Two weeks into using the iPad Pro, I’m even more convinced of something I believed during week one: the 12.9″ iPad is good on its own, but if an accessory adds enough bulk to make it feel like a poor man’s laptop, it starts to stink. I suspect that’s why Apple let another company release the first iPad Pro keyboard case; once you’ve tried something as big as Logitech’s Create, you’ll start searching for a “smarter” solution.

From where I stand, Urban Armor Gear’s new Composite Case for iPad Pro ($80) is a much better alternative to both Logitech’s and Apple’s solutions — so well thought-out and polished that it’s bound to inspire copycats. It begins by offering a ruggedized case and two highly distinctive features — a three-angle metal kickstand, and an integrated Apple Pencil holder — that would in and of themselves fully justify the price tag. But UAG went further, including optional Apple Smart Keyboard compatibility, and offering MIL-STD-810G anti-drop protection. While there will eventually be slimmer and simpler iPad Pro cases, Composite Case currently offers every feature an iPad Pro owner could want…

Key Details:

  • A polished iPad Pro case design with multiple bonus features
  • Includes an aluminum, 3-angle stand for video viewing + typing
  • Apple Pencil holder
  • MIL-STD anti-drop protection
  • Smart Keyboard-compatible thanks to a pop-off edge piece

I’ve long favored iPad cases with integrated stands; ZeroChroma’s Folio Slides and earlier Vario-SC cases literally transformed the way my standless iPads get used every day. But even though I love their adjustability, ZeroChroma’s plastic stands tend to wear down over time, requiring replacement. Based on a design previously introduced for Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets, UAG’s Composite Case instead includes a stand made from silver aluminum, with an internal hard plastic hinge mechanism that supports three different angles. It’s an excellent stand, and the single best feature of the case.

The strongest recline is a deep lean that works well for typing on an external keyboard, akin to Logitech’s Create, while the shallowest angle is around 10 to 15 degrees behind a fully upright 90-degree angle. Between them is a third angle that’s a gentle, Apple-like recline. I love the versatility these angles permit; by comparison with Apple’s iPad Pro Smart Covers, the only thing missing is an angle to support on-screen virtual typing.

The rest of the case is also made from sturdier materials. Like ZeroChroma’s cases, it’s made mostly from a slightly flexible plastic that mostly preserves its shape, but in typical UAG style, it sports rear panels with “Frogskin” accents that give it a “near-future military” look. In the jet black version (called “Scout”), the Frogskin accents merely add textured grips, but blue (“Cobalt”) and red (“Rogue”) Composite Cases pop with spots of color. I’d personally favor the all-black Composite for an iPad Pro, but to each their own.

Between the grips and the MIL-STD-810G anti-drop protection, your chances of accidentally dropping the Pro radically decrease, while the Pro’s chances of safely surviving a drop radically increase. Composite Case’s deliberately (and thankfully) basic front has a 2mm-thick bezel, which can keep your Pro’s screen from touching whatever flat surface the case comes to rest on. The more complex back is the reason Composite roughly doubles the Pro’s natural thickness at some points, most notably at the center and long edges.

My second favorite feature in Composite Case juts out from the front right edge: an Apple Pencil holder. While it’s a risky move for UAG to include a place to hold an optional, $100 accessory, the omission of an Apple Pencil storage solution has been conspicuous in other iPad Pro accessories, so it’s welcome here. Made from the same slightly pliable plastic as the rest of the case, it adds 6mm of width and 3-4mm of thickness to a 30mm box on Composite’s edge. As an Apple Pencil user, I consider it a major selling point of an iPad Pro case; UAG’s design firmly grips the pencil while enabling it to be removed as needed.

Another nice touch is Composite Case’s optional Smart Keyboard compatibility — the first practical solution I’ve seen to address the needs of both Smart Keyboard users and the many people who won’t spend $170 on the optional accessory. If you want to attach a keyboard, a hard plastic bracket detaches from Composite Case’s long edge to permit both magnetic and Smart Connector attachment. Should you prefer not use the feature, five pegs and latches keep the bracket in place. I love that UAG included the bracket, but have no desire to use it.

Why? Composite Case frees iPad Pro users to adopt what will — in the absence of a better Apple solution — become the dominant “large tablet” paradigm going forward: as-needed access to a wireless keyboard such as Logitech’s K811 or Apple’s Magic Keyboard rather than a bulky, always-connected wired keyboard. Up until now, the key missing piece to enable this for the iPad Pro was an integrated stand, but Composite Case fixes that while adding drop protection and an Apple Pencil holder to the tablet. Apple’s $140 alternative — pairing an $80 iPad Pro Silicone Case with a $60 iPad Pro Smart Cover — is more expensive, less drop-safe, and has no Apple Pencil solution.

Having actually used Composite Case with my iPad Pro, I can tell you that it’s impressive enough to keep on the tablet at all times: polished, sturdy, and practical. It adds only a little weight and size to the already large tablet, while radically expanding its utility. The only way the iPad Pro fits into my life is when it has an ever-present stand to support it on flat surfaces, preferably with both protection and easy access to the Apple Pencil. I’m genuinely thankful that Composite Case is here already to deliver on all these fronts; it’s worthy of my highest recommendation.

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