Review: ESR Ascend Keyboard Case for iPad Air Makes for an Excellent Alternative to Apple’s Magic Keyboard

ESR Ascend Keyboard Case for iPad Air

When it comes to being productive on an iPad, nothing beats having a physical keyboard. Adding a trackpad makes the table even closer to the MacBook experience, but Apple’s answer to that need is a costly one. After using the ESR Ascend Keyboard Case with my iPad Air for several weeks, I can honestly say the experience is, in many ways, far superior at less than half the price. If you’re looking for an alternative to the Magic Keyboard for iPad, this accessory might fit your needs nicely.

A Flexible and Comprehensive Productivity Boost

The ESR Ascend Keyboard Case is a two-part assembly. It comes with a protective shell that offers you a premium non-slip backing for those times you are holding the tablet. It also protects your iPad from bumps and falls, as well as including built-in magnets for attaching the tablet to the keyboard folio.

ESR Ascend with Apple Pencil

The keyboard folio itself provides a versatile stand for holding your iPad at several angles. Since the accessory attaches magnetically, you can quickly and easily swap between portrait and landscape mode.

ESR Ascend Keyboard Case for iPad Air in Portrait

When you close the folio, the stand protects your screen. The magnetic flap to help secure the case closed offers plenty of room for your Apple Pencil while also keeping that accessory from sliding off its own magnetic charging spot.

Backlighting, Charging and Battery Life

On to the keyboard itself. It connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, and contains its own battery. The battery charges through an included USB-C cable, but you will need to provide a charging adapter. Of course, in a pinch, you can easily charge the keyboard straight from the USB-C port on your iPad.

The keyboard offers LED backlighting, adjustable to seven colors and three brightness modes. This makes the accessory a pleasure to use no matter how bright or dark the room is.

The battery is quite long-lasting, even at just 450mAh. You can easily use it daily without the keyboard backlighting for two to three months on a single charge. With the backlight on, you’re still looking at two weeks of nightly use.

Fully Functional Keyboard and Multi Touch Trackpad Makes for an Excellent Alternative to Magic Keyboard for iPad

The keys themselves are compact, but not too much so. This keyboard is 80% the size of a full keyboard, but doesn’t feel cramped. The only drawback I found was the lack of palm rejection on the trackpad; it took a few hours of usage to train my hand not to tap the trackpad accidentally when typing. You’ll also enjoy the top row of keys designed to switch to your Home Screen, launch your web browser, lock the screen or control media playback.

ESR Ascend Keyboard Case for iPad Air

The trackpad is fully multi touch compatible, allowing the use of all of the gestures built into iPadOS. Even with my lack of good dexterity in my hands, the trackpad offers plenty of space for swiping, dragging, and performing various gestures. Someone without the hand deformities that I contend with will likely find the trackpad even more of an absolute joy to use.

Compatibility with Various iPad Models

The ESR Ascend keyboard case is primarily marketed for the latest iPad Air, but it will work just fine with other models. In fact, it should work fine with both the 2020 and 2022 iPad Air along with the 11-inch iPad Pro from 2018, 2020 or 2021.

Areas for Improvement

I don’t have much to complain about with this keyboard case. It does what it’s supposed to, and does it all. I do wish checking the battery charge was easier; you basically get fully charged or low battery, with no indication in between.

I noticed the matte finish on both the iPad case and they keyboard itself show dust and dirt rather quickly. Despite cleaning it almost daily, the smudges and specks are impossible to keep away.

Those, honestly, are minor nitpicks. Compared with Apple’s Magic Keyboard, priced at $299 and much less versatile, the $79 ESR Ascend (via Amazon) is a real gem of a third-party accessory.

2 thoughts on “Review: ESR Ascend Keyboard Case for iPad Air Makes for an Excellent Alternative to Apple’s Magic Keyboard

    1. I’d have to say that depends on the game…most games for iPad rely upon touch controls along the bottom edge of the display, and you’re manipulating multiple touch spots at a time. No keyboard/trackpad combo is going to accommodate that. However, if the game offers alternate controller setups using a keyboard and mouse, it should work fine. It’s important to remember, though…this accessory, like just about every other external keyboard/trackpad for the iPad, is designed for productivity.

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