iPad Pro Magic Keyboard thoughts

05 May 2020
Product photo of the iPad Pro with Apple Magic Keyboard

Now that I’ve had the new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro for almost 2 weeks I just wanted to write down my thoughts (I’m using the 12.9" model with my 2018 generation iPad Pro).

I wasn’t sure whether I would keep or return during the 14 day period - was it worth the money? Let’s start with the Pros, as there are many!

  • The keyboard is just lovely to use - just the right amount of travel and backlit. I love the satisfying clunky-tap the keys make and just how nice it feels to type on. With the old ‘smart’ keyboard, the keys came right to the front where I normally rest my palms, and so constantly triggered the emoji keyboard. On the Magic Keyboard the trackpad means the keys are pushed back. In fact, this the nicest keyboard feel I’ve ever typed on. I’ve found myself defaulting to this if I know I have long form writing to do (like this).
  • The trackpad is small but works well. It supports a nice selection of gestures and the interactions with the cursor, and how it changes in context feel like the future. Initially it was hard to remember that I didn’t have to reach up to the screen anymore (some apps like Affinity Designer still need this for navigating the canvas though). I also missed the way that MacOS cursors change - e.g showing a pointer or magnifying glass for zoom, but that soon went. The only issue with the trackpad is that you feel its small size when scrolling vertically, as if you’re ‘running out of trackpad’.
  • With all the ‘thickness’ being in the screen , the part under your hands is quite thin - an aspect I really liked about the wedge shaped MacBook Air. There’s no hard edge underneath your palms like on a Macbook.
  • I love ‘floating screen’ feature of the Magic Keyboard is great. It’s only a small amount of lift, but it makes more difference than I thought it would!
  • Overall, it’s sturdy and well balanced. You can draw against it or pull the iPad off the case without it falling over, and it’s pretty good on lap-ability. It does tend to lean very slightly away from you, but it works better than tablets with a kickstand, and resting your hands on it balances this out.

The cons are fewer, but there are some:

  • There’s no getting around it. It’s too expensive. Even though it does everything Apple claim it does, and does it well, its still overpriced for what it is. It’s almost half the cost of the base level iPad Pro, or 100% the cost of a base level iPad.
  • It’s bulky and heavy. Obviously the keyboard part adds thickness, but so does the fairly redundant back part. It feels as if it’s only that thick just to protect the protruding camera lens. The Verge described it more as a ‘Desktop Dock’ and I can see that, but I would use it more as a out-and-about solution. On a desk I’m more likely to use to a separate keyboard and mouse.
  • It’s not as adjustable as I would like. You can’t bring the screen forwards over the keyboard for a lower drawing angle as I hoped. Some crazy fools have been turning the whole thing upside down like they did with the old Smart Keyboard (as if that’s an acceptable solution for such an expensive bit of kit). However, what you can do is take the iPad off and rest it on the lip: between the space bar and trackpad. It’s very sturdy, and obviously the iPad is no longer connected, so no accidental key press problems. It’s just not as low an angle as I need:

  • USB-C port on the hinge is a nice idea, but a little on the slow side to charge, and doesn’t support accessories - charging only.
  • Not all apps are optimised for trackpad or even keyboard yet. Affinity Designer is one that I rely on that doesn’t take full advantage.

Summary

The Magic Keyboard transforms the way I use the iPad - I’m using the iPad more than ever now that I’ve got this. Back in February I said that only two things were an issue with using the iPad long term - ergonomics and software limitations. With the changes Apple made in iPadOS 13.4 to support proper use of an external keyboard and mouse/trackpad it mostly solves the first one. Once the OS makes full use of an external monitor (not just mirrored with black bars) I can tick that one off completely. Even Figma is now useable on iPad (to a degree, but to a much greater degree than it did a few months ago). Times have changed.

If you want the iPad to feel like a laptop, this is currently the best way to do it. You could question what the point is in it being a touch device - what’s the advantage over a MacBook? It’s also not perfect, especially when you consider the high, high cost with the bulk and lack of angle adjustability problems. Part of me wants to return this bulky thing, and go back to just using my iPad as just a drawing tool, and a laptop for everything else. Despite this, I can’t stop using it. I want to type on that lovely keyboard.

So, I ended up keeping it, but I do think Apple could’ve made this lighter and thinner for the price. Now the floodgates will be open to third-parties making their own solution - hopefully one that is cheaper, thinner and more adjustable. The Logitech Combo Touch case is already two out of that three.