I’ve spent a week using Apple’s new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, much longer than I thought I would before writing this review. The simple truth is that it changed my thoughts on using the iPad Pro so dramatically, I questioned my initial enthusiasm. After a week, I’m confident that feelings are reliable, and my conclusion on day one remains: The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro changes everything.
Let’s face it, performance has never been a problem for the iPad, no matter how many generations you go back, the iPad has been a powerful device. The new iPad Pro, with the A12Z Bionic chip, is more powerful than most PC laptops on the market today. Augmented Reality, 4K video editing, 3D design are nothing for the iPad Pro—it’s what the device was built to do. Add in the Apple Pencil, and you have a tablet that can serve every pro graphics user and their needs, as well.
So, if power and performance weren’t the issues, what was it that held people back from using the iPad more? Like most of my reviews, this is a question I answered by pulling from my personal experiences.
I use my iPad quite a bit, but it’s usually at the end of the day when I’m researching a story, returning emails, or some other task that typically doesn’t require the apps that I use on my Mac. I put my MacBook Pro 16-inch down and pick up my iPad for the final bit of work I have to do. It’s easy and relaxing. But why didn’t I use the iPad more throughout the day? It certainly has the potential to do everything I need and much more, but still, I defaulted to the Mac.
After using the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, I believe the answer is simply familiarity. I can move around my Mac so quickly that it made sense for me to do all of my work on the machine I felt most comfortable with. At first, I thought this had everything to do with the macOS vs. iOS, but the more I used the Magic Keyboard, the more I realized it had everything to do with my hands. The ability to navigate around a device using a keyboard and trackpad was more critical than I ever gave it credit for, until now.
I’ve used Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad since they were first released—I didn’t like them. I could never figure out why the keys were so small and odd on the keyboard and mentioned that in my past reviews. The keyboard was something, but not enough to change the way I use the iPad for my daily tasks.
This admission is especially hard because I’ve changed my opinion completely: I laughed and scoffed at the thought of having a trackpad on the iPad keyboard. I said it on my podcast with Dave Mark on several occasions and never backed down from my thoughts that the trackpad on the iPad was the screen. I maintained that all Apple needed was a keyboard that more closely resembled a MacBook keyboard.
I was wrong.
From the minute I plugged in the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, I was enthralled with the trackpad. It allowed me to do things on the iPad in a way that felt more comfortable for me. I was faster navigating than I have ever been on an iPad before. I was having fun trying out all of the things I could do with the trackpad. Simple things like entering the multitasking window positioning the cursor in a document I was writing—I was like a little kid trying out a new toy.
It’s with the trackpad in particular that I forget the golden rule: never underestimate how clever Apple can be when implementing a feature. It’s a trackpad, what could Apple possibly do to make it work any different on an iPad? A lot.
First, it’s not a mouse on the screen, but a small grey circle. It’s easy to see and follow as you move it across the screen. When you hover over an app, it changes size alerting you to where the pointer is on the screen. If you hover over text, it changes shape to allow you to put the cursor in place or easily select some text. When you hover over an interface element, it changes to highlight that entire element. When it’s not in use, it simply fades away.
After I finished playing, it was time to get down to work and see how the iPad Pro performed using my new Magic Keyboard. There are a few things that were important to me beyond my new found love for the trackpad, and if they didn’t work, the iPad wouldn’t fit into my workflow.
The first of these is that it must fit in with the way I want to use my iPad. Most times, I’m outside, sitting in a chair, with my feet up and the iPad on my lap. The iPad needs to be sturdy enough on the floating keyboard so it doesn’t move around when I type or use the trackpad. Through all of my use, the screen didn’t move once—it barely even shook when I was typing. Adjust the screen to a comfortable angle, and you’re all set for as long as you need.
Speaking of adjusting the screen—that’s a thing too. When I’m not sitting on my comfy chair, I’m usually at a table. As you can imagine, the viewing angle of the iPad screen will change. With its floating design, the iPad screen moves seamlessly as you change the viewing angle to fit your most comfortable position. This was strange because the screen is so sturdy on the keyboard that I expected more resistance when I tried to move it, but it was very smooth.
Of course, one of the most important things for me was how efficient and comfortable it was when I started typing. Let’s be honest, the Magic Keyboard can be the coolest thing on the planet but if you’re not efficient using it, then it’s not going to work. Because the Magic Keyboard is full-size, you get the feeling of typing on a computer—it’s smooth, familiar, and comfortable, allowing you to get on with the work at hand. The keyboard uses a scissor mechanism with 1mm of key travel, the same as a MacBook keyboard.
The hinge on the Magic Keyboard also contains a pass-through charger, giving you the option to charge the iPad using the USB-C connection on the iPad itself, on the right-hand side, or the keyboard charger on the left-hand side. This may seem like a small thing unless you’ve had the charging cable running over your lap when you’re working or worse, running behind the iPad, and you try to get up.
There is one other element that I need to mention: Face ID. For some reason I always had trouble getting Face ID to work properly with the old Smart Keyboard, but that is fixed now. The angle of the screen using the Magic Keyboard allows Face ID to work nearly every time I pick up my iPad. That’s not only efficient, it also does away with a lot of frustration I had every time I wanted to use my iPad.
It truly feels like Apple thought of everything with the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. I tried everything I could think of to break the keyboard in my workflow, but it held up and surpassed every challenge I came up with. I will still use my Mac, of course, but I won’t think twice about using my iPad Pro even more during my daily routine. In fact, if I were going away on a trip today, I would only take my iPad Pro—normally, I would have a MacBook and an iPad.
The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro doesn’t just change the way I feel about keyboards; it fundamentally changes the way I see the iPad. That’s why this accessory is so important—this is one of the best accessories Apple has ever released for any product. I would say second only to the AirPods Pro for the way it changes my view on an existing product.
I am not exaggerating when I say, the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro changes everything.