Top 5 Sketching Apps on iPads for Product Designers

All product designs, big or small, great or dismal, start with a sketch. OK, technically, they start with the germ of an idea, but these ideas need to be given visual form sooner or later. Many designers are partial to using paper and pen or pencil at the start but eventually bring their ideas to the digital realm sooner or later. With the advent of powerful mobile devices like the iPad and the Apple Pencil, it has never been easier to put those concepts directly on the screen when inspiration strikes. Navigating the app landscape, however, can be a bit of a doozy, so here are the five best apps for your iPad or iPad Pro to bring those creative ideas to life, at least digitally.

Procreate

You might presume that the venerable Photoshop would be at the very top of the list, but clearly, it isn’t. It wasn’t until later that Adobe finally realized the large market for Photoshop on iPads, but by then, others had already tried to fill its large shoes. Of the many apps that tried to capitalize on its absence, there is perhaps none more popular than Procreate.

Technically, Procreate could be considered as a painting app, but just like Photoshop, it has become a sort of jack-of-all-trades when it comes to digital content creation. It has all the tools you’d need in visualizing your design concepts from start to finish, fleshing out details as you go on the go. It’s easy enough to simply just sketching with the dozens of brushes available, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Procreate can help you animate your designs, a handy tool for products that have interactive moving elements. It even has a unique 3D Model Painting feature that can make your concepts pop out of the screen, figuratively, of course. Along with the iPad’s portability, Procreate gives designers the digital equivalent of an art studio whenever and where ever they need to work on their latest ideas, all for a flat fee of $9.99.

Designer: Ivan Belikov

Designer: Georgie

Concepts

As the very name suggests, Concepts is an app that was specifically designed to support designers in creating concept designs and illustrations. Unlike Photoshop and Procreate, Concepts works with vector lines, similar to Adobe Illustrator, though you probably won’t even feel it because of how fluid and natural sketching feels like. What it does mean, however, is that you have very fine control over each and every line or curve, and those lines remain smooth and crisp whether you zoom in or out and at any resolution.

Concepts’ defining feature, however, is its infinite canvas, designed to adapt to the way designers work and think. Rather than constraining them to pages with fixed sizes, designers can explore ideas and sketch them out as far as they can. The canvas size will adjust to their needs, not the other way around.

The app’s tools are designed to closely mimic their real-world counterparts, offering a toolset that’s familiar to designers. Even its color wheel resembles the popular COPIC format, a clear indication that this app was made with designers in mind right from the start. Concepts is available for free, but certain features require in-app purchases. Alternatively, there is also a subscription option that also unlocks more features that you won’t be able to buy.

Designer: Jonny Gallardo

Designer: CYNIC

Sketchbook

Autodesk is a name that has been near and dear to many designers’ hearts, particularly those in the industrial design fields, for its AutoCAD products. The company, however, also once had its own sketching app, and Sketchbook was, in fact, one of the very first of its kind to embrace mobile devices. Sketchbook has now struck off on its own, but it still brings with it all the features that made it a household name in the digital art market for a while.

Admittedly, Sketchbook might not be as feature-rich as Procreate or Photoshop, but what it lacks in features it makes up for in agility and speed. By no means does it mean that it doesn’t have a decent set of features, and the app is quite capable of translating your ideas into images on a digital canvas. It boasts of hundreds of brushes right off the bat, and each one can be customized to your needs and tastes.

One of the key strengths of Sketchbook is its ease of use and minimalist interface. The user interface gets out of the way, and you can even work all the way without seeing a single button or slider. Best of all, it’s completely free with no hidden purchases, so what you see is really what you get, and it is available on all major platforms, so you won’t miss a beat when switching between your iPad and your Mac.

Designer: Sketchbook

Designer: Michael DiTullo

Affinity Designer

With a name like Affinity Designer, you’re pretty much sure that the app is designed for designers. Its expressed intent is to be a professional tool for creating concept art, designs, and even branding imagery, pretty much all the things designers will need in their work process, especially when it comes time to create a more refined version of a sketch for the final presentation.

Like Concepts, Affinity Designer uses vector lines to create shapes and curves, giving the designer more control over how something looks without degrading the quality of a line. It does, however, also offer typical raster-based paintbrushes when you need more pixel-precise control, particularly when trying to paint textures or recreate more organic materials. The app boasts an unlimited number of layers and 1,000,000x zoom, though you’ll technically still be limited by how much memory your iPad has left.

One of Designer’s most unique features is the ability to have multiple instances of the same object across your work, so that editing one will instantly update the rest. It also presents your artboards in a Pinterest-like gallery that should be familiar to many designers. Affinity Designers has a flat price of $9.99 and has no further in-app purchases or subscription fees.

Designer: Denny Lambo

Designer: Yaron David

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is, of course, the granddaddy of digital art and graphic design software, and its absence on Apple’s tablets was acutely felt for years. Sure, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil didn’t arrive until 2018, but the likes of Procreate have already been making do with what’s available for almost a decade. In the meantime, Adobe chose to bring several watered-down experiences to iPhones and iPads, focusing on very specific use cases only, biding its time for Photoshop’s full entry into the mobile space.

That has finally happened, somewhat, which is also why Photoshop isn’t placed that high on this list. This new version, first revealed in 2019, is supposed to be the same Photoshop on the desktop, but one that is being ported to the iPad in bits and pieces. Functionality still isn’t on par with what most Photoshop users will be familiar with, and it will take a lot more time for things to settle down. It does have some of the basics, but the focus seems to be more on being able to access your Photoshop files from Creative Cloud from an iPad rather than on a completely independent mobile workflow.

There’s also the fact that it’s the most expensive option in this bunch if you don’t have an Adobe subscription yet, something that’s absolutely necessary to use the app beyond its free trial period. There’s, of course, some hope that Adobe will pick up the slack, but with its new focus on making Photoshop work flawlessly on Apple M1 Macs, iPads might have again been pushed to the background for a while.

Designer: Erica Horne

Designer: Paola

Bonus: Good Notes

All of these apps empower designers to put pencil to paper digitally, so to speak. They let them sketch their ideas on a nearly infinite canvas, anywhere the Muse beckons, with all the conveniences (and sometimes drawbacks) of a digital workflow. Sketching and making beautiful designs, however, isn’t all that a designer does, of course. A large part of the process involves writing down notes or annotating drawings, which is where this bonus app comes in.

GoodNotes is regarded to be one of the best note-taking apps for the iPad, recreating much of the look and feel of traditional paper notebooks but without physical limitations. While it places a heavy emphasis on the pen-driven experience, it allows you to insert almost any kind of digital content into a note, from a typed text to an image. It does also have basic drawing features, so you can even just use it for sketching out your ideas as a rough draft before moving them to the more specialized apps listed above.

Designer: thalamustudy

The post Top 5 Sketching Apps on iPads for Product Designers first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy

The perfect hybrid machine that’s just as good a tablet as it is a laptop still doesn’t exist. But, in 2021, companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google continued to improve their operating systems for machines that do double duty. Windows 11 has features that make it friendlier for multi-screen devices, while Android 12L is on the horizon and promises an optimized experience for larger displays. Plus, with the rise of ARM-based chips for laptops, especially Apple’s impressive M1 series, prospects for a powerful 2-in-1 with a vast touch-friendly app ecosystem is at an all-time high.

These machines still have their limits, of course. Since they’re smaller than proper laptops, they tend to have less-powerful processors. Keyboards also tend to be less sturdy, with condensed layouts and shallower key travel. Plus, they’re almost always tablets first, leaving you to buy a keyboard case separately. (And those ain’t cheap.) So, you can’t always assume the advertised price is what you’ll actually spend on the 2-in-1 you want.

Sometimes, getting a third-party keyboard might be just as good, and they’re often cheaper than first-party offerings. If you’re looking to save some money, Logitech’s Slim Folio is a cheaper option, and if you don’t need your keyboard to attach to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good pick.

While we’ve typically made sure to include a budget 2-in-1 in previous years, this time there isn’t a great choice. We would usually go with a Surface Go, but the 2021 model is too expensive. Other alternatives, like cheaper Android tablets, are underpowered and don’t offer a great multitasking interface. If you want something around $500 that’s thin, lightweight and long-lasting, you’re better off this year looking at a conventional laptop (like those on our best budget PCs list).

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2020
Chris Velazco / Engadget

When you’re shopping for a 2-in-1, there are some basic criteria to keep in mind. First, look at the spec sheet to see how heavy the tablet is (alone, and with the keyboard). Most modern hybrids weigh less than 2 pounds, with the 1.96-pound Surface Pro 8 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+ are both slightly lighter. If the overall weight of the tablet and its keyboard come close to 3 pounds, you’ll be better off just getting an ultraportable laptop.

You’ll also want to opt for an 11-inch or 12-inch screen instead of a smaller 10-inch model. The bigger displays will make multitasking easier, plus their companion keyboards will be much better spaced. Also, try to get 6GB of RAM if you can for better performance — you’ll find this in the base model of the Galaxy Tab S7+, while this year’s iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 8 start with 8GB of RAM.

Finally, while some 2-in-1s offer built-in LTE or 5G connectivity, not everyone will want to pay the premium for it. An integrated cellular radio makes checking emails or replying to messages on the go far more convenient. But it also often costs more, and that’s not counting what you’ll pay for data. And, as for 5G — you can hold off on it unless you live within range of a mmWave beacon. Coverage is still spotty and existing nationwide networks use the slower sub-6 technology that’s barely faster than LTE. 

Engadget Picks

Best overall: Surface Pro 8

Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 and Signature Pro Keyboard accessory.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

There’s no beating the Surface series when it comes to 2-in-1s. They’re powerful, sleek tablets running an OS that’s actually designed for productivity. The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft’s latest and it addresses most of the issues we had with its predecessor. It’s thinner and looks more modern, borrowing the design of last year’s Pro X. Plus, it has a 120Hz display that makes scrolling endless spreadsheets or emails feel much faster. Just remember to drop the refresh rate to 60Hz if you want to get respectable battery life out of this thing. Windows 11 also offers a better split-screen experience for on-the-go multitasking.

Like most of the other 2-in-1s on this list, the Pro 8 doesn’t come with a keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. That’s a shame, considering it starts at $1,099. Microsoft offers a variety of Type Covers for its Surface Pros ranging from $100 to $180, depending on whether you want a slot for a stylus on it. But at least they’re comfortable and well-spaced. You can also get the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130) for sketching out your diagrams or artwork, and it also features haptic feedback for a more responsive experience.

Buy Surface Pro 8 at Microsoft starting at $1,099

Best for Apple users: 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)

Apple iPad Pro (2021) review
Chris Velazco/Engadget

If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best option for you is obviously an iPad. The 12-inch Pro is our pick. Like older models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a speedy 120Hz refresh rate, but this year it uses mini-LED backlighting to deliver greater dynamic range. Apple’s M1 chipset is impressively fast too, and more than good enough for most tasks. Plus, the latest iPadOS is superior to older versions thanks to widgets and quick notes support.

Apple’s new Magic Keyboard provides a satisfying typing experience, and its trackpad means you won’t have to reach for the screen to launch apps. But it’ll also cost you an extra $300, making it the most expensive case on this list by a lot. The iPad also lacks a headphone jack and its webcam is awkwardly positioned along the left bezel when you prop it up horizontally, so be aware that it’s still far from a perfect laptop replacement. Still, with its sleek design and respectable battery life, the iPad Pro 12.9 is a good 2-in-1 for Apple users.

Buy 12.9-inch iPad Pro at Amazon - $1,099

Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

While Windows is better than iPadOS and Android for productivity, it lags the other two when it comes to apps specifically designed for touchscreens. If you want a tablet that has all the apps you want, and only need it to occasionally double as a laptop, the Galaxy Tab S7+ is a solid option. Though it was released last year, it’s still the best Android-powered 2-in-1 around. You’ll enjoy watching movies and playing games on its gorgeous 12.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, and Samsung includes the S Pen, which is great for sketching and taking notes. The Snapdragon 865+ processor and 6GB of RAM keep things running smoothly, too.

Thankfully the company significantly improved its keyboard case over previous models, with more comfortable and responsive keys. You could type for hours on this thing and not hate yourself (or Samsung). The battery life is also excellent, so you won’t need to worry about staying close to an outlet. The main caveat is that Android isn’t great as a desktop OS and, while Samsung’s DeX mode offers a somewhat workable solution, it has plenty of quirks. Still, with Android 12L on the horizon, a simple software update could ease some pain.

Buy Galaxy Tab S7+ at Samsung - $849

Best Chrome OS option: HP Chromebook x2

HP's Chromebook X2 is a 2-in-1 convertible that works as both a tablet and a laptop.
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Android might suck as a desktop operating system, but Chrome OS doesn’t. If most of your tasks take place inside a browser, the HP Chromebook x2 will serve you well. It has great battery life, an excellent 11-inch screen and looks nice, to boot. HP even includes the keyboard and stylus with the tablet, which almost none of the competition does.

Chrome still isn’t a great OS in tablet mode, and the Chromebook x2’s Snapdragon 7c processor sometimes struggles if you rack up too many tabs. It’s also a little pricey at $600, but you can often find it for $400 when it goes on sale at sites like Best Buy. That makes it a solid choice considering everything HP includes for the money.

Buy Chromebook x2 at HP - $679

iPad Accessories designed to upgrade your Apple game to a whole another level!

My iPad has almost reached necessity status in my life, I’m pretty sure all of us tablet owners are super reliant on them (I mean, I am for sure)! I personally find tablets extremely handy, they’re the comfortable middle ground between a smartphone and a laptop, and they pretty much perform the same functions as these two. They’re super easy to carry around, and honestly, I could survive wholly and solely on my iPad Pro if I really wanted to. I’m always on the lookout for innovative and fun accessories to amp up my tablet (besides the basic ones Apple offers). Luckily there’s a whole bunch of crafty designs out there that can function as the perfect sidekick to your precious tablet. From a sleek iPad USB-C hub that features six different media ports to a new type of pencil with replaceable nibs – here’s a collection of super cool and functional product designs that promise to upgrade your iPad game to a whole another level!

HyperDrive is the world’s first-ever form-fitting USB-C hub with six different media ports and a media shortcut key. Compact enough to fit in your palm, HyperDrive is small but mighty. Equipped with a 4K60Hz HDMI port, USB-C 5Gbps 60W Power Delivery port, MicroSD UHS-I port, SD UHS-I port, USB-A 5Gbps port, and a 3.5mm Audio Jack, HyperDrive can handle any of your cables at any time. While you’re all plugged in and working, the built-in shortcut key allows you to “play, pause, fast-forward or rewind your favorite songs, videos, or podcasts without interrupting your workflow.”

The Apple Pencil is arguably the iPad Pro‘s secret sauce. Along with the Pencil, the iPad Pro becomes the ultimate creator’s setup (for both 2D as well as 3D creation). It would therefore make sense to explore how the Pencil could further become a ‘power-user tool, allowing creators to unlock new potentials. Yanko Design has imagined what these new nibs could look like, with explorations for more niche 2D uses. The interchangeable nibs include a fine-tip nib, a chisel nib, and a flexible brush-pen nib. Other nib styles could unlock 3D modeling features like being able to sculpt on the iPad. “The filing suggests the nib could contain several different sensors for varying purposes. The component list includes tactile sensors, contact sensors, capacitive and touch sensors, a camera, a piezoelectric sensor, a pressure sensor, or a photodiode”, reports Apple Insider.

Designed to be the world’s smallest Apple MFi-certified charging kit, the OMNIA X Series occupies a small footprint, and charges phones fast so you don’t deal with battery woes and charging wait-time woes. To help you understand why the OMNIA X Series is such a sensible piece of tech, unlike most plugs that are designed around their components, the OMNIA X Series is designed around the footprint of a power-socket. The power-socket is a standard format and the OMNIA X Series tries to limit its shape and size to that format, resulting in a plug that’s small because being small is just a sensible direction to design in.

Bodo is touted to be the world’s first all-in-one charging organizer, and in the true sense, it is actually one. Unlike other all-in-one stations with more substance on paper than in reality, the Bodo charging station arranges all the gadgets meticulously on a pegboard-like organizer that sits right on your desk. The entire setup needs one USB-C-powered port to relay power to the board, which is then distributed across a tablet charger, a phone charger, a watch + AirPods charger, a Zoom light, and a USB-A, and a USB-C charger that can be used to power your laptop as well.

The Twelve South ParcSlope MacBook & iPad stand holds and supports your device at an 18-degree angle and majorly improves screen visibility. It ensures that you don’t have to crane or strain your neck while working, thus eliminating most of your neck-related woes! You can work for longer hours without putting extreme pressure on your shoulders and back. The stand promotes a healthy posture, while occupying minimum space on your desk with its sleek form !

Connecting external devices to your iPad has never been more easier with the Twelve South StayGo mini portable USB-C hub! The hub offers four ports – USB-C Power , 4K HDMI, USB-A 2.0, and Headphone/Audio. It’s the ultimate workspace gadget owing to its clean and compact form, as well as its perfectly positioned ports. It snaps onto your iPad, even if it has a protective case on. The hub is compatible not only with iPads, but MacBooks as well.

Touted as the most powerful power bank for its size, the Pixy Mini is this pocket-friendly, granola bar-shaped power bank with a capacity of 5,000mAh and a 20W power delivery, making it capable of recharging practically any portable gadget you’ve got on hand… even your laptop. What’s so impressive about the Pixy Mini is its deceptively small size. Tinier than a credit card, and hardly bulkier than a Zippo lighter, the Pixy Mini was designed to be carried around… but not even in your backpack, rather in your pocket. Outwardly, it looks like any other power bank, with a USB-A port and a USB-C port on either side, and 4 LED indicators that tell you how much power the Pixy Mini’s battery has.

The Moment M-Series multidirectional lens mount works perfectly with your iPad, or iPhone even! You can move the mount in any direction, and capture your priceless moments and that too at the perfect angle! You can use it to shoot on the front, as well as the back camera. Amped with a sleek aluminum frame, the mount is extremely easy to install and stays securely fitted in one spot. You can now capture your next shot with ease!

The PencilSnap Apple Pencil iPad Sleeve from Twelve South stores and protects your stylus at all times! You can slide your Apple Pencil into the beautiful leather sleeve, where it will be safely stored. A snug grip ensures that the stylus does not slip or slide out. A magnetic mounting system makes it compatible with an Apple Smart Cover. The magnets ensure that the stylus is stuck in place! No losing your Apple Pencils anymore!

This one’s for the kids! The Otterbox iPad Case for kids is infused with a silver-based additive to block microbial growth and eliminate the spread of germs. So, you don’t have to worry about your kids coming in contact with any kind of germs. Moreover, the cases features a sturdy and rugged protection, making it resistant to drops, falls or throws of any sort, making it completely children proof! The case can be cleansed with sanitizing products without being damaged.

The post iPad Accessories designed to upgrade your Apple game to a whole another level! first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best laptops and tablets to give as gifts

If you’re thinking of getting a laptop or tablet as a gift, you’ve got a wealth of options. Thanks to the latest round of hardware from Intel, Apple, AMD and NVIDIA, all of our portable devices have gotten steadily faster and more efficient. Even the cheapest iPad can be a decent productivity machine, while gaming laptops now have almost all of the power of their desktop siblings. And with the arrival of Windows 11, it's a perfect time to give someone a nifty PC upgrade, especially since very old computers won’t be able to step up.

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Dell

Not to sound like a broken record, but the XPS 13 is still the best Windows ultraportable you can buy. The design hasn't changed much, but that's not a huge problem: It's still incredibly light and features extraordinarily thin screen bezels. And now you can also take advantage of Intel's latest 11th-generation processors. The XPS 13 can also be configured with an OLED screen, an ideal gift for someone who could use a bright and color accurate display. And if you’ve got someone in mind who could use even more power, the new XPS 15 has the same sleek design, but it has more room for a bigger display and better hardware.

Buy XPS 13 at Dell starting at $950

Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Apple's MacBook Air hasn't been upgraded since last year's miraculous model — which gave it the winning combination of Apple's M1 processor, a fan-less design, and incredible battery life — but it's still one of the best laptops on the market. It's powerful enough to handle most productivity tasks and a few games, and whoever’s lucky enough to get it won’t have to worry about any fans spinning up, since it’s completely passively cooled. You can also find the M1-equipped MacBook Air on sale occasionally, making it one of the smarter gift purchases this season.

Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999

Apple iPad

Apple iPad for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Apple

Kudos to Apple for continually improving its entry-level iPad. Once again, it's one of the best tablet gift options on the market. It's faster than ever, thanks to Apple's A13 Bionic processor, and it includes more storage. The $329 model now comes with 64GB, or you could bump up to 256GB for $479. That's more than enough space to save every episode of Bluey and several seasons of Sesame Street to survive long car trips. Sure, the design hasn't changed much since last year, but that doesn't matter much — it’s still a more than capable tablet.

Buy iPad at Amazon - $329

Amazon Fire HD 10

Amazon Fire HD 10 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Amazon's Fire tablets are basically just video-first Android slates, but they also prove you don’t have to pay a ton to buy a useful tablet for someone. This year, the Fire HD 10 is a bit faster, has 50 percent more memory and features a slightly brighter screen. And, as a bonus, there's a Bluetooth keyboard accessory that can turn it into a cheap productivity tablet. But its core selling point is the same as always: it can tackle most tablet tasks easily, and it won’t cost too much. (There are also kid-centric Fire tablets worth considering, which come with a more durable case and two years worth of free replacements.)

Buy Fire HD 10 at Amazon - $150

Razer Blade 15

Razer Blade 15 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Razer

You can take all of the praise we've given Razer's Blade 15 over the years and apply it to the latest model. Razer's flagship gaming notebook still has a sleek unibody aluminum case, and it packs in the latest CPUs and GPUs, including NVIDIA's top-end RTX 3080. And thanks to improved screen choices, you can also gift models with fast 1,440p displays, which are sharper than 1080p screens, and easier to run natively than 4K displays. If portability is a greater concern, take a look at the new Razer Blade 14, a sub-four-pound notebook sporting AMD's latest processors.

Buy Blade 15 at Razer - $1,700

ASUS Zephyrus G15

ASUS Zephyrus G15 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If the gamer in your life wants something more flashy and a bit lighter than the Razer Blade, consider the Zephyrus G15. With the combined power of AMD's latest processors and NVIDIA's latest graphics cards, it'll handle practically any game thrown at it. And if you're on a budget, you can find lower-end models cheaper than the equivalent Razer's. Mostly, though, we love this laptop because it has pretty much everything we'd want in a mobile gaming rig — that includes an excellent keyboard, a speedy 165Hz 1440p screen and excellent battery life. The only downside is that there's no webcam, but any aspiring streamer would rather have a separate external camera anyway.

Buy Zephyrus G15 at Best Buy - $1,550

Acer Chromebook 512

Laptops for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The best Chromebooks are cheap, sturdy and powerful enough to handle basic school and office work. Acer's Chromebook 512 is one of the best current options, especially if you're looking for something for a child. It has a spill resistant keyboard, a sturdy impact-resistant case, and anchored keys that are harder for kids to pull off. Its Intel Celeron N4000 chip isn't the fastest, but it's enough to work on Google Docs, Sheets and Presentations without breaking too much of a sweat.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Amazon - $200

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sometimes it seems like there are just too many PC ultraportables to choose from, but Microsoft's Surface Laptop line are always a solid option. They feature some of the best keyboards on the market, excellent displays and support for all of Microsoft's notebook accessories, like the Surface Stylus. But mostly, we appreciate them for their design simplicity. They're sturdy, attractive and built for productivity. The latest 15-inch model also packs in speedy AMD processors that are powerful enough to play a few rounds of Overwatch.

Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft starting at $799

The best laptops and tablets to give as gifts

If you’re thinking of getting a laptop or tablet as a gift, you’ve got a wealth of options. Thanks to the latest round of hardware from Intel, Apple, AMD and NVIDIA, all of our portable devices have gotten steadily faster and more efficient. Even the cheapest iPad can be a decent productivity machine, while gaming laptops now have almost all of the power of their desktop siblings. And with the arrival of Windows 11, it's a perfect time to give someone a nifty PC upgrade, especially since very old computers won’t be able to step up.

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Dell

Not to sound like a broken record, but the XPS 13 is still the best Windows ultraportable you can buy. The design hasn't changed much, but that's not a huge problem: It's still incredibly light and features extraordinarily thin screen bezels. And now you can also take advantage of Intel's latest 11th-generation processors. The XPS 13 can also be configured with an OLED screen, an ideal gift for someone who could use a bright and color accurate display. And if you’ve got someone in mind who could use even more power, the new XPS 15 has the same sleek design, but it has more room for a bigger display and better hardware.

Buy XPS 13 at Dell starting at $950

Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Apple's MacBook Air hasn't been upgraded since last year's miraculous model — which gave it the winning combination of Apple's M1 processor, a fan-less design, and incredible battery life — but it's still one of the best laptops on the market. It's powerful enough to handle most productivity tasks and a few games, and whoever’s lucky enough to get it won’t have to worry about any fans spinning up, since it’s completely passively cooled. You can also find the M1-equipped MacBook Air on sale occasionally, making it one of the smarter gift purchases this season.

Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999

Apple iPad

Apple iPad for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Apple

Kudos to Apple for continually improving its entry-level iPad. Once again, it's one of the best tablet gift options on the market. It's faster than ever, thanks to Apple's A13 Bionic processor, and it includes more storage. The $329 model now comes with 64GB, or you could bump up to 256GB for $479. That's more than enough space to save every episode of Bluey and several seasons of Sesame Street to survive long car trips. Sure, the design hasn't changed much since last year, but that doesn't matter much — it’s still a more than capable tablet.

Buy iPad at Amazon - $329

Amazon Fire HD 10

Amazon Fire HD 10 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Amazon's Fire tablets are basically just video-first Android slates, but they also prove you don’t have to pay a ton to buy a useful tablet for someone. This year, the Fire HD 10 is a bit faster, has 50 percent more memory and features a slightly brighter screen. And, as a bonus, there's a Bluetooth keyboard accessory that can turn it into a cheap productivity tablet. But its core selling point is the same as always: it can tackle most tablet tasks easily, and it won’t cost too much. (There are also kid-centric Fire tablets worth considering, which come with a more durable case and two years worth of free replacements.)

Buy Fire HD 10 at Amazon - $150

Razer Blade 15

Razer Blade 15 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Razer

You can take all of the praise we've given Razer's Blade 15 over the years and apply it to the latest model. Razer's flagship gaming notebook still has a sleek unibody aluminum case, and it packs in the latest CPUs and GPUs, including NVIDIA's top-end RTX 3080. And thanks to improved screen choices, you can also gift models with fast 1,440p displays, which are sharper than 1080p screens, and easier to run natively than 4K displays. If portability is a greater concern, take a look at the new Razer Blade 14, a sub-four-pound notebook sporting AMD's latest processors.

Buy Blade 15 at Razer - $1,700

ASUS Zephyrus G15

ASUS Zephyrus G15 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If the gamer in your life wants something more flashy and a bit lighter than the Razer Blade, consider the Zephyrus G15. With the combined power of AMD's latest processors and NVIDIA's latest graphics cards, it'll handle practically any game thrown at it. And if you're on a budget, you can find lower-end models cheaper than the equivalent Razer's. Mostly, though, we love this laptop because it has pretty much everything we'd want in a mobile gaming rig — that includes an excellent keyboard, a speedy 165Hz 1440p screen and excellent battery life. The only downside is that there's no webcam, but any aspiring streamer would rather have a separate external camera anyway.

Buy Zephyrus G15 at Best Buy - $1,550

Acer Chromebook 512

Laptops for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The best Chromebooks are cheap, sturdy and powerful enough to handle basic school and office work. Acer's Chromebook 512 is one of the best current options, especially if you're looking for something for a child. It has a spill resistant keyboard, a sturdy impact-resistant case, and anchored keys that are harder for kids to pull off. Its Intel Celeron N4000 chip isn't the fastest, but it's enough to work on Google Docs, Sheets and Presentations without breaking too much of a sweat.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Amazon - $200

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sometimes it seems like there are just too many PC ultraportables to choose from, but Microsoft's Surface Laptop line are always a solid option. They feature some of the best keyboards on the market, excellent displays and support for all of Microsoft's notebook accessories, like the Surface Stylus. But mostly, we appreciate them for their design simplicity. They're sturdy, attractive and built for productivity. The latest 15-inch model also packs in speedy AMD processors that are powerful enough to play a few rounds of Overwatch.

Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft starting at $799

Apple’s all new iPad Mini is the cutest, most versatile, most powerful mini-tablet ever

The smallest iPad just got its biggest upgrade. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the iPad Mini was really that much of a big deal… that was until Tim Cook mentioned how its compact size made it perfect for doctors and scientists to carry around in their lab coats, for pilots to strap to their thighs while flying, and just for anyone who wanted an iPad experience in a more pocketable form factor. The new iPad Mini feels like a watershed moment for the mini-tablet market, as Apple literally pushed everything it had into it. It now comes with a modern flat-edge design, an ultrawide camera on the front, TouchID in the power button, support for Apple Pencil, USB-C, and 5G, making it an absolute behemoth even for its size.

With an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina screen, the iPad Mini is like a scaled-down version of the iPad Air. It’s just right for your palm, and will fit easily into generously designed pockets. And if you’ve got yourself the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil, you can easily snap it to the side of the iPad Mini the way you would on an iPad Pro. Although judging by the image below, the pencil and tablet are now almost the same height – I kinda like it.

The new iPad Mini sports the same uniform bezel design seen in this year’s iPad Air lineups, and just like in the iPad Air, the Mini comes with TouchID built right into the power button. That means being able to securely lock/unlock your iPad, as well as use your biometrics to approve app installs and pay for stuff online.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade to the iPad Mini (apart from its support for the Pencil) is the USB-C port on the bottom. Ditching the Lightning port from the previous version, the latest iPad Mini embraces the power and versatility of USB-C. Sure, that means faster charging, but when you stop to think about all the places an iPad Mini would be useful, a USB-C port just makes a lot more sense. You could potentially connect the iPad Mini to a host of devices, from a DSLR to an Ultrasound Camera… encapsulating perfectly how the iPad Mini can transition from a creative’s power tool to a doctor or specialist’s handheld computer.

The new iPad Mini also comes with 5G cellular, practically making it a perfect hybrid between the iPad and iPhone, and comes with WiFi 6 for even better wireless connectivity. It’s powered by the A15 Bionic chip, sports 12MP cameras on both the front and the back, comes in 4 colors, and starts at $499. Pretty impressive for a device that’s just 8.3-inches diagonally.

Designer: Apple

iPad Accessories designed to give you the ultimate work from home tablet setup!

My iPad has almost reached necessity status in my life, I’m pretty sure all of us tablet owners are super reliant on them (I mean, I am for sure)! I personally find tablets extremely handy, they’re the comfortable middle ground between a smartphone and a laptop, and they pretty much perform the same functions as these two. They’re super easy to carry around, and honestly, I could survive wholly and solely on my iPad Pro if I really wanted to. I’m always on the lookout for innovative and fun accessories to amp up my tablet (besides the basic ones Apple offers). Luckily there’s a whole bunch of crafty designs out there that can function as the perfect sidekick to your precious tablet. So, here’s a collection of super cool and functional product designs that promise to upgrade your iPad game to a whole another level!

The Apple Pencil is arguably the iPad Pro‘s secret sauce. Along with the Pencil, the iPad Pro becomes the ultimate creator’s setup (for both 2D as well as 3D creation). It would therefore make sense to explore how the Pencil could further become a ‘power-user tool, allowing creators to unlock new potentials. Yanko Design has imagined what these new nibs could look like, with explorations for more niche 2D uses. The interchangeable nibs include a fine-tip nib, a chisel nib, and a flexible brush-pen nib. Other nib styles could unlock 3D modeling features like being able to sculpt on the iPad. “The filing suggests the nib could contain several different sensors for varying purposes. The component list includes tactile sensors, contact sensors, capacitive and touch sensors, a camera, a piezoelectric sensor, a pressure sensor, or a photodiode”, reports Apple Insider.

Stationery in general gets lost all the time. Our favorite pens fall into hard-to-reach cracks and our pencils roll under our beds, never to be seen again. The iPad Pro Stand from Yohann features an exact slot for your Apple Pencil to slink into when not in use. The secure lip allows the iPad Pro to remain stationary on the stand. The Apple Pencil holder features magnetic ends to ensure secure storage and that you’ll never lose your Apple Pencil again. The stand itself is handcrafted from a single piece of wood for a solid and durable structure that ages well and stands the test of time. The iPad Pro stand features a winged back for multi-angled use.

The most obvious convenience of gaming on an iPad is that you can practically play anything on it. You don’t need to go out and physically buy a board game or order cards online. Everything is just an app-install away… although that comes with an obvious caveat – it isn’t easy playing group games on one iPad. The Wonder Cover comes up with a clever little hack to facilitate better group gaming on the iPad. The covers are just plastic parts that slide onto the tablet, creating a shielded enclosure to allow players to “protect their hand”. Perfect for card games like Poker and Uno, or even for Scrabble, the Wonder Cover is a nifty way to bring a physical/personal element to a digital gaming experience.

The iTrack comes from the fine folks at Brydge, who’ve developed some of the best accessories for Apple products over the years (they released a keyboard+trackpad attachment for the iPad before Apple did). Debuted at CES back in 2020, the iTrack (which officially launched just last week) is a compact multi-touch trackpad that’s designed to give your iPad workflow a significant upgrade. Styled to look just like Apple’s own Magic Trackpad 2, the iTrack is much smaller (with a 6.1-inch diagonal) and sports the same space-grey aluminum body and touch-sensitive glass top.

The Moment M-Series multidirectional lens mount works perfectly with your iPad, or iPhone even! You can move the mount in any direction, and capture your priceless moments and that too at the perfect angle! You can use it to shoot on the front, as well as the back camera. Amped with a sleek aluminum frame, the mount is extremely easy to install and stays securely fitted in one spot. You can now capture your next shot with ease!

In hindsight, you really can’t call the HoverBar Duo an iPad ‘stand’. The multi-hinged, incredibly versatile, height/direction adjustable arm is capable of doing much more than your conventional stand is. In fact, think of it as a mechanical butler who just holds your iPad for you at any angle you want, for any length of time. More versatile than a stand or a tripod, the HoverBar Duo for the iPad and iPhone is better described by the things that it’s capable of… and it’s capable of quite a lot! Simply put, the HoverBar Duo holds your iPad or iPhone wherever you want it, and in any orientation you need.

At nearly 1/4th the price of Apple’s own Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, the Mokibo Folio provides the same set of features in a portable, accessible, and universally compatible format. Designed to work with multiple devices, and with a foldable stand that lets you prop those devices up as you type, the Mokibo Folio is a QWERTY keyboard that also doubles up as an iPad case. Designed, however, with a touch-sensitive surface that sits under the entire right-half the keyboard’s key-surface, the Mokibo goes from keyboard to touch-board just simply by running your hand over the right-hand side of the keyboard’s surface, allowing you to swipe, pinch, and perform a wide variety of gestures.

The PencilSnap Apple Pencil iPad Sleeve from Twelve South stores and protects your stylus at all times! You can slide your Apple Pencil into the beautiful leather sleeve, where it will be safely stored. A snug grip ensures that the stylus does not slip or slide out. A magnetic mounting system makes it compatible with an Apple Smart Cover. The magnets ensure that the stylus is stuck in place! No losing your Apple Pencils anymore!

Made of powder-coated steel sheet, the FCTNDSGN Bookend comes in an ‘L’ shaped form, albeit with one flat end and one corrugated one. This unique form factor isn’t just a stylistic design choice, it serves a unique purpose too. The flat and corrugated surfaces allow the FCTNDSGN Bookend to work not just as a bookend, but also as a bookstand that lets you prop up anything from hardbound (or even paperback) books, vinyl discs, or even tablets, including your iPad!

Plug the Hello X3 in the top left corner of any display (or any flat surface) and suddenly you have a stylus-capable screen that you can draw on, annotate against, and present with. Up until just 5 minutes ago, I was ready to throw a little over a grand at a new, 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. I’m honestly reconsidering now after stumbling across this $120 gadget that transforms any flat surface into a stylus-friendly touchscreen. Titled the YELANG Hello X3, this 3-axis-shaped device plugs onto the corner of any flat rectangular surface (although it’s much more useful when mounted on a display), practically turning it into an iPad. The Hello X3 works with displays as large as 27-inches and comes along with a pressure-sensitive stylus too to rival the Apple Pencil. It may not be an iPad accessory, but it definitely does not let you feel the lack of a tablet!

Apple Designs that tech lovers wish to get their hands on in this September 2021 event!

Apple’s September 2021 event is just around the corner! The air is buzzing with excitement, as we eagerly await to hear what Apple may announce. As we find ourselves biting our nails, and squirming in anticipation of what Apple has in store for us, let’s take a moment to appreciate all the inspiration this groundbreaking tech giant has provided. Apple’s ingenious and mesmerizing designs and design philosophy have inspired and influenced designers all over the world, resulting in some pretty unique Apple concepts! And, we’ve put together some of the very best. We hope we get to see a few of them at the September event! Who knows?

Designer and visualizer, Devam Jangra’s put together a view to show us what candy-colored MacBook Airs could look like, and I won’t lie… I really like it! If the colorful iMacs were a hat-tip to the candy-colored iMac G3 computers from 1998, these vibrant MacBook Airs most certainly pay a tribute to the old iBook G3s from 1999. It’s certainly been a while since Apple’s experimented with colored laptops – their latest foray was 6 years ago, with the rose-gold MacBook Air. Jangra’s concept video definitely shows why Apple should be less reticent and more open to creating colorful MacBooks… they spark joy, don’t they?

Meet the Apple glass concept that pays homage to Steve Jobs’s favorite pair of prescription glasses – the Lunor Classic PP. These countered glasses look absolutely stylish for the generation next crowd- with the frame crafted from lightweight aluminum and the lenses made out of polycarbonate material. The technology of these wearables is honed by an array of six cameras with autofocus lenses, an eye-tracking system with HDR, and gesture recognition. The glasses even track your calorie intake and health status. Coming onto the cameras, two cameras are tucked in the nose-piece assemblies and the other two on the opposite side of each nose piece.

Italian designer Antonio De Rosa believes an Apple action cam is a realistic possibility in a landscape of current-gen geeky gadgets. Apple and an action cam would not be something out of the ordinary for the Cupertino giant to create. So, Antonio leaves me in awe with the Apple AirCam, which is no more significant than the AirPods Pro case. It carries a similar design language to the case with the obvious addition of an LCD screen display on the front and the big camera sensor on the backside. If you look closely, this lens is accompanied by a small Apple Watch-like screen, perhaps to click selfies and display vital heads-up information. There is a single shutter button on top to keep things as simple as possible. On the sides, there is space for USB-C and SHDC card slots to make data transfer seamless and load the camera with additional memory.

The M1 really unleashes the tablet’s potential, giving it incredible storage, transfer, and read/write abilities… or as Apple calls it, the most powerful chip on an iPad. The M1, apart from being a productive beast, also allows the iPad to have 5G capabilities, and even up to 2 Terabytes of storage… let’s see Microsoft’s Surface match that! Nothing much changes on the form front. The iPad Pro’s design is in a place where it doesn’t need to refine its exterior design. but how we wish it they would! A bezel-less design is all that is needed to take that ‘piece of magical glass’ to a revolutionary new level!

Probably the coolest feature of this iMac Pro concept by Daniel Bautista is its wireless charging option! The base of the computer stand functions as a charging platform for all your other Apple Devices. You can place your iPhone, AirPods, or even your Apple Watch on it to charge. Daniel’s iMac Pro has been equipped with Face ID, and a cool backlit keyboard as well. This could be the future of iMacs!

Vincent Lin designed the Apple Pro Mouse concept, and I haven’t seen a mouse this stunning in a while! Designed to allow your hands to fit perfectly around it, the ergonomically designed mouse works well for both lefties and righties! Amped with a Taptic Engine, the Pro Mouse makes clicking and scrolling gentle and precise. A Taptic Sidebar allows you to switch between gestures, and manipulate from one option to another smoothly. Not to mention, the mouse’s sleek and modern looks are a complete added bonus!

Park’s flexible iPhone manifests itself as an intersection between a phone and a tablet (like most folding phones), but the advantage Apple has over its competition is its complete dominance in the tablet sector. The iPhone Pro neatly goes from a regular smartphone (with a notch) to a 4:3 screen tablet (with a slightly offset notch). It comes with not one, but two hinges that separate the AMOLED screen into three parts with outward facing screens, and a slight cantilever at one end that allows the rear camera to not be covered (not the most elegant of solutions, but then again it lets you have a screen right beside the powerful triple-lens rear-view camera.

What if Apple and Samsung collaborated to create a phone? How cool would that be! 4RMD imagined a smartphone created by Apple and Samsung, and named it iGalaxy S22 ProMax! It’s a mix between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Ultra. It has adopted the Apple Camera module, although the phone is boxier, and has flat edges like the iPhone 12. It also features a 108-megapixel main camera and 100X Space Zoom. The iGalaxy is truly the best of both worlds!

Designer Antonio De Rosa, who’s impressed us with his reimagined Apple products, now has another one that’s worth the shout-out. As he rightly says “Dreaming doesn’t cost anything.” This time around Antonio has thought of a modular Mac Pro which fuels the craving of professionals who are always tinkering around with their hunger for more hardware – the likes of GPU, RAM, USB-C ports, or SD card slots. While hardcore Apple fans will be divided on this modular Mac design’s subjectivity, it at least solves the purpose for people who want to experience an open-ended approach to hardware configuration. This concept Apple Silicon Mac Pro is kind of a hybrid design – it doesn’t sacrifice visual aesthetics as the expansion modules sit inside the casing, well within the machine’s footprint.

Meet the Apple One, a sophisticated-looking SUV created in the image of the company behind the iPhone. Peisert’s Concept One embodies all the good aspects of Apple (and a few unsavory ones) into a design that’s meant for the entire family. It’s a luxury car, but it isn’t a sedan. Instead, the Apple One is a one-for-all sort of SUV that accommodates 4 or more people pretty spaciously. Its proportions (and especially that headlight) feel slightly like a cross between the Tesla Cybertruck and the Rivian SUV. The design is mildly angular but doesn’t come with any edgy surfaces or straight lines. Instead, everything curves rather organically… a feature also seen in the continuous curves found on Apple products. Is this hoping for too much at the September 2021 event? A girl can dream!

The best accessories for your new iPad

Accessories will be key whether you’re turning your new iPad into a laptop replacement or just trying to protect it against daily-life hazards. It’s tempting to turn to Apple’s own accessories — and in some cases, you should — but there’s a slew of alternatives that work just as well and are often more affordable. We tested out a bunch of cases, keyboards, styli and other miscellany to see which iPad accessories are worth buying.

Cases and stands

Otterbox Symmetry Case for iPad Pro
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

I’ve always been that person who takes her new smartphone or tablet out of the box and immediately puts it in a case. While some detest hiding the true form of their new gear, it’s undeniable that cases provide protection for probably the most expensive tech you own. Apple’s Smart Covers for its various iPads are fine, but they’re overpriced and most of them don’t give your iPad any edge protection. Similar alternatives abound, some of which do surround the edges of an iPad. I’ve found ProCase and MoKo make some of the best — even better, they cost a fraction of what Apple’s Smart Cover costs.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more on a case, get something that combines protection and style. Otterbox is an expert when it comes to protection, but its Symmetry Series 360 series shows that it also has the design chops. Symmetry cases look similar to the Smart Cover, but the clear, scratch-resistant back is sturdy without adding a lot of weight to the iPad and the edge protection is substantial. I also like the extra flap Otterbox added that keeps the screen cover closed and holds the second-generation Apple Pencil to the side of the iPad Pros. Symmetry Series 360 cases are available for most new iPads, and while they’re expensive at $90, they’re worth it if you want a great balance of protection and style.

Buy Otterbox Symmetry 360 case at Amazon - $55

ProCase Leather Folio case for iPad Pro
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

A more affordable alternative is ProCase’s Leather Folio. While ProCase isn’t as well known for protection as Otterbox is, this model has a flexible plastic interior that wraps around most of the iPad’s edges to keep it secure. The lining also surrounds the second-gen Apple Pencil while it magnetically charges against the new iPad Pros, making it one of the more secure cases for those that have the Pencil.

Leather folios will appeal to a certain type of person. I didn’t think I was that person — until I tried this case. Not only is it attractive, but it’s practical. It has a pocket on the front flap, three notches on which to prop up the iPad at different viewing angles and an elastic strap that can either keep the folio closed or hold the front flap against the back of the iPad while you’re using it. It’s definitely worth its $18 list price for those that want a case that’s just as practical as it is professional.

All of the cases we like prop up your iPad in some way, but they aren’t the best if you want the device at a comfortable eye level. You’ll want a dedicated tablet stand for that, and there are several out there that let you adjust height, angle and more. Anozer’s foldable tablet stand is a good option if you’re often on the go. It’s heavier than other stands at one pound and it can be folded (mostly) flat so you can easily throw it in your backpack. While it’s best suited for 7- to 13-inch tablets, it can support certain smartphones, too (or you could get the company’s dedicated smartphone stand instead).

If you’re willing to sacrifice flexibility for something more elegant, Elago’s P2 stand for iPad may be a good fit. It’s made of a single piece of aluminum with a ledge for your iPad and a few well-placed cutouts that you can snake a charging cable through. The ledge is also wide enough to accommodate most iPad cases. It may not be foldable or adjustable, but its minimalist design will make it an attractive addition to your desk.

Buy ProCase Leather Folio at Amazon - $17Buy Anozer tablet stand at Amazon - $15Buy Elago P2 stand at Amazon - $20

Keyboards

Zagg Slim Book Go for iPad Pro

There are two types of people that seek out keyboards for their iPads: those who want something more comfortable than the on-screen keyboard for banging out the occasional email, and those that plan to use their iPad as a fully-fledged laptop. If you’re part of the first crowd, there are tons of inexpensive Bluetooth keyboards that will do the trick.

I’m partial to Logitech’s Keys to Go, an ultra-slim keyboard that almost disappears in your bag. It’s without a doubt one of the most portable Bluetooth keyboards you’ll find and it’s fairly comfortable to type on. Yes, the keys have little travel and a bubbly feel to them, but they’ll let you compose a quick email or respond to a message on Facebook much more easily than you could with the touchscreen. I also like that its wipeable fabric prevents spills and dirt from getting inside the keyboard. Plus, at around $60-$70, it won’t break the bank.

If you fall into that second category of shopper, there are even more options for you. The most luxurious comes from Apple itself in the Magic Keyboard. The $300 case magnetically attaches to the new iPad Pros and keeps them “floating” above the keyboard and trackpad. We praised the Magic Keyboard for its typing comfort and precise trackpad, but docked it for its limited range of motion. It’s easily the fanciest keyboard available for the iPad Pros and it’s one to consider if money is no object — or if you want the most stylish (and arguably most comfortable) keyboard money can buy.

Buy Keys to Go at Amazon - $70Buy Magic Keyboard at Amazon - $290

Logitech Slim Folio Pro for iPad Pro
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

But as far as protection goes, the Magic Keyboard provides basically as much as Apple’s Smart Cover (which isn’t much). If you need something a bit more durable (and don’t want to spend $300), Zagg’s $30 Slim Book Go could do the trick. It’ll keep your entire setup pretty sleek as its name suggests, and it’s even thinner than the $130 Logitech Slim Folio Pro. The latter case may be on the thick side, but it has a well laid-out keyboard and a secure flap that holds the Apple Pencil against your tablet.

If you want something that combines durability with style, we like Logitech’s $160 Folio Touch keyboard case. Its exterior is made of a tweed-like fabric, so it will blend in better with your briefcase or work bag. It’s also fairly slim and has a similar Apple Pencil-friendly flap that closes the whole thing shut. Plus, the keyboard is joined by a small yet useful trackpad, so you can truly use your iPad as if it were a laptop.

Buy Zagg Slim Book Go at Amazon - $30Buy Logitech Slim Folio Pro at Amazon - $130Buy Logitech Folio Touch at Amazon - $160

Stylus and screen protectors

Apple Pencil 2nd generation

This likely won’t come as a surprise, but the Apple Pencil is the best stylus you can get for the iPad. Both the first- and second-generation Pencils are designed to work specifically with iPads and it shows in their seamless writing performance. The second-gen stylus has a double-tap feature that you can customize to a certain degree, and pressure-sensitivity allows you to add as much or as little detail as you want to digital artwork. I highly recommend shelling out $100 or $130 for the Apple Pencil if you’re an artist — you won’t be disappointed.

But there are other options, too. Logitech’s Crayon is more affordable at $70 and it has arguably a better grip than either Apple Pencil. It’s just as good in terms of latency and accuracy — drawing in Procreate was a lag-free experience and my strokes always ended up exactly where I wanted them to be.

Buy Apple Pencil (1st gen) at Amazon - $95Buy Apple Pencil (2nd gen) at Amazon - $125Buy Logitech Crayon at Amazon - $70

Logitech Crayon stylus
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

But as someone who primarily uses an Apple Pencil for digital art, I missed pressure sensitivity when using the Crayon. Aside from that, the other biggest annoyance is that you have to use a Lightning or USB-C cable to charge it (even the newest model for the iPad Pros doesn’t magnetically attach to the tablet for charging). While I wouldn’t recommend the Crayon for serious artists, I would recommend it for anyone who’s on a strict budget, especially digital journal-keepers, hardcore note-takers and the like.

If you’re a heavy user of the Apple Pencil or some other stylus, you should consider getting a screen protector for your iPad. They pull double-duty: not only do they act as a first line of defense if your iPad goes careening onto the concrete, but they can also enhance the digital drawing and writing experience. Using a stylus on an iPad is strange at first because gliding the stylus nib over a glass surface feels nothing like “normal” writing. Matte screen protectors can get closer to replicating the pen-on-paper experience, and they also prevent the stylus nib from wearing down so quickly. Paperlike is the most popular in this space, but Bersem’s screen protectors are a great value at $14 for a pack of two. Not only does the matte finish help when you’re drawing or taking digital notes, but it also reduces screen glare and doesn’t interfere with FaceID on the newest iPads.

Buy Paperlike screen protector starting at $40Buy Bersem screen protectors (2 pack) at Amazon - $14

Hubs and adapters

Satechi iPad dock
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

If you plan on pushing your iPad Pro to its limits as a daily driver, you’ll probably need more than the tablet’s single USB-C port. Apple has provided little guidance to which USB-C hubs and adapters work best with the iPad Pros — there’s no MFi certification for accessories like this yet. Some hubs specifically advertise that they work with the newest iPad Pros, and if you want to be extra safe, I recommend buying one of those that comes from a reputable brand.

A newcomer in this space is Satechi’s $100 aluminum stand and hub, a foldable rectangle that cradles your iPad and provides a bunch of useful ports and charging capabilities. The holder itself rotates outward, revealing a hidden, attached USB-C cable and a rubber bumper that keeps the stand in place in your desk. On the back edge are a 4K HDMI socket, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, both SD and microSD card slots and a 60W USB-C connection for charging.

I liked the versatility of Satechi’s hub. I could easily use it when I needed to prop my iPad up to watch a YouTube video, and by just plugging in the attached cable, I could switch to using my iPad as more of a work device with all of the necessary connectors in place. It’s also surprisingly light at 10 ounces. Combine that with its foldable design and you have a full-featured hub that can easily be stuffed in a bag.

Buy Satechi stand and hub at Amazon - $100

HyperDrive USB-C adapter for iPad Pro

Another popular option is HyperDrive’s USB-C adapter. I’ll admit I was skeptical about this one, mostly because so many Amazon reviewers and YouTube personalities have raved about it (and I have a hard time believing a six-port adapter the size of a lighter should cost $90). However, after testing it out, I can say it delivers on its promises: t’s a neat little adapter that’s just large enough to fit an HDMI socket, a USB-C port, a USB-A connection, micro- and regular SD card slots and a headphone jack on its edges. That should cover most things you’d need an adapter for, save for hardwired internet.

However, what sets the HyperDrive USB-C adapter apart is that it comes with a tool kit that gives you more flexibility in how you use it. The default plate that surrounds the USB-C plug fits iPads without screen protectors, but there’s an included plate that accommodates screen protectors. HyperDrive even included a third plate with a dongle-like attachment so the adapter doesn’t have to sit right up against the iPad. All you need to do is use the tiny screwdriver that’s in the box to switch out the plates.

I think that somewhat justifies its $90 asking price. So many adapters that hug the iPad Pro’s edges are slick but they become basically unusable if you have a case, skin or screen protector.

Buy USB-C adapter at HyperDrive - $90

Anker USB-C hub
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

But $90 for an adapter is still a lot of money and I’d only recommend spending that much if you plan on using the iPad Pro as your daily driver. A cheaper alternative is Anker’s 5-in-1 USB-C adapter: It works just as well as HyperDrive’s; has most of the same ports, with the exception of an extra USB-C port and a headphone jack; and costs only $26.

You could use any of these adapters to connect an external drive to your iPad for more space. We’re fans of Samsung’s T7 series and SanDisk’s Extreme drives for those that want a good amount of extra storage in a fairly durable yet pocketable gadget. If you’d prefer something even more portable, SanDisk’s Dual Drive Luxe flash drive is a good option because it can plug right into your iPad’s USB-C port, it’s available in up to a 1TB capacity and it’s small enough to attach to your keys.

Buy Anker 5-in-1 adapter at Amazon - $30Buy Samsung T7 drive at Amazon - $80Buy SanDisk Extreme drive at Amazon - $85Buy SanDisk Dual Drive Luxe at Amazon - $50

Chargers and power

Anker Nano II 45W charger
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

A battery pack or an extra charger is important to have in your bag regardless of where you’re going. RavPower’s 26,800mAh power bank can charge iPad Pros 1.5 times using its 30W USB-C PD port. It also works with the newest MacBook Pros and other USB-C laptops in addition to the Nintendo Switch — so it can be your one-stop-shop for all your charging needs. I also appreciate that it comes with its own USB-C to C cable, so you don’t need to remember to bring one with you, as well as the micro-USB cable used to charge the power bank itself.

RavPower’s PD charger will set you back $60, but you can opt for the $50 Anker Powercore Essential PD charger if you want to spend a bit less. Its 20,000mAh capacity will provide at least 50 percent more juice to most iPads. It’s not ideal for larger devices like laptops, but it works well with smartphones and tablets.

You also don't want to rely solely on the charging adapter that came with your iPad; it's handy to have a backup. Anker's new line of GaN II chargers has a couple of good options, and arguably the best for most people is the 45W Nano II. It's the midrange adapter in the lineup and it can power up a 2020 11-inch iPad Pro up to 30 percent faster than Apple's default adapter. In just a half hour of charging, I got about a 33 percent boost in battery life on my 11-inch iPad Pro. Anker's device is also smaller than Apple's and it has a foldable design, so it'll fit better in cramped spaces and it'll be easier to throw in a travel bag.

Buy RavPower 26,800 power bank at RavPower - $60Buy Anker 20,000 power bank at Amazon - $50Buy Anker Nano II 45W GaN charger at Amazon - $36

This nifty gadget turns any laptop or desktop monitor into a massive iPad Pro and Stylus




Plug the Hello X3 in the top left corner of any display (or any flat surface) and suddenly you have a stylus-capable screen that you can draw on, annotate against, and present with.

Up until just 5 minutes ago, I was ready to throw a little over a grand at a new, 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. I’m honestly reconsidering now after stumbling across this $120 gadget that transforms any flat surface into a stylus-friendly touchscreen. Titled the YELANG Hello X3, this 3-axis-shaped device plugs onto the corner of any flat rectangular surface (although it’s much more useful when mounted on a display), practically turning it into an iPad. The Hello X3 works with displays as large as 27-inches, and comes along with a pressure-sensitive stylus too to rival the Apple Pencil.

Click Here to Buy Now: $120 $189 (37% off) Hurry! Just 14 hours left!

Currently in its third generation (hence the X3 suffix), the Hello X3 expands on what its previous generations could do. It comes with a camera-sensor that can now read surface areas that are anywhere between 10-27 inches, has 2mm precision (which is alright, to be honest), a 120 fps response time, and here’s the best part, compatibility with both Macintosh and Windows-based systems. Just plug it onto your iMac or your Windows desktop monitor and you’ve got yourself a massive tablet PC that you can sketch on, make models in, edit documents, sign papers, or even use in a bunch of other productivity apps and softwares. If you’re traveling, the Hello X3 plugs right off and is portable enough to be carried right in your bag along with the stylus.

The Hello X3’s universal design is perhaps its biggest selling point, but it’s also matched by the fact that setting it up on a new device is ridiculously simple. Just pop the gadget on the top-left of the screen (it works with left-handed as well as right-handed users), plug it in via USB, and you’re ready to calibrate it. To calibrate the Hello X3 to your screen, just tap the 4 corners of the display with the stylus and you’re done. The stylus is thick and grippy like a marker or a fountain-pen, and sports a pressure-sensitive tip that can make thicker strokes if you press harder and thinner strokes if you lightly touch a surface. In just minutes, your 4K monitor turns into a graphics tablet.

The Hello X3 works with regular surfaces too. If you’re not really comfortable with drawing on vertical surfaces (which, let’s face it, can get uncomfortable), just plug the Hello X3 onto a drawing pad or a clipboard and you’ve got yourself a makeshift tablet PC (remember the Wacom Intuos?). This setup works rather well when you’re using a projector too, instead of a laptop or a desktop monitor. Each Hello X3 comes along with its own drawing-board for good measure, and a stand for your stylus when it’s not in use. The stylus has a standby time of 120 days, and a use-time of 4 hours, although it charges completely in just under 30 minutes. The YELANG Hello X3 is currently in its final hours of funding and is set to ship as early as September. Grab it at its special early-bird price of $120 on Kickstarter!

Click Here to Buy Now: $120 $189 (37% off) Hurry! Just 14 hours left!