The iPad Air 2 is often described as the best tablet money can buy, but people also love the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 because it works like a laptop and runs full Windows software and it works like a tablet. However, if you just forked over between $500 and $830 for the new iPad Air 2, then you probably can’t afford to grab another computer. Even if you’re still using the original iPad Air, you may not like the idea of springing for another tablet just because it runs full Windows software. Using this guide, iPad Air or iPad Air 2 owners can get most of the functionally of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Grab a few accessories, some apps from the App Store and subscriptions to a couple of services, and you too can begin using the Apple iPad Air or iPad Air 2 like a Surface Pro 3 computer.
The BrydgeAir Keyboard is one of the best Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad Air or iPad Air 2, even though it costs more than most. That’s because the BrydgeAir Keyboard includes a couple of great features, plus excellent design and build quality. iPad Air 2 users should consider the BrydgeAir keyboard if they want a Surface Pro 3 style experience, because the hinges hold the iPad at any typing angle they like, just like the Surface Pro 3’s kickstand.
The designers created a beautiful keyboard that matches the iPad Air’s sleek and attractive style and build quality. They make three colors that match the three colors of the iPad Air 2. It’s built with aluminum. The excellent island style keyboard comes with special iOS keys like a home key, lock screen button, brightness and sound controls, media play/pause/fast forward/rewind controls and a button to turn on/off the onscreen keyboard. In the bottom left corner we get a dedicated Siri button next to the CTRL key.
The keyboard holds the iPad firmly in place and, when closed, turns off the screen thanks to the magnetic wake feature. Two rubber bumpers keep the screen from hitting the keys when it’s closed. Thanks to the stiff hinge, the user can hold the iPad Air in any angle.
They keys make typing comfortable and spacing, which means fast touch typists won’t slow down due to cramp key design or placement.
You pair the keyboard using the Bluetooth button along the front edge in between a power slider switch and a 2nd button. The 2nd button turns on/off the keyboard’s speaker. Press and hold each button to pair the keyboard. One Bluetooth connection pairs the keyboard and a second connection transmits sound.
The built-in speakers amplify the sound better than the iPad’s built-in speakers. I could hear music played on the iPad through the BrydgeAir Keyboard’s speakers even in a noisy room. The amplification sounds about three times as loud as the iPad speakers. The keyboard’s sound seems a little muddled, but it’s far better than the iPad speakers.
If $169 directly from Brydge Keyboards seems too steep, then look at the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad Air 2 or iPad Air or any of Logitech’s Bluetooth keyboards. They all cost under $90 and give users a decent keyboard, but no sound like the BrydgeAir Keyboard, and they won’t hold the iPad at any angle like the Surface Pro 3 kickstand.
Just Mobile Alupen Digital
Just Mobile sells the best stylus money can buy. The Alupen Digital ($49.99) comes with a fine tip, just like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3’s Surface Pen.
The Alupen Digital doesn’t need a Bluetooth connection like other styli with fine tips. Instead, it uses a special technology that amplifies the capacitive touch connection made between the person’s hand through the pen to the screen via the 1.8mm tip.
The fine tip makes it more accurate and precise, just like the Surface Pro 3’s Surface Pen. The smaller 10-inch size of the iPad Air 2 feels better in the hands while taking notes in a meeting. Drawing and sketching feels great with this stylus.
Grab the Cleanint Cleanstylus to hold your iPad stylus like the Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover loop. They make one for the Surface Pro 3 that works great.
Parallels Access Subscription
Most people think of Parallels as a virtualization program that runs Windows or other operating systems on a Mac. Add Parallels Access ($19.99/year) and users get a Windows style environment on their iPad.
The video above shows Parallels Access running on an Android phone, but it behaves the same way on an iPad. Install the app from the iPad App Store and the Parallels Access Agent on a Windows PC or Mac.
Parallels gives users a trial period to test Parallels Access before paying for the annual subscription. The service offers the best virtualization system for an iPad because it makes desktop/computer applications behave like iPad apps.
If Parallels doesn’t meet your needs, consider an app like Splashtop, a free app and service for personal use. They make their money by charging businesses or offering premium services to consumers, but the app works great for individuals.
Microsoft Office Apps for iPad
Microsoft came late to the party, but they came in a big way with their Office Mobile apps. Windows users can install OneDrive on their computer and save their files to the syncing and backup service. The Office iPad apps will open the files, let users edit the files and then save them back to OneDrive in a seamless way.
To get the full experience users need an Office 365 subscription which costs either $69.99 for the personal version or $99.99 for the Home Premium version. Shop around because online retailers often sell it for less. For example, get the more expensive Home Premium version for the price of the personal edition at Amazon.
Word, Power and Excel work great on the iPad. They don’t offer all the features that the Windows programs do, but most of what the average user needs will work. Add to that OneNote, OneDrive, Skype and some of the other lesser known apps like Lync and Yammer.
Notability for Note Taking
Unfortunately, the OneNote iPad app doesn’t let users take handwritten notes inside the app yet. Until they do, if ever, users will want a nice handwritten notes app like Notability. The app organizes notes into folders and lets users write on the screen, type using a keyboard and add visual content like photos.