Best iPad accessories of 2016

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These are our favorites!
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

2016 Year in Review Cult of Mac Accessory makers churned out some awesome new gadgets for the iPad in 2016. From cases to Star Wars toys, loads of new gear came along to boost the capabilities of the world’s favorite tablets.

Whether for the Pro line or the less-powerful Air or mini models, these are the best iPad accessories of 2016.

Logitech Create backlit keyboard case

Logitech Create iPad Pro
Don’t buy Apple’s Smart Keyboard. Buy this.
Photo: Logitech

Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro lacks features like function keys and backlighting, and yet it remains wildly expensive. That’s why we recommend the Logitech Create instead.

Not only is it a great iPad keyboard, but it’s also a great case. It protects your iPad front and back when it’s not in use, and even offers storage for your Apple Pencil. Create also boasts all the function keys you would expect from an iPad keyboard — including playback controls and a home button — and each key is backlit.

Create uses the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector as opposed to Bluetooth, so there’s no need to worry about pairing or losing your connection. This also means that Create is powered by the iPad itself, so there’s no need to charge another battery.

All of this comes far cheaper than the Apple Smart Keyboard.

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Speck StyleFolio Pencil

Speck StyleFolio Pencil
Don’t need the keyboard? Check out the StyleFolio Pencil.
Photo: Speck

If you want iPad protection without the keyboard, check out the Speck StyleFolio Pencil. It combines a hard shell with a soft, impact-resistant liner for all-around protection from dings and drops. It’s lightweight yet durable, and comes with built-in speaker scoops that project sound from your iPad’s speakers directly toward you (rather than out the sides).

The StyleFolio Pencil includes room for the Apple Pencil, but if you don’t need that, Speck also offers a basic StyleFolio case without the Pencil slot that costs $20 less.

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Speck iGuy case for iPad Pro

Speck iGuy for iPad
Perfect for kids!
Photo: Speck

If you need a case that’s great for kids, look no further than the iGuy from Speck. Made out of tough EVA foam, it meets all the requirements for military-grade MIL-STD-810G drop-test standards. It has handles that make it easy to carry, feet that allow it to stand freely, and speaker scoops similar to those found in the StyleFolio lineup.

The iGuy has been around for a few years, but a new model this year fits the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and is available in Caribbean blue and chili pepper red, and it will keep your iPad safe no matter how clumsy your kids are!

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Apple Silicone Case

Apple Silicone case for iPad Pro
Protection pure and simple.
Photo: Apple

For simpler, sleeker protection, there’s Apple’s own Silicone Case for iPad. It’s slim, lightweight and protects only the back of your device if you don’t want to be fiddling around with folios. It plays nicely with Apple’s Smart Cover if you want to add front protection later, and it’s available in a whole bunch of fancy color options.

(Like the iGuy, it’s been around for a while but got an upgrade for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, so we’ll let it in on a technicality.)

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Battle-Worn BB-8 with Star Wars Force Band from Sphero

Battle-Worn BB-8 by Sphero with Force Band
Probably the best Star Wars toy you can buy.
Photo: Sphero

The BB-8 app-controlled droid was by far the coolest Star Wars toy you could buy in 2015, and this year’s upgraded version got even better. You can control it from your iPad (or iPhone) using on-screen controls or voice commands. Or you can use the accompanying Force Band, which you wear on your wrist so you can control BB-8 with a wave of your hand.

The cute little droid, updated with a “battle-worn” look that’s closer to its on-screen depiction in The Force Awakens, is designed to move just like the real BB-8, and it explores your home autonomously when you’re not in control of it. There’s even a built-in camera that lets you create holographic recordings.

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Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil
Apple Pencil is the best iPad accessory.
Photo: Apple

We saved the best for last — and it’s kind of a cheat. While technically the Apple Pencil got released in November 2015, ship times immediately slipped as iPad Pro owners scrambled to get their mitts on the sold-out styluses. For many unhappy campers, the Apple Pencil didn’t arrive until 2016.

At this point, if you have an iPad Pro, you should have an Apple Pencil. It’s the ultimate iPad companion, and by far the best stylus you can buy. Performance is exceptional, with virtually no lag or latency, and you get around 12 hours of use between charges.

The Pencil also packs pressure and tilt sensors, so you can draw thicker lines or take advantage of impressive shading effects simply by applying pressure or tilting the Pencil slightly. Setup is as easy as plugging the Pencil into the bottom of your iPad and you’re good to go.

.com/dp/B016NY7784/?tag=cult087-20" title="Buy from Amazon" class="norewrite" rel="nofollow">Amazon

What are your favorite iPad accessories of 2016?

These are our favorite iPad accessories of the year. What are yours?

Let us know in the comments which iPad accessories impressed you in 2016 — and why they made an impact.