Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro turns tablet into notebook

Mala Bhargava | Updated on June 19, 2020 Published on June 19, 2020

Seeming to float an inch above its keyboard is the iPad Pro I’ve been using these days. Apple recently launched the iPad Pro 2020, but what really makes the tablet come into its own — and gives it that airy floaty look — is the new Magic Keyboard. This Apple’s extremely expensive but very interesting accessory is meant for anyone who wants to get down to work on the iPad Pro.

Ever since Apple launched the iPad Pro a couple of years ago, users have been clamouring for it to become more like a MacBook. So Apple gave it a Smart Keyboard Folio, a lightweight keyboard cover that snapped on to the tablet and could be easily carried around which looked cool as you sat at a table in Starbucks for some coffee with work.

Apple then overhauled the operating system, turning iOS on the iPad into iPadOS and giving the tablet some notebook like features like the ability to multi-task, and finally, put files into a folder. The iPad Pro also got USC-C charging and amazingly, a connection with external USB devices. But now, the iPad Pro has the Magic Keyboard and if it tries any harder it will become a MacBook, and indeed what would be the point of that? The nice thing is that despite getting a lot of notebook-like functionality like trackpad and mouse support, the iPad Pro retains its essential tabletness. Or tablitude, if you like.

You don’t have to use the iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard, but if you, here’s what you get.

Excellent typing

I use the iPad Pro as my primary work machine and coming from the previous Smart Keyboard Folio, I immediately took to the new Magic Keyboard quite as if I’d been using it all along. It’s very laptop-like and familiar, at least if we’re talking about the larger of the two iPads Pro’s. The keys now have just the right amount of travel and clicking feedback and there’s just enough of a palm-rest to type at speed. The keys are made in the scissor switch design.

There are many keys familiar to users of MacBooks - the Command, Control and Option keys. There isn’t a Function row of keys and neither is there an Escape key, but you can map a key to work as one. On this keyboard, the keys are backlit, with the intensity of brightness adapting to the ambient light.

The Magic Keyboard supports a larger number of commands and shortcuts and gestures but if you haven’t used a MacBook keyboard, it takes a little bit of learning. The commands are all to be found in the iPad’s main Settings section, distributed between Hardware Keyboard and Accessibility options.

Unique design

The Magic Keyboard is very well built, but it turns out it’s actually heavier than the iPad itself. Together, the two are now the weight of a light laptop. Now one may wish for a lighter keyboard but that’s what the Smart Keyboard was and one can see that the Magic is more stable and steady and easier to work on, so I think worth the trade off.

The upper portion of the Magic Keyboard, the cover, has magnets that strongly clamp on to the iPad Pro — even the previous model, except that the camera will have an extra large window in that case. The hold is really quite strong and the iPad certainly won’t try to slip off or anything. The cover also has a fold running through it which you can tip back, giving the iPad a backward tilt. The fold is quite stiff and will only go up to a point and won’t tilt too far back, possibly because this would have been a little dangerous, making the entire assembly likely to fall back under some conditions. It’s this backward fold that lifts the iPad above the actual keyboard and makes it ‘float’ very elegantly.

This design means you can no longer stand the keyboard and cover in tent or easel mode, but the back tilt actually gives the same angle. It’s not a bad one with which to use the Apple Pencil, if you don’t want to lay the tablet down completely flat. You have to be a little careful using it on your lap and check if it’s balanced ok. Another position, discovered by users, is to turn the iPad upside down so that the keyboard is sticking up on top and the tablet is at a nice slant for drawing with the Pencil, or taking notes you don’t want others in front of you to see.

Another interesting aspect of the design is that there is a pass through charging USB-C port on the inner back of the keyboard cover. Using this, you can charge the tablet while using the other port on the tablet itself to attach an external storage device. Users are understandably quite thrilled with this arrangement. You never have to charge the actual keyboard itself which gets its charge from the iPad and does so without impacting the battery life of the tablet. Although some reviewers seem to have seen lower battery life, I found mine refusing to finish over days.

The trackpad touch

This keyboard has a glass trackpad that’s wide but not tall and just right for a tablet keyboard. It’s clickable all over and very sensitive to the touch and really useful. A number of trackpad gestures can make things really fast for productive power users. Enabling tap to click and a two-finger secondary click can be done from the main Settings section under General-Trackpad.

The cursor can be adjusted but is in any case somewhat context sensitive, changing to text selection when in a writing app and to a round ball when elsewhere. When hovered over apps it can merge with the app’s icon, which can be a little confusing. Gestures including one, two or three finger taps and swipes to multitask, select, pinch and zoom, scroll and more. It’s just that these take a little getting used to if you haven’t used them before. You can find a list of these gestures with a Google search. There’s a separate trackpad optionally available for artists and other creatives.

The Magic Keyboard works with both the older and newer 12-inch iPad Pro’s. The experience is definitely much better than the Smart Keyboard (₹16,999), but so is the price (₹27,900). The experience with the 11-inch iPad Pro with its keyboards will obviously be entirely different. The Apple Pencil 2nd gen costs ₹10,900. The iPad Pro 12.9 inch costs ₹89,900 for Wi-Fi, ₹1,03,900 for Wi-Fi+cellular.

Price: ₹27,900

Pros: One-of-a-kid design with tilt-back and pass through charging port, smooth comfortable typing, excellent backlit keys

Cons: Shockingly expensive, polyurethane material picks up stubborn smudges, no easel mode, steep learning curve for gestures and commands, screen has some bounce-back

Published on June 19, 2020
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