It’s easy to be put off by the price of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, which comes in at £349 /$349 / AU$589 for the larger iPad Pro, especially when you consider the fact it costs the same as the entry-level 10.2in iPad. But if you want to get the most out of the iPad Pro hardware, I’d argue that it’s a must-have accessory.
Much like the keyboard cover of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7, the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro delivers a truly transformative experience that brings the iPad Pro in-line with traditional laptops.
As you’d expect from an official Apple product, a lot of thought has gone into every aspect of the Magic Keyboard, from the slightly sunken keyboard that doesn’t touch the display when closed to the inclusion of a second USB-C port for a cleaner charging experience.
In true Apple fashion, the iPad Pro snaps into place via strong magnets, and there’s no need to pair the tablet - it connects via the contact point on the rear. As well as providing a cleaner look overall, it also makes it very easy to remove the iPad from the keyboard if you want to use it in tablet form.
But, of course, the star of the design is undoubtedly the cantilever hinge. The unique design of the case means that, once secure, the iPad looks like it’s floating above the keyboard - just like magic. You’re free to adjust the angle anywhere between 90- and 130 degrees, and while that’ is still quite restricted compared to the Surface Pro 7, the Magic Keyboard is stable enough to use on your lap. You certainly can’t say that about Microsoft’s tablet hybrid!
The backlit keyboard features the same scissor mechanism as that of the latest MacBook Pro range, offering a massive improvement on the butterfly mechanism used in earlier models of MacBook and the material-covered keyboard of Apple’s earlier Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad. With 1mm of key travel and a satisfying click feedback, it really does provide a superior typing experience. It’s so superior, in fact, that I’ve used the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard in place of my 2018 Macbook Air since they arrived at my doorstep.
The trackpad, while smaller than what you’ll get on a traditional laptop, provides an entirely new way to interact with the iPad Pro. Introduced alongside the new iPad range, trackpad support on iPadOS is a game changer, providing granular cursor support when word processing, editing videos and dealing with spreadsheets.
I was, admittedly, apprehensive about the idea of using a cursor to interact with a touch-first operating system, but within minutes, it became my preferred method of input.
The cursor is circular, but has the ability to morph into different shapes depending on the task or where you’re hovering - it’ll shift into a more accurate I-beam when typing, and it’ll ‘stick’ to nearby icons and buttons to make selecting smaller on-screen elements a little easier. Plus, the speed of your swipe dictates the speed of the cursor, making it easy to quickly move the cursor from one side of the display to the other.
There’s also a bunch of handy swipe gestures - similar to those on macOS - that make switching between apps a breeze, and the drag-and-drop functionality translates well to the trackpad too.
If you throw the popular SplitView and Slide Over functionality into the mix, you’ve got a viable laptop replacement. Of course this will depend on what you do on a laptop, but I’ve used the iPad and Magic Keyboard constantly for both work and play since it arrived and I’ve not yet needed to hop onto my laptop. There are great iPad apps like Pixelmator and Microsoft Office that provide exactly what I need on a daily basis, and the fact that Safari now renders full websites instead of mobile-optimised sites mean I can even use sites like Google Hangouts without having to download a dedicated app.
Admittedly, you can use any third-party Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad to achieve the same overall experience, but it’s not the same as having one slim case that houses all you need to take advantage of the iPad - especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to work on-the-go.
I’m not saying that the Magic Keyboard is the perfect product - there are no iPad-specific keys to adjust brightness, control playback or anything else available on third-party iPad keyboards, and there’s a noticeable drop in overall battery life when using the keyboard - but it’s hands-down the best keyboard case available right now, and there’s always the second-gen to look forward to, right?