Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro
Let’s address the elephant in the room first. The Magic Keyboard is expensive. It’s $439 for the 11-inch model and $519 for the 12.9-inch model. For that kind of money, these keyboards had better be magical.
So, are they?
Well, it’s a bit disheartening that it’s made out of the soft-touch rubber material like the Smart Keyboard Folio. I’m sceptical of softtouch rubber because I have had many bad experiences with other devices with similar housings that have degraded and become sticky over time. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to any of my older Smart Keyboard Folios.
There are upsides to this. Compared to an all-steel construction, soft-touch rubber doesn’t add too much thickness and weight to the iPad Pro. According to my measurements, the Magic Keyboard adds about 6mm and 700g of heft and weight, bringing the total package to about 12mm and 1.34kg.
The iPad Pro docks magnetically to Magic Keyboard via the Smart Connector so there’s no need for any pairing, charging, or fussing about. Just attach it in place and you’re ready to rock and roll. Unlike the Smart Keyboard Folio, the Magic Keyboard has what Apple calls a “floating cantilever” design, which consists of two hinges, that keeps the iPad Pro floating above the keyboard and enables the user to adjust the tilt of the iPad Pro.
This is incredibly useful as it addresses the older Smart Keyboard Folio’s lack of adjustability. The angle of adjustment isn’t actually too great – I reckon it’s around 30 to 40 degrees – but it provides more flexibility. What impressed me most was how well the Magic Keyboard was put together. Not only is there no flopping around, the angle of tilt didn’t budge even if I shook the keyboard around. And the magnets holding the iPad Pro in place were so strong you can adjust the tilt angle simply by tilting the iPad Pro.
The downside is that the Magic Keyboard cannot fold flat onto itself. This means you can’t use the iPad Pro as a tablet when it’s attached to the Magic Keyboard. You have to remove it first, which can be bothersome.
Incorporated within the left side of the hinge is a USB-C port for pass-through charging. For heavy iPad Pro users, this frees up the USB-C port on the iPad Pro itself for other things like an external display or a USB-C hub. The right side of the hinge is bare and looks like it could have been the perfect spot to incorporate some sort of storage for the Apple Pencil.
Unlike the Smart Keyboard Folio, the keys on the Magic Keyboard uses a scissors-switch mechanism just like on the keyboard in the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. They have 1mm of travel, backlit keys, and even a trackpad to take advantage of the new trackpad and mouse support in iPadOS 13.4.
The best thing I can say about the Magic Keyboard is that typing on it feels like typing on 16-inch MacBook Pro or the just-announced MacBook Air. Keycaps are black and are genuinely full-sized; legends use the same clean San Francisco font that the MacBook Magic Keyboard uses, which allows the backlight to shine through without backlight bleed either. The layout of the keys is identical to the one on the MacBooks too. The only thing to note insofar as the layout is concerned is that there are no function keys, no media shortcut keys, and no Esc key.
The trackpad is not as large as those on MacBooks, but it’s generous enough considering size constraints. Crucially, it is accurate, responsive, and multi-finger gestures work as they should.
The Magic Keyboard mostly lives up to its name. The floating design is cool and functional, the USB-C pass-through port is a thoughtful addition, the trackpad is great, and typing experience is one of the very best for a keyboard accessory. Furthermore, it doesn’t add too much heft to the iPad Pro. Rivals like the Brydge Pro+ and Logitech Slim Folio Pro offer comparable typing experiences, but they also add a lot more bulkiness and weight.
It does have some shortcomings. The inability to fold flat and use the iPad Pro as a tablet when attached is glaring. After all, the iPad Pro is, first and foremost, a tablet. It also seems like a missed opportunity to me that Apple didn’t make better use of the hinge to build in some kind of storage space for the Apple Pencil.
Of course, there is price. There’s no way to sugar-coat this. As cool as the floating design is and as marvellous as the typing experience is, the Magic Keyboard is frightfully expensive. Buy the Magic Keyboard only if you have deep pockets and if you type a lot on your iPad Pro.
AT A GLANCE
USB-C (charging only)
12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd and 4th gen), 11-inch iPad Pro (1st and 2nd gen)