Is Apple’s New iPad Magic Keyboard Worth the $300 Investment?




Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro | $300 | B&H PhotoApple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro | $300 | B&H PhotoPhoto: Jordan McMahon No Thought, Just BoughtNo Thought, Just BoughtBefore making most purchases, we meticulously research all of our options, wait for deals, and try to make an informed buying decision. But sometimes, we just buy things on a whim, and end up loving them anyway. No Thought, Just Bought is a space to share the impulse purchases that exceeded our expectations.

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Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro | $300 | B&H Photo

The iPad has historically existed in a sort of weird space. First, it was mostly meant for consumption. If you really tried, you could get some work done on it, on a good day. As time went on, people figured out ways to be productive on iPads, but with clever new apps and workarounds was still pretty clunky at doing some pretty basic things, like text selection and file management.

Between the introduction of the iPad Pro and later iPadOS, Apple’s made a lot of progress in taking the iPad from a consumption device to a powerhouse of a machine that can be used to make intricate drawings, in-depth reports, and even full-blown video productions. Still, despite its killer screen and impressive stylus input, the iPad Pro’s hardware has still lagged behind laptops in a few categories: It isn’t as comfortable to use in your lap, the only two viewing angles have been frustrating and tedious to deal with, and text selection has never been easy. With the new Magic Keyboard (available for both 11- and 12.9-inch models), Apple seems to be listening to those complaints, and aiming to finally turn the iPad Pro into a worthy laptop replacement for anyone eager to use a tablet as their main work machine. But, you might also be able to get the same benefits without forking out $300 or $350.

It’d be easy to think of the Magic Keyboard as just an updated version of the Smart Keyboard Folio, which Apple still sells (for the 11- and 12.9-inch models), but ultimately, they’re trying to be two different products. While the Folio basically just slightly extends the functionality of the iPad Pro by giving it a full keyboard, the Magic Keyboard sets out to take an already powerful device and slap it onto a form factor we’re all familiar with, complete with a new trackpad and adjustable hinge. Oh, and an extra port for good measure.

Illustration for article titled Is Apples New iPad Magic Keyboard Worth the $300 Investment?Photo: Jordan McMahon

No hinge or trackpad would make this worth buying if the keyboard wasn’t any good. As far as keyboards go, it’ll get you by—the backlit keys are nice and clicky, they have a nice amount of travel, and the keys are big enough to hit pretty easily. I do wish the keys were a bit more spaced out, like on the Smart Keyboard Folio, but the overall better feel of the keys on the Magic Keyboard makes up for that. I also miss having a row of function keys to control the screen’s brightness, speaker volume, and media playback, which maybe there just wasn’t space for, but on a $300 accessory, it seems like a no-brainer. Still, Apple’s managed to pack a pretty great keyboard into a compact form factor that makes working on it more manageable and enjoyable.

More noteworthy than the new keyboard, though, is the trackpad, which is the first Apple’s included on any iPad accessory. It’s pretty narrow, which can make it seem limiting, but in practice, getting across the screen wasn’t a problem, and it felt pleasant to scroll with in my testing. The whole trackpad clicks, so you can press down from anywhere and it’ll work, but you can also enable tap to click if that’s more your vibe. It also supports multitouch, so you navigate iPadOS with most of the gestures you’ve gotten used to, though many apps haven’t been updated with this support yet. It’s not just a good trackpad, though—iPadOS has been updated with a new cursor that sort of snaps onto buttons as you hover over them, making it easier to navigate and make sure you’re hitting the right bits of the screen. It’s a tiny touch that makes using a trackpad on a touch-first operating system feel more natural, and laptop users will feel right at home here.

A couple things make this stand out from the Smart Keyboard Folio. First, it has an adjustable hinge, where the Folio only has two possible viewing angles, neither of which are ideal, and only one of which is practical. The hinge doesn’t tilt back quite as far as I’d like, but it’s about 95 percent of the way there, and it feels sturdy enough to not wobble over time. There’s also the fact that it makes the iPad look like it’s floating over your keyboard, a nice, futuristic touch. Then, there’s the additional USB-C port, which will charge your iPad but it won’t work for anything else like data transfer. Still, it’s nice to have a more discrete place to tuck your charging cable while you work, and keep the iPad’s port open for things like card readers external drives.

Illustration for article titled Is Apples New iPad Magic Keyboard Worth the $300 Investment?Photo: Jordan McMahon

All of these changes and additions add up to a really great keyboard attachment for anyone looking to get work done on their iPad. It may not fully replicate the laptop experience and all of its benefits, but it does bring some of the strengths of the laptop form factor to the iPad while still leaving space for its strengths as a tablet. It’s unquestionably a great addition to the iPad Pro, but is it worth $300 for the 11-inch model and $350 for the 12.9-inch model? When you can get the Smart Keyboard Folio for $180, and this cute lil’ mouse from Microsoft for $20, and only lose a few of the extra perks, it’s a tough sell. If you want the best experience of working on an iPad Pro, this is the way to go, but if you already have a Smart Keyboard Folio (either the 11- or 12.9-inch model), or you’d just rather save some cash, it’s worth seeing if a wireless mouse will scratch that itch first.

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