSD (with a USB-A to SATA cable) for downloading between flights.
Using the Files app is just like Finder on a MacOS computer or like Explorer in Windows. Okay, not 100%, but it allows for moving files hither and yon and gets the job done.
One of those USB-C ports on the Anker allows for power input, so you can use the charger that came with the iPad Pro (or this badass travel charger I’ll review later) to keep your iPad Pro charged while using all kinds of attached devices.
With one USB-C and two USB-A ports, this mighty little hub expands the use of the iPad Pro, ummmm…..7 fold? I’m not sure, but it makes it a very useful computer in a very slim form factor.
These three accessories have led to me leaving my laptop at home and not miss it far more often. It sounds silly, I know, because laptops aren’t that big. But the iPad is even smaller and the app-based operating system is often more relaxing to use. Plus, you can use the Apple Pencil to doodle. 🙂