Use an iPad as a Desk Workstation with Stand and Keyboard for $35
Want to use an iPad like a desktop workstation? With a couple of low-cost third party accessories, you can easily do just that and quickly setup a functional environment for using an iPad at a desk kind of like a mini-computer. All you need is an iPad stand and an external keyboard, and you’re good to go! And it even looks pretty good too, especially considering the low budget.
While many of us use an iPad on a couch or as an accessory device, the iPad can be a bit more useful for some situations when sat at a desk and transitioned into a little miniature desktop. For example, if you’re like me and find typing on a touch screen to be a cumbersome experience, then you might appreciate using an external keyboard sometimes when you plan on typing a lot. Or maybe you just want to explore the idea of an iPad as a desktop computing alternative. This cheap little accessory combination allows for those options and more.
The full iPad setup as pictured is three pieces of hardware; an iPad stand, iPad keyboard, and of course an iPad itself. Specifically, the following hardware:
- Omoton iPad keyboard (black) – $20 on Amazon
- Lamicall iPad stand (black) – $15 on Amazon
- iPad (black, 32gb, base model) – $249 on Amazon
(Note that Amazon prices fluctuate often, and the price is often different for other color options.)
If you want a bit more information on each of those, I’ll discuss them individually below.
The Lamicall stand is an adjustable metal iPad stand that is well priced and has a simple design to it, which sort of matches the stand of an iMac. The iPad isn’t secured into this particular stand, it just rests on a little soft rubber tray which makes it easy to quickly put the iPad in place, it can hold it in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it offers the ability to instantly remove the iPad at any time if you want to pick it up or move it around. You can get the Lamicall stand in black or silver, I chose it because it has a gap in the holding tray to allow for the charging port to be accessible, and I went with black because it more closely matches the front of the black iPad. Of course it helps that the price is low too.
There are plenty of other iPad stand options out there at various price points, some even have height adjustable bases and swiveling arms which could offer better ergonomics or more flexibility for some scenarios. Get whatever looks like it would work for your iPad setup.
The keyboard shown is the Omoton iPad keyboard which is about $20 on Amazon and available in black or white, I went with black because it matches the black iPad. The Omoton iPad keyboard looks to be modeled loosely on the Apple Magic keyboard but is not quite as crisp due to being plastic instead of metal, but hey, it’s also a fraction of the price.
Connecting the Omoton keyboard is the same as using any other Bluetooth keyboard with iPad, just pop in the batteries and sync it to the iPad via Bluetooth Settings and you’re good to go.
If I was to find a complaint about this keyboard it’s that, like many other iPad keyboards, it does not include a physical Escape key, instead it has a little square button that acts like pressing the Home button on an iOS device. It’s worth remembering that the Apple iPad Smart Keyboard also does not have an Escape key either though, and undoubtedly some iPad users don’t care about this anyway, and you can always learn how to type the Escape key on iPad if you’re concerned about the ESC key situation. Also I’d rather it use AA than AAA batteries, but rechargeables are cheap and now I’m merely nitpicking. If you go with the Omoton iPad keyboard, be sure you get AAA batteries too as they are not included.
A really great alternative option is to get the Apple Magic Keyboard for $99 instead, it works fantastic with the iPad (and the Mac of course) and it’s a really great keyboard that feels nice, is rechargeable, and because it has an ESC key it works with the Mac and iPad right away. You could also get a space-gray Apple Magic Keyboard on Amazon for a bit more if you want to color match to a black iPad.
The base model iPad retails for $329 but is often on sale at Amazon for anywhere from $249 to $299, which I personally think that is one of the best deals out there for any Apple product.
If you don’t already own an iPad then the base model is a great introduction to the platform, though it’s not as full featured or as powerful as an iPad Pro or the new iPad Air. Most people tend to use an iPad for things like web browsing, emailing, gaming, social networking, watching movies and videos, etc, and the base model iPad does all of that just fine, though any of that will be even faster and better on an iPad Pro. If you plan on doing anything particularly demanding with an iPad, or if you want a larger screen along with some other perks and features, the iPad Pro is probably a better solution.
General Thoughts on this iPad Desk Setup
Overall I like this iPad setup quite a bit. It’s very functional, the stand raises the iPad a bit, it offers a good real keyboard typing experience, and it’s also very affordable to piece together. Is it going to change your life and revolutionize your iPad usage? Probably not, but if you’ve ever wished for a desk friendly iPad setup that can be docked and undocked at will, this offers that on a budget (and it’s a lot nicer looking than the toilet plunger stand or the DIY stands).
It’s also worth mentioning a great perk of using an iPad with a physical keyboard; you gain access to a wide variety of keyboard shortcuts and keystrokes that are otherwise not available when a keyboard is not attached to the iPad, and many of those keystrokes will already be familiar to Mac users. We at OSXDaily have been covering some of those helpful iPad keyboard shortcuts for functionality like copy and paste, and for specific apps like Files, Safari, Notes, Chrome, Pages, Numbers, and will continue to do so, so stay tuned for more.
Using this setup does make me wish that the iPad had mouse support though, for both precision and ergonomic reasons, and while there are rumors that mouse support may arrive on iPad Pro as an Accessibility option down the road, that’s just a rumor for now. So for now if you need cursor and mouse support, you’ll want a Mac. But this is about the iPad and using an iPad in a simple desk workstation environment, and for that purpose, getting a stand and keyboard can add significantly to the iPad experience.
If you have any particular experience with great iPad stands, iPad keyboards, or otherwise, share your thoughts in the comments below!