A tablet can be a great productivity tool on its own, but it's even better with the right accessories. A keyboard is handy for extended typing sessions, and a mouse or stylus makes precise tasks like editing a spreadsheet a lot easier. Some tablets are even compatible with docking stations that can transform your tablet into a desktop computer. You'll want to protect your decked-out work slate with a case, too.
Read on for five accessories that can turn a basic tablet into a serious productivity machine.
Available for: iPads, Android tablets, Windows tablets
A touch-screen keyboard is fine for hammering out quick email replies, but it can't beat a physical keyboard for serious typing.
- Android: With an Android tablet, your keyboard options vary depending on which model you own. Some tablets, like the Asus Transformer Book T200, come with a snap-on keyboard right out of the box. For other models, you can pick up a Bluetooth keyboard, and use a clamshell case to keep your tablet and keyboard together.
- Windows: Most Windows tablets include a full-size USB port, so just about any keyboard you can find will work. Some models, like the Surface Pro 3 or Dell Venue 11 Pro, are compatible with keyboards made for that particular tablet. Of course, any Bluetooth keyboard will work as well.
- iPad: None of the iPad models released so far includes a USB port, but there are plenty of Bluetooth keyboards available for both mini and full-size iPads. And if you're working at a desk, Apple's full-size wireless keyboard for Mac computers is a pretty good option.
Available for: Android tablets, Windows tablets
Touch screens can't always give you the precise control you need. When you sit down at a table or desk, a mouse is a much better tool for precision pointing.
- Android: The Android operating system features external mouse support, but not all Android tablets come with a USB port. A Bluetooth mouse should work with just about any model, though. You also have the option to buy a micro USB adapter.
- Windows: Windows tablets, which run on the full desktop version of Windows, were built with mouse pointing in mind. Most Windows tablets come with at least one full-size USB tablet, so plug in and start working. Bluetooth mice are another good choice.
- iPad: Sorry, iPad fans. Apple tablets don't work with mice — period.
Available for: Android tablets, Windows tablets, iPads
A tablet paired with a stylus makes a great digital notepad. The accessory also gives you more precise control for times when using a mouse isn't practical.
- Android: Some Android tablets, including those in Samsung's Galaxy Note line, actually come with a stylus and a pressure-sensitive touch screen for accurate, natural handwriting. For other Android slates, you can pick up a capacitive stylus that works with any model.
- Windows: Likewise, some Windows tablets come with a stylus. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a pen, integrated note-taking apps and a pressure-sensitive display. Otherwise, grab a capacitive stylus, and get writing.
- iPad: You won't find an iPad model with a built-in stylus, but there are plenty of third-party options, including a few that detect how hard you're pressing.
Available for: Windows 8 tablets
A docking station is different from a simple charging dock. It's like a desktop hub that adds extra ports, letting you connect your tablet to a mouse, keyboard, external hard drive, monitor and more. But the real benefit of a desktop dock is that it eliminates the need to plug in all your accessories each time you sit down at your desk. But although laptop docks are common, tablet compatibility is limited.
- Android: There are no true docking stations for Android tablets, but you can get something close. Some tablets, such as the Dell Venue 11 Pro, are compatible with keyboard accessories that add extra USB ports, and an HDMI port for connecting a separate monitor. If you leave it on your desktop, that sort of keyboard accessory makes for a decent docking station.
- Windows 8: For desktop docking, Windows tablets are your best bet. The Surface Pro 2 andSurface Pro 3 are compatible with Microsoft's dock, and a similar accessory is available for the Dell Venue 11 Pro. Belkin's desktop dock is compatible with any Windows 8 tablet that has a USB 3.0 port.
- iPad: The iPad can't be docked, but you can mirror its screen on a larger monitor with the help of an adapter.
Cases and folios
Whether you're commuting or leaving for a business trip, your tablet is likely to go with you, so grab a case to keep it protected from drops and dings.
- Android: The number of case options you have depends on the popularity of your particular Android tablet. You'll have the most options for models in Samsung's Galaxy series or Google's Nexus line.
- Windows 8: Most keyboard accessories for Windows tablets double as a screen protector, and standard cases are available for most models.
- iPad: Apple sells two different cases for the iPad: the Smart Case, which covers the front and back of your tablet and can act as a kickstand; and the Smart Cover, which protects just the front of your iPad.