At first glance, Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is a well-made keyboard case with a trackpad that lets you use the iPad as a kind of laptop. However, it has its disadvantages.
1. Very expensive
At $300 (or $350 for the 12.9-inch version), this is just a lot of money for a keyboard case, especially when the entry iPad costs about as much. It’s half the price of the iPad Air! It’d be lovely if a new model split the difference and became at least somewhat more affordable, because having a good keyboard on the go is increasingly useful with iPadOS.
For instance, the Logitech Combo Touch and Logitech Keyboard Folio are great options. In addition, many of these models offer viable protection for your iPad, which is not the case with the Magic Keyboard.
2. Heavy and Thick
The Magic Keyboard is built like a tank. That is both a blessing and a curse, however. There is nearly zero flex to the keyboard deck. The whole thing is stable on your lap and very well-balanced. It’s not tippy at all.
But back to that tank analogy: I don’t make it (excuse the pun) lightly. The Magic Keyboard is heavy — so heavy that when I asked Apple for the official weight for both sizes, the company declined to share.
According to my kitchen scale, then, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard weighs just shy of three pounds, about 25 percent heavier than the iPad Pro with the older Smart Keyboard. Three pounds is the same weight as the 13-inch MacBook Pro and heavier than the new MacBook Air.
As I mentioned above, the Magic Keyboard is also fairly thick. For the typing experience, that’s great. For my bag, it’s not. The whole kit is thicker than my 13-inch MacBook Pro when closed.
3. Limited Viewing Angles
Another disadvantage of Magic Keyboard for iPad is limited range of viewing and using angles.
You can tilt the screen from 90 to 130 degrees, which sounds fine on paper. But in practice, 130 degrees is not nearly enough. It can feel cramped, especially if you’re used to pushing a laptop’s screen back when it’s on your lap.
The Magic Keyboard’s odd design means it can’t fold all the way back, with the keyboard parked behind the screen. You either use it as a laptop-thing, or fold it shut. iPads are sketchpads and readers, too, and you can’t use the iPad easily for those purposes with the Magic Keyboard on. That means popping the case off (it attaches with magnets), and then you’re left holding a naked iPad. Surely Apple can figure this out? The old Smart Keyboard cover isn’t as good for work, yet was more flexible as a folio case solution. But it doesn’t work with the Magic Keyboard-compatible iPads (Air, Pro).
This point becomes even more unbearable when we consider the alternative options in the market. For example, many third-party keyboard combinations for iPad Pro and Air offer better viewing angles and create a pleasant environment to use the Apple Pencil.
4. Poor Protection
Another disadvantage of Magic Keyboard for iPad is that it does not do much to protect the tablet. The Magic Keyboard folds smaller than most other keyboard cases, wrapping tightly around the iPad. But it lacks protection for the iPad sides, and the magnets can detach when inside a bag or if you drop the iPad, knocking the entire case loose.
There is no drop protection or shock absorption due to the lack of edge-to-edge coverage. On the other hand, even some of the cheapest alternatives in the market can better protect your iPad.
The Magic Keyboard makes things even more complex in terms of compatibility. For instance, you can’t use a third-party iPad protective case if you want to connect the iPad to a Magic Keyboard. Otherwise, you must bear the annoying task of constantly removing and reconnecting the protective case.
5. No function keys
Another big disadvantage of Magic Keyboard for iPad is lack of function keys. Some iPad keyboard cases have extra rows of dedicated function keys, including volume control and play/pause buttons. I love these, and Apple oddly left them out on the Magic Keyboard. Apple has a lot of keyboard shortcuts in iOS, but dedicated function keys would be a great addition.
In the first of several “finallys” for the iPad, the keys are also backlit. They adjust automatically based on the ambient lighting conditions, and they were exactly the right brightness most of the time. However, if you just want to turn them off if you’re watching a movie in the dark or something, then you’re in for a hassle.
To fix that, you have to go to the iPad’s Settings app, then dig into General, then Hardware Keyboard, and only then will you be able to adjust the brightness using a slider. While you’re there, you may want to also remap one of your keys to Esc (I use Caps Lock) because there is no Esc key here.
Both of these hassles could have been immediately and instantly solved if Apple had simply put a function row of keys above the number row. There are plenty of system-wide buttons that would be useful there! Music controls, volume, screen and keyboard brightness, home, multitasking, search: all things for which it would be convenient to have dedicated buttons.
After giving in and providing a clamshell design and a trackpad, leaving both the Esc key and a function row out seems obstinate. You will still be reaching (or swiping) up to the Control Center to manage essential functions all the time.
These are the disadvantages of Magic Keyboard for iPad
The Magic Keyboard improves the iPad experience in only a handful of ways
The Magic Keyboard only improves a handful of those situations. It is an incredibly good, albeit expensive and heavy, way to use your iPad Pro like a laptop. If that’s what you want, this is a huge upgrade over what was available before, and you’ll love it. But what makes the iPad great is that it’s more than a laptop.
For all the other things I want to do with my iPad, the ergonomics of the Magic Keyboard are noticeably worse, which is why it’s nice that it’s so easy to remove the iPad and use it without a case at all. It makes the iPad a better iPad by its absence.