Can the iPad Pro be a full time computer or what kind of computer? The Magic Keyboard is a very well made very expensive add on for an already expensive iPad.
We spent almost a year with the Magic Keyboard and we are ready to share our impression of Apple’s most expensive accessory.
What we like:
- Beautiful “Floating Design”
- Excellent typing experience
- Well built
What we don’t:
- Very expensive (at the time of launch)
- Thick and heavy
- Limited angles
It used to be that what differentiates the iPad Pro from your laptop is that the device may not be a great work device, but it shines on playing games, browsing the web, reading the news and watching Netflix. With the Magic Keyboard, your iPad becomes a hybrid further blurring the lines between laptop and tablet computers.
Design and Build Quality
The Magic Keyboard is elegant, sturdy and very well build. The dual-hinged floating screen design is a very unique in that it hovers in the air beautifully. There is this wonderful feeling of opening the device and bringing the screen closer to your face. It sits very well on your desk and your lap at certain angles (90°-130°). Unlike laptops that can open wider, that limited angle makes it quite difficult when working on your lap. The base of the Magic Keyboard doesn’t flex at all and the top has plenty of magnets that will hold your iPad without the slightest chance of accidentally removing it.
There is a USB-C port on the side of the hinge that powers the Magic Keyboard but it only does pass-through charging and not data transfer. It runs opposite of where the USB-C is on the iPad. It’s an advantage when your power cord is at the opposite side of the table. Charging speed on the pass-through port is around 15% slower based on our test compared than plugging it directly on the iPad. When you want to use your iPad Pro with your Apple Pencil to draw, you’ll need to pull the iPad off.
We are used to live in a world where devices are being built thinner every year and iPad is no stranger to that. The iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard however is not travel and bag friendly as it is thick, and it’s heavy. I guess being built sturdy has it’s disadvantage. The 12.9 inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard that we use weights about 1.35kg (3 pounds). That is about the same weight as the 13-inch MacBook Pro and heavier than the MacBook Air. For those who carries an iPad and a laptop, it would significantly add to the weight of your backpack.
The Keyboard and Trackpad
With the Magic Keyboard, Apple has transformed the device into a typing machine. Typing on this device is very much comparable to my MacBook Pro. The keyboard has an excellent travel at 1mm and it clicks beautifully. It uses the new scissor switch mechanism and it blows all the other Smart Keyboard we’ve used by a lot. The keys are backlit and the brightness adjust based on the ambient lighting in the room. There are however no function keys making it a bit tedious when you want to for example lower keyboard brightness when watching a Netflix movie. There are also no ESC key handy and the way to quit or switch between apps is by using the trackpad or pressing Command + Tab.
The trackpad is limited in size though especially if you’re used to the huge trackpads found on MacBooks. You can press anywhere in the trackpad and it physically clicks. The trackpad gestures like switching between apps are intuitive and it completes the whole Magic Keyboard experience. When using the trackpad, a small round cursor appears, in place of a floating arrow that allows you to interface various elements of your screen. It fades away when not in use. Apple chose a circle since it because it looked similar to the tip of the finger.
The sturdy base housing the keyboard does not flex. It could have been nice to have a thin layer of battery over the base to make the Magic Keyboard self sustaining in terms of power and not rely on power draw from the iPad Pro. And better yet perhaps in the future to have the Smart Connector connecting the device to the keyboard charge whatever is connected to it. And have enough battery to lend a charge to your iPad Pro in those moments you need absolutely need to.
Price and Final Impression
The Magic Keyboard is very expensive at $299 for the 11 inch and $349 for the 12.9 inch at the time of release. It works with both the first and second generation (2018 and 2020) iPad Pro. At that price, that’s almost the price of an iPad or an iPhone SE. Add to it the high starting price of the iPad Pro and you’re left between the choice of getting a MacBook Pro instead.
The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is a gorgeous well built typing machine that will sit on your desk beautifully. It takes away the mobility of having the iPad as an entertainment or reading device and transforms it into a working machine. Buying it will depend on what you use your iPad for. It’s closest you’ll get to the laptop experience. A better use case for it is to just have it sit on your desk while you do normal work, and just remove the iPad from the Magic Keyboard whenever you want to use it in the couch or on the bed to watch movies or play games. It sorts of transforms your iPad into a computer, but it is still not enough due to the limitations of iPadOS.
As we come close to a new iPad release cycle, those who don’t plan to upgrade to a new iPad Pro soon can start shopping for a keyboard now as that there are plenty of bargain in the market that can make the price of this very expensive accessory more palatable. You can check the latest sale here on Amazon.com.
Update: As of April 20, Apple has added a white color for the Apple Magic Keyboard. Apple Magic Keyboard remains compatible with the 2021 iPad Pro.
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