One of the most interesting features Apple introduced together with the 2020 iPad Pro is touchpad support and the new Apple Magic Keyboard. It took a while, but it’s been released now and you can buy it at a starting price of 299 US Dollars. That is crazy expensive for a keyboard. So is it worth it? That’s what we’ll discuss in this Apple Magic Keyboard review.
The packaging looks very simple and clean, just as we’re used to from Apple. When unboxing the keyboard I immediately noticed how heavy it is. Unusually heavy – more about that later. Inside that box, we get a quick start guide, warranty papers, and the keyboard itself. I’ve gotten the version for the 11-inch iPad Pro that costs 299 Dollars. You’ll have to pay 349 Dollars for the one for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Apple Magic Keyboard Design
I like the design of this keyboard cover a lot. It looks very elegant – Apple just knows how to do that. The cover consists of a kind of softer-feeling black plastic which seems to be the same material of the Smart Keyboard Folios.
You connect the iPad Pro to the Magic Keyboard using the Smart Connector and very strong magnets. Due to those strong magnets, the iPad is connected very well. It’s surprisingly sturdy. Folded up, the display and back of the tablet are protected but the sides are free.
The iPad can be folded up in several angles and the tablet is hovering above the keyboard. That looks very nice and elegant. However, I wish I could fold back the iPad just a little bit more to make it more comfortable when using it on my lap. But I guess then it wouldn’t sit as secure.
As I said, the Apple Magic Keyboard is surprisingly heavy. That’s what it is – it weighs 601 grams and is heavier than the tablet. That means that together with the iPad Pro it’s about the same weight of a light notebook – especially if you get the even heavier 12.9-inch version. I guess that’s the reason why the cover feels so sturdy and stable. Even though the tablet is hovering above the keyboard, that combination sits firmly on the table and doesn’t wobble at all. Just like with a laptop.
By the way, the predecessors from 2018 are compatible too. In that case, the camera cutout is bigger than needed but it works well.
A little tube sits inside the hinge that houses some electronics and the USB C port. Using that port you can charge the iPad Pro. So, the power is passed through the keyboard case. You can’t use it to connect accessories but due to that extra port, you’ve got the USB C port of the iPad free for that. The keyboard does not have to be charged separately. It’s powered by the tablet.
How Good Is The Keyboard?
Alright, let’s get to that keyboard. It does feel like a real and well-made laptop keyboard. I got the 11-inch version and that one is a bit smaller than a typical desktop keyboard. But the Magic Keyboard for the 12.9-inch one has the standard size. And I think the 11-inch one is big enough too. I’ve been able to type with it very seamlessly, but I’m also used to the Smart Keyboard Folios.
I like that the keys have a real travel here of 1mm. Apparently, Apple based this keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard. As I said, the keyboard does feel like one of a solid, well-made notebook and not like a typical tablet keyboard.
Another feature I like is the background light. To make it brighter or darker, you’ll have to go through the settings though. There’s no shortcut for that. In fact, those are missing in general. I wish we would get additional function keys for the multitasking or volume controls and so on. But well, those are missing because there’s no additional row above the numbers.
One feature I love about the Microsoft Type Cover for their Surface tablets is that you can angle up their keyboards a bit. That makes it more comfortable to write. But due to the design of the Magic Keyboard, it always sits flat on a table.
All About The Trackpad
The trackpad sits underneath the keyboard. It’s much smaller than the touchpads of standard laptops and is similar in size to other tablet-trackpads like Microsoft’s Type Cover for their Surface tablets. But that’s not a huge downside because, with a tablet keyboard, you just don’t have unlimited space.
While the trackpad is small, it is very well made. It works very precisely and smoothly. I like that you can click down everywhere on the touchpad. You can change in the settings that you just have to tip the trackpad slightly to click if you want.
On the software side, the touchpad is supported very well in iPadOS 13.4 too. Most of the time the mouse is a small dot. But when you’re hovering over text, it transforms itself into the text-select cursor. And if you’re hovering over buttons or apps, they get highlighted.
To perform a right-click, you click with two fingers at the same time. There are other gestures. When swiping up with three fingers, you go to the home screen. And if you swipe up a bit slower and hold, you access the multitasking view. And when swiping right or left with three fingers, you switch to previously opened apps. With two fingers, you can scroll or zoom in on websites or photos, just like with the touchscreen.
Sadly, not all features of the mouse are supported in all apps yet. While the mouse transforms into this text-curser in the Apple notes app, for instance, it doesn’t in Microsoft Word. It just emulates the finger there so that you can’t select text as easily. I guess it’ll take a couple of weeks or months until the most important apps have implemented the new APIs.
Smart Keyboard Folio Comparison
If you want to write texts with your iPad Pro, you’ve got to choose between the new Apple Magic Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folios now. Both can protect the tablet as a case too. But besides that, there are quite huge differences.
The Smart Keyboard Folio is much lighter. Really, a lot lighter, it’s around 300 grams compared to around 600 grams. So, if you want to travel as lightly as possible, you’ve got to get that one.
I also like with this keyboard cover that you can fold the keyboard onto the back of the iPad. That way you can use it as a normal tablet without having to take the cover off. It’s still protected to a degree. But that’s not possible with the Magic Keyboard. If you want to use the iPad as a tablet with that one, you’ve got to separate it from the keyboard.
With that being said, the typing compromises you’ve got to make with the Smart Keyboard Folio are higher. It does not feel as great as the Magic Keyboard. The keys don’t have that much of a travel, there’s no background light and no touchpad. Sure, the tablet has a touchscreen. But if you’re writing and especially editing lots of text, you can jump between paragraphs much faster with a mouse.
The Smart Keyboard Folio is too uncomfortable to use it for everyday work 8 hours a day. Instead, I think it’s a great travel keyboard if you just need to work a little bit now and then. And that does work, I’ve written lots and lots of articles with it. But with the Magic Keyboard, you can type comfortably longer. I also think it’s the better keyboard for traveling or your sofa if you need to type more. But, here again, I think if you’re typing texts every day for 8 hours straight, you should get a proper desktop-class keyboard for your iPad.
Apple Magic Keyboard Review: Final Verdict
So, what’s my final verdict? Well, I think the Apple Magic Keyboard is the best keyboard cover for a tablet you can get. The Type Cover from Microsofts comes very close, but the touchpad of the Magic Keyboard is better and its design is higher-end too. Now, that doesn’t mean that Microsoft’s tablet is not better suited for some tasks. This test is just about the keyboards alone.
While the Apple Magic Keyboard does have a very premium-feeling and elegant design and the keyboard and touchpad are great, it does have some negative aspects too. I wish I could fold back the iPad a bit more when using it on my lap. The heavy weight is a downside too – especially if you’re choosing the iPad Pro for work because it’s so light. You’ve got to keep that in mind.
The biggest downside is the price. 299 and 349 Dollars are crazy expensive for a tablet keyboard. Really, not just expensive but crazy expensive, that’s way too much. It’s not a good value at all if you keep in mind that you can get good Bluetooth keyboards for around 50 Dollars.
Still, it is a pretty and well-executed accessory for the iPad Pro but if you buy it, the price has to be irrelevant for you. I think I will keep it and test it further because I’m working a lot while traveling and also use the iPad in Cafes a lot. So, I can kind of justify to myself buying it. Still, the price is crazy. Let’s see what I’ll say about it in a year from now.
- Super-fast A12Z SoC
- Very pretty screen
- Great cameras
- Modern design
- Face ID
- Good speakers
- Up-to-date iPadOS
- Fantastic accessories
- Very pricey
- Few changes compared to predecessor
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