The iPad Pro has been my favorite piece of tech for a few years now. I had been using the iPad Pro 10.5 prior to upgrading to the iPad Pro 11 (2018). With the move to the more modern, industrial design, I have been on the hunt for a new keyboard for the iPad Pro 11.
I gave a couple budget iPad Pro keyboards a try. The first was the Arteck Keyboard for the iPad Pro. I posted my full review of the Arteck keyboard for the iPad Pro a few days ago. The case provided decent protection, but the typing experience left much to be desired. I also picked up an iPad Pro keyboard by Yekbee that showed some promise. It provided decent protection and a pretty good typing experience which offered backlighting, but the case felt cheap and the swivel hinge made for a really bad laptop experience as the iPad would lean backwards.
A Heavyweight and A Lighter Wallet
There is nothing cheap about the Magic Keyboard. I have the 11-inch version which runs for $300 retail. The 12.9-inch version runs $350. Apple did not skimp on the materials. The case feels well made. It has some heft to it. It actually weighs more than the iPad itself. The iPad Pro 11 (2018) weighs 468 grams. The weight of the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro 11 comes in at a whopping 601 grams! In contrast, the Smart Keyboard Folio case, which was the only official Apple keyboard case prior to the launch of the Magic Keyboard, weighs in at just 297 grams.
The design of the Magic Keyboard is one that has no middle ground. You either love it or hate it. The decision for either is more about the keyboard’s lack of compromise. Most would agree that the Smart Keyboard Folio was a case first and keyboard second. The Magic Keyboard is a keyboard first and a case, well… for when the iPad Pro is not in use.
It’s uncompromising simplicity is where it shines. If it were to flip over like the Smart Keyboard Folio allowing for tablet use, such an action would expose the keyboard to potential damage from crumbs, liquids, etc. on the surface the user would lay the device on. The sturdy and rigid docking station is solid and helps with weight distribution.
The magnets are super strong on the docking station and keep the iPad Pro firmly in its place. The rigidity of the docking station in combination with the strong magnets allow the iPad Pro to “float” and sit slightly elevated above the base of the keyboard. I don’t see this simply as a parlor trick but feel like it is actually practical in that it moves the iPad Pro more towards eye level.
The materials used by Apple for the Magic Keyboard are similar to those of the Smart Keyboard Folio’s outer case. The difference being that the keys on the Magic Keyboard are not covered in fabric as they are with the Smart Keyboard Folio. This, of course, means that the case is no longer water resistant. So, while it’s nice to have scissor switches and backlit keys, it’s terrifying to have what’s supposed to be an ultra portable device susceptible to water damage with just an accidental drop of water.
The rubbery material used on the Magic Keyboard picks up a ton of fingerprints and stains easily with skin oils, which is not something I’m a fan of during these times of excessive cleaning.
While I liked the form factor of the Arteck Keyboard Case for the iPad Pro, the typing experience was pretty terrible. I hated the keyboard case for the iPad Pro by Yekbee, but the keyboard was actually pretty decent. During my time with the iPad Pro 10.5 and its matching Smart Keyboard Folio case, I had very few complaints other than the materials breaking down so quickly. The typing experience was decent enough.
The typing experience on the Magic Keyboard is pretty fantastic. The keys feel very much like the scissor switch keys on modern MacBooks. The keys are larger than the keys on the Smart Keyboard Folio case. There is a decent amount of travel for the keys despite how thin the keyboard component is. The backlighting is a nice touch and all keys are evenly backlit.
Unfortunately, adjusting the backlighting of the keyboard keys is a chore as you have to go through a series of menus in the settings to adjust the volume. This is where things get frustrating. For all their faults, the Arteck and Yekbee Keyboards had a row of function keys that I was sad to see go when I picked up the Magic Keyboard. While many reviewers are complaining about the lack of an Escape key, I’m here irritated by no volume or brightness buttons being offered.
The trackpad is wonderful. There is nothing like it. Prior to diving into any keyboard experiments for the iPad Pro 11 (2018), I was using the combination of a Logitech’s multi device K780 Bluetooth keyboard and M720 Bluetooth mouse. This worked fine as a desktop solution, but was not a portable option and the M720 lacked some of the features offered with Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2. All the tricks are included in the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad.
The trackpad is quite small compared to the MacBook Pro’s new massive helipads, but it doesn’t take much to get used to. The scrolling and swiping through the iPadOS user interface is smooth and responsive. There are some UI quirks that need to be worked out in further OS updates and some apps that have yet to be updated for iPadOS’ recent update that introduced full mouse support, but it’s been a good experience overall.
“Lapability” and other odds and ends
The lapability of the iPad Pro/Magic Keyboard combination is excellent. I had no issues sitting on the couch typing up emails and drafting up presentations while watching the NFL Draft. @Eagles What is you doin’?
The Magic Keyboard is powered by the iPad Pro and provides an extra USB-C port for passthrough charging. This leaves the built-in USB-C port on the iPad Pro available for accessories and USB docks and hubs like this USB-C Hub for the iPad Pro by Cheotech.
While the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro offers up a variety of viewing angles, it is worth questioning if it offers up enough viewing angles for the iPad Pro. I would have liked it to be able to lean backwards just a hair more. The inability to adjust the viewing angle at the far end feels unnecessarily restricting, in my option.
The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is a no-compromise option for those who have dreams of turning their iPad into a laptop replacement. With its vast array of mobile apps optimized for iPadOS, desktop class browsing in Safari, and split screen multitasking options… For many, the iPad can serve as their only computer.
For me, the iPad Pro has replaced the MacBook Pro as my portable computer. With the kids going to school online following the stay-at-home orders forcing schools to close their doors for the current academic year, my beloved Late 2011 MacBook Pro 13” has moved on to my oldest daughter. I have a 2014 Mac Mini (i5, 8 GB RAM, 480 GB SSD) currently serving as my main computer, which I scored a few months ago for $160. The iPad Pro has met most of my needs when I have needed to be productive while away from my desktop.
Is Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro a must-have accessory? Absolutely not. Is it worth the high price tag? Well, that’s up to you to decide. Can you be just as productive with a lower-cost option? Definitely.
The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has opened up some ideas for me as to what the future holds for the iPad lineup. This dream of a hybrid/modular computer that easily switches between media consumption, passive gaming, and hardcore productivity is a dream I’ve had since the day I picked up the OG iPad Mini. I am here for it.