For years I have hoped that one day my iPad would replace my laptop as my go-to computer. I’ve tried a variety of keyboards over the years hoping that the next one would be “the one” that could tie everything together. The release of the Magic Keyboard, Apple’s latest attempt to make a keyboard for the iPad, is littered with promise and compromise. Can the addition of a trackpad and butterfly switch keys make the iPad feel like the laptop you have always wanted?
First of all, the Magic Keyboard is not light. It’s not heavy either, though, but at 1.3 pounds, it is heavier than the 11” iPad Pro. At 2.3 pounds, the iPad Pro with the addition of the Magic Keyboard starts to creep into laptop territory for weight.
To be fair, the weight of the Magic Keyboard is there to balance out the weight with the iPad Pro attached. The last thing you want is your $800+ iPad tipping over.
Weight aside, the Magic Keyboard feels incredibly durable and tough. As is the case with Apple products, the keyboard doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap in any way. Just like so many third-party Apple keyboards, there is no flex, noisy hinge or questionable security keeping the iPad firmly in place. The soft-touch plastic feels very good to touch and captures all of the dust you could possibly hope for. Fingerprints are also common with the keyboard, and that is more of an eyesore than anything else.
One of the best additions to the Magic Keyboard is the addition of illuminated keys. The backlighting is based on the ambient lighting in a room, but when you use it, you’re so grateful you have it. Additionally, the Magic Keyboard includes two ports:, one for the Smart Connector that pairs to the iPad Pro and another that’s used as a USB-C pass-through charging port. The latter addition is a smart move by Apple to ensure that cables do not get in the way while working.
Ultimately, typing is the decider of whether or not the Magic Keyboard will be a success. How well does it type? The good news is that typing on this thing is excellent. It feels precise, durable and responsive. By and large, the Magic Keyboard feels like one of the best keyboards I have used in a long, long time. The soft-touch of the material feels great against my palms and nothing like the cold aluminum of my 2015 MacBook Pro.
One of the biggest caveats with typing has been the absence of an escape key, but that has not surfaced more than once or twice in my three weeks with the keyboard. You can also remap certain keys within iOS settings to add a shortcut the keyboard omits out of the box. Beyond that, you’ll likely be hard-pressed to find much to complain about with typing. It’s typically good for an Apply product.
If I had any complaints, it would be that the arrow keys are small or that the function row I’ve come to love on my Mac is missing. All of that said, I have really enjoying typing on this and have never felt cramped or uncomfortable. Even the one time I moved the keyboard to the sofa with me, it was still a really good typing experience. Keeping it balanced was another story.
Enter the Trackpad
With new cursor support in iPadOS, Apple has opened the door to an entirely new experience using a mouse. The burning question is whether it really changes how you work with the iPad day to day. The short answer is no, and that’s kind of the point. Apple’s positioning on the trackpad/mouse support is to augment your workflow, not replace touch as your first choice. At only 100mm x 50mm, the trackpad is by no means large, but it’s typical Apple quality. The level of sensitivity feels just right, and, while it is small, it’s never felt too small.
The biggest benefit for me has been when writing reviews/emails/notes on the keyboard and needing to reposition the cursor. That has always been a headache for me on iOS and with the vaunted iOS magnifying glass gone in the latest iOS updates, now it’s even more so. The trackpad makes all of those headaches seamlessly disappear. The same can be said for highlighting text or copy/pasting somewhere else. The trackpad just works for me to be able to move the cursor around independently without any struggle or frustration. It’s a night-and-day change.
Will It Fold?
The largest concern for any Magic Keyboard user over time will likely fall on the hinge. As is the case with many different types of devices, hinges can often over time lead to less durability and less reliability. Laptop hinges, on the other hand, tend to be strong and last for years, so the hope is that this keyboard offers similar construction. The Magic Keyboard opens at one specific angle, while a second hinge is responsible for the actual iPad screen tilt. What that means is that the hinge where the iPad rests does most of the heavy lifting.
The good news is so far, so good. The hinge feels as durable as it did on day one, and while the real test will come after a few months and not a few weeks, early results are promising. If there is one drawback to the hinge positioning, it’s the lack of a drawing option. This is not a case, so expectations were low, but it would have been nice if Apple had been able to configure a way the iPad could still lay flat on a table to draw. It may be more akin to something we would like to see in version two.
What Is Missing?
My biggest concern with the Magic Keyboard is protection, which is lacking. As a keyboard, this product, excels but as a case, it offers no drop-protection whatsoever. While it’s strong enough that I am not concerned with throwing it in a backpack, moving it from room to room requires attention. It’s not that the iPad could slip out from the case, as the magnets are too strong for that.
Instead, it’s the accidental drop as the dog jumps between my legs that scares me or my kids surprising me in the hallway. Apple has never been one to wrap its product in a protective bubble, but this case begs for a little something extra. It likely won’t bother people who never move the keyboard from a desk, but for anyone who travels or likes to work in different rooms, it’s worth considering.
Ultimately, the Magic Keyboard is really, really good. Is it great? If it were it lighter and more protective, I think it would be great. That said, the core functionality of typing and the trackpad are easily best in class.
The other big consideration is the price. At $299 for the 11” and $329 for the 12”, this is not a cheap keyboard. There are dozens of other iPad keyboard options that cost far less. Are they as good? No, some are not even close. But you can likely buy one of those keyboards and the Apple Pencil and still not spend as much as the Magic Keyboard. In the end, the quality, durability and typing experience make the Magic Keyboard well worth choosing.