Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro

When Apple announced 2020’s iPad Pro’s I had zero interest in upgrading from my 2018 model but I really wanted the Magic Keyboard. So it was with some relief after reading the blurb about the new keyboard that it also worked with my 2018 model. It was due out May but ended up launching in April. Instant purchase even though it cost £349. For a keyboard.

The one niggle I had was the lack of any mention of weight on the Apple website. Apple is really good at listing weight spec’s and shouting from the rooftops about thinness and lightness…unless it wants to keep something hidden.

iPad Magic Keyboard

When the keyboard finally arrived I was surprised at the small packaging. I opened the box, took out the keyboard, ripped of the packaging and my first reaction was…this is pretty heavy. Heavier than iPad Pro heavy. Uncomfortably heavy. Mmmm. I then opened the keyboard and the hinge mechanism felt stiff and awkward. Mmmm. Not the best of starts and one of the few products I’ve bought where my immediate thoughts were this is getting returned.

I then snapped on the iPad Pro and I do mean snap. The magnets really grip the iPad in place. Opening and closing the keyboard with the iPad Pro attached was initially awkward. Unlike most devices of the last 20 years, the weight is in the top and not the bottom. Usually you lift open a light screen in a laptop. The iPad weighs more than just a screen and is thicker so it feels counter intuitive. However after a couple of days it feels fine and you get used to finding out the convenient ways of opening and closing the keyboard.

Those initial impressions were just over three weeks ago so I’ve had plenty time to pull together some thoughts. First, the positives:

  • The keyboard is great. A real step up from the Smart Keyboard folio, the keys have proper travel and are also backlit. Far more comfortable to use for extended periods. The base is rock solid too and doesn’t flex at all when typing no matter the surface it’s on. Didn’t realise how much I missed backlit keys until I got this keyboard.
  • The trackpad although small is a great addition to the iPad. Coupled with the new cursor support it makes text editing far easier and app’s as they add support take on a new feel. Only time I notice the size is vertical scrolling. One oddity is that the trackpad is a return to a physical click rather than the haptics in the Magic Trackpad. I also found it better to visit Settings > General > Trackpad and increase the tracking speed.
  • The trackpad supports a nice range of gestures that are well worth getting to know to help with usability day to day.
  • Love the floating iPad Pro. The viewing angle is the same as the Smart Keyboard folio…and I think I’d have liked another 5 degrees or so to tilt it back but I’m being picky. Now that I’ve got used to top being heavier, it’s easy to use and the hinge is super strong and doesn’t flex.
  • One aspect of the Magic Keyboard is you can’t fold the keyboard around the back of the iPad so I’m taking the iPad off the case more often than not. Never did that with the folio…and it makes for a more comfortable reading/relaxing device that way too.
  • Taking the iPad off the keyboard can be done with one hand like most have said but I usually hold the keyboard and pull off the iPad. The magnets are really strong and the photo below shows just how many are being used to snap the iPad into place. There’s also a lot of engineering in the keyboard and hinge mechanism.

X-ray of the Magic Keyboard thanks to iFixit

There are however a few con’s to this new design that are worth considering.

  • For sketching there’s no perfect angle. Would have liked somehow to get an angle of around 170 so you can sketch with a bit of weight behind it but unless you turn the whole keyboard over….which looks ridiculous…then there’s no real solution. Maybe v2 in a couple of years time will address this.
  • The USB-C while useful charges at a slower rate than if you plug directly into the iPad which is a shame. It also is a charging port only – no accessory support which is a bummer.
  • It does make the overall iPad Pro a lot heavier – up there with laptop sizes so you may want to think through what you really want from a mobile device before going down the iPad Pro + Magic Keyboard route.
  • At £349 it still feels really expensive. Even £249 would feel expensive.

Should you buy one?

If you do any typing on the iPad Pro then yes pick one up despite the price. If you want the iPad to be more laptop like then it’s another yes. However the combined price would get you a cracking laptop so it really comes down to what you do day to day with your laptop or iPad and whether the Magic Keyboard add’s value.

The Magic Keyboard has really improved the way I use the iPad Pro. I could argue thats its transformational. The keyboard and trackpad coupled with the software changes in iPadOS to add cursor support really do add another dimension to the iPad. Cursor support has only been around for a few month but it feels so natural in iOS and so well integrated it feels like its always been there. The keyboard looks and feels great, which it really should for the price, and if you are making use of your iPad for an hour or two a day I’m sure you’ll like the Magic Keyboard as much as I do.

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