ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case for iPad Pro 12.9
ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case for iPad Pro 12.9 Review
The iPad Pro 12.9, especially the M1 version, wants to be a real computer. Unfortunately, it ships naked. No Apple Pencil. No keyboard. No case. A beautifully machined tablet designed for hands and fingers.
Anyone who owns an iPad Pro 12.9 probably owns an Apple Pencil or equivalent, and probably a case. The price of Apple’s keyboards costs almost as much as an entry-level PC. ESR offers its keyboard case at only $169, but it still delivers on most of Apple’s iPad Pro magic.
What we like
The ESR Rebound delivers a complete keyboard and trackpad experience to the iPad Pro 12.9, (they also sell a version for 10.9”/11” iPads), similar to Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. The ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case also leverages magnets and Bluetooth to create its experience. And it’s a good experience. The cantilevered hinge places the iPad at a perfect angle for viewing content or intensely writing, while the keyboard proves more than adequate for input.
The magic of the Rebound comes from its magnets, which hold the iPad to the keyboard. Detach the iPad Pro, and you get the iPad back to its most naked and most exposed self. I have my ESR Rebound Magnetic Slim Case (reviewed here) standing by to envelop my iPad in another protective skin.
It is very clever of ESR to offer these two magnetic options that easily take an iPad Pro 12.9 from a work configuration to a lightweight carrying configuration without the twists and pulls, heaves and coaxing, often associated with removing a shell-type case. Apple may have invented the magnetic magic, but ESR made it affordable with the Rebound keyboard and slim case together retailing for around $140 less than Apple’s Magic Keyboard alone. That’s its own kind of magic.
The Zagg Pro Keys with Trackpad offers a different take, providing a magnetic shell, which eliminates the need to immediately encase an iPad when removing it from the keyboard case. However, Zagg’s solution does not protect the front of the iPad unless it is returned to the case. Zagg’s solution is more convenient, but switching magnetic cases is so easy that the extra protection makes me lean toward the dual case ESR scenario.
And then you have the keyboard, which offers a variety of special keys that, for some reason, Apple refused to adopt—the same company that brought the mostly defunct Touch Bar. Every keyboard I’ve evaluated designed for iOS or iPad OS, except Apple’s, includes a “Home” key, for instance. Apple might argue that adding a sixth row of keys compresses the others, and that would be true, but an iPad Pro keyboard is already a space compromise, so why not lean toward feature richness?
ESR fully supports the Apple Pencil, leaving it in place but offering a generous, protective wrap when the case closes, a wrap that terminates in a magnet to keep the entire case closed.
As for the typing experience, it’s fine. It takes some getting used to, like all smaller keyboards. Touch typing isn’t as clean, but it improves when on the road, and your brain adjusts to the size and travel of the keys.
As would be expected, travel is pretty shallow but usable. The trackpad supports multi-touch for soundless swiping, but when clicked, it’s pretty clicky, like a dog trainer click clicky. I am not a huge fan of trackpads. Any trackpads. I do find this trackpad gets in the way of typing, as a palm rub might move my cursor and I find myself entering text somewhere other than intended.
The 800mAh battery runs for about two weeks with backlighting, three months without, and somewhere in-between when alternating between the two. That will cover most business trips or vacations without the need to charge the case. But if you do need to charge it, the iPad’s USB-C cable and power supply will do the trick.
To conserve battery, the ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case backlight turns off after 1 minute, and the keyboard goes into standby after 10 minutes. Tapping any key awakens the keyboard.
What could be improved
Only the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio offers a reasonable weight-to-functionality equation—it doesn’t add too much weight to the overall iPad Pro experience. That is because the Smart Keyboard Folio draws power from the iPad. Apple’s $349 Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro adds over 2.4 pounds because it connects via Bluetooth, bringing its own power. Batteries are heavy, and so are magnets.
The ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case manages to come in a bit lighter than Apple’s solution, at around 2.27 pounds. So it could be lighter, but that’s a hard ask. Apple has done such a great job of shrinking the iPad 12.9 down to a light and thin device that a keyboard that more than doubles the device’s weight creates a very noticeable shift in how it can be used.
My biggest issue with the ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case emanates from its harsh LEDs and their lack of good bleedthrough on the keys. I’m currently typing every day on a Vissles mechanical keyboard. LED light flows through the keycaps, making the characters very visible without adding eyestrain. The edges of the keys deliver soft, seemingly supportive ambient light—no matter the angle, the light is, well, smooth.
The ESR keyboard does not place emphasis on the keycap characters but on the key edges. The LEDs are visible, and I know, part of this is the shallowness of the keyboard, but even at dim levels, they remain visually harsh. If I move my head around, the keys seem to float above the LED illumination without added value. The backlighting at peak brightness washes over the keys making it harder, not easier, to see the characters.
Harsh backlighting is not unique to the ESR keyboard, though it is solvable in this form factor. Targus’s VeraType for iPad Pro offers much more subtle lighting with closed key edges, while also enhancing their lighted keyboard with some gamer-inspired vibes (unfortunately, their shell case doesn’t support the quick case change scenario I explored above).
Some iPad keyboards offer multi-device Bluetooth, so they can, for instance, provide input on a phone with the tap of a button. The ESR keyboard only connects to one device. While multi-device would be nice, it is also just a nice-to-have, but not a necessity.
I would also love to see ESR adopt a quieter trackpad in future versions, as well as a way to turn it off.
While most of the packaging was cardboard, I would like to see ESR move to a recyclable plastic bag and insert inside the box, and between the cover and keyboard.
ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case: The Bottom Line
Of the iPad Pro keyboard cases I have evaluated so far, the ESR is the one on my desk all of the time. At night, I switch to the ESR Rebound Magnetic Slim Case. I think it would be good for ESR to sell them as a Rebound bundle.
I like the convenience of being able to type in a full computer experience and then whisking away my iPad in a much slimmer and lighter case—with almost no time and with no struggle. Unless I’m heading into an area where a rugged case would protect my iPad, I don’t see the need to ever force it back into a shell.
Apple’s magnets have created a new model that should become the standard when falls from significant heights, and the elements, aren’t really a concern. ESR does a great job of making the case for magnetic cases.
ESR provided the ESR Rebound Magnetic Keyboard Case for review. Images courtesy of ESR.
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