The Magic Keyboard
The Magic Keyboard is the missing hardware component to make the iPad Pro the productivity machine that many of us have dreamed of. It is not an accessory, it is much more than that. It is the beginning of a great change that will make it fulfill many of the promises of the Apple tablet.
I am convinced that one of the greatest contributions that Apple has made in quite some time is to provide mouse / trackpad support to a good number of iPad models released in recent years, completely changing a device that was previously only touch and that it can now function as a laptop.
That has a very big impact for many people who do not have the possibility to buy multiple devices and who have to fix their lives with just one. The iPad that they already had at home for months or perhaps years, suddenly becomes a much more productive device that “transforms” as the need demands.
At the spearhead of this important movement is the Mgic Keyboard for Apple , a new keyboard with trackpad that is coupled to an iPad Pro next generation or launched in 2018.
The keys use the scissor mechanism , another device rather than abandon the failed adoption of the mechanism Mariposa- with feedback and trackpad but not the same size that is large enough MacBooks- and can click on any part of the surface.
I have been working for weeks with an iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard for almost any task other than video editing and this is my experience.
Against physics and our preconceptions
The Magic Keyboard has to fight against physics and against our preconceptions: we are used to notebooks in which the majority of the weight is in the horizontal section, it is the thickest component and the screen is light and thin, each thinner
When using the iPad as a laptop, the heaviest is in the vertical section. This causes an imbalance that must be compensated in some way. Apple solved it in two ways:
- The magnets that attach the Magic Keyboard to the iPad are very powerful.
- The Magic Keyboard has no choice but to be heavy.
In fact it is slightly heavier than the iPad Pro. That will throw many people back because the combination of both components is greater than a MacBook Air, for example.
Also, at first, throw back the one that you cannot “open” like any MacBook, where it only takes a finger to lift the cover and start working.
That does not apply in this case because “the lid” is very heavy and the Magic Keyboard does not have one but two hinges . This is necessary to create the effect that the tablet floats and to allow the tip to “tilt” to the desired angle.
After weeks of use I have understood that the Magic Keyboard , at least this generation, is not designed to be a case that is always attached to the iPad Pro , but as a base that is used when you want to work on tasks where the keyboard is much needed and the trackpad.
What seemed like a disadvantage – caused by preconceptions of the use of previous devices – ends up being what makes the Magic Keyboard so effective: I can choose the angle I want and I can use it on my legs without wobbling, with total stability, for the first time with this device.
I have used it in all possible positions, what I normally do with a laptop, I have repeated it with the iPad + Magic Keyboard. What was impossible before, no matter what external keyboard you used, is now absolute normality.
Scissor mechanism, smooth running and backlit. Apparently I am one of the few people who “the less travel, the better”. I just need to be able to feel the difference between one key and another by touch, so I really liked the typing feel of the failed butterfly mechanism.
But like everything, it is a matter of getting used to it, a little more travel does not make a difference and if the return to the scissor mechanism assures us that the failures with the keyboards of Apple devices are over, we all win.
The material of the keys feels premium enough, although not as much as an external keyboard of the brand or the one used for the MacBook (Pro or Air).
Every day it has resulted in a highly capable and comfortable keyboard with which I have written thousands and thousands of words, including this text that you are reading, or the review of the iPhone SE that I published on April 28.
There is no more or less tired feeling from typing than I have with any other Apple keyboard I have used over the years. There are no surprises.
What there is is the absence of a row of function keys and the lack of the key
ESC. Both decisions are inexplicable, considering the use that will be given to the keyboard with the Magic Keyboard .
I do not need the Fs (
F4, etc) but it would help enough that had keys to increase or decrease the volume up or down the screen brightness, play, pause. But most of all: What is the reasoning within Apple to get rid of the ESC key?
They removed it from the MacBook Pro when the first model with Touchpad appeared and with the change of keyboard mechanism they have put the hardware key back. Why doesn’t the Magic Keyboard have it?
There are two half solutions:
- Reassign to
ESCone of the unused keys, such as the hotkey (used to change languages) or
- Press the key combination
Halfway because the natural reaction has always been to move the hand to the upper left corner to stop or return in countless cases. Does “Esc” sound old? Okay, there are ways to refresh the key description without removing its function entirely.
The key feedback works exceptionally well, with a small but: there is no simple way to raise or lower its intensity – or turn it off entirely. It can be resolved by an operating system update, but for now the option is buried in Settings.
The trackpad works . If there is one thing that Apple has stood out over the years it is by making this component always work well. Is no exception. Extremely exact, there is no noticeable delay with the cursor and with its use the 120 MHz of the screen is quite appreciated.
The button on this trackpad is physical and is not a haptic effect like on all Mac notebooks today. When you press it, it sounds and sinks. The nice thing is that the click works anywhere on the surface and not just in the lower area.
It is not the only difference. The Magic Keyboard trackpad is smaller. The difference is significant when compared to any MacBook Pro made in the past four years, but it’s not a problem. The surface is wide enough to work normally with the iPad Pro screen.
I took a few weeks wondering how Apple got the trackpad of the Magic Keyboard is clickable anywhere on the surface. iFixit took it apart entirely and revealed how the component works and it’s quite amazing.
So does iPad Pro + Magic Keyboard replace a laptop? Not entirely, but if before the existence of the device and the mouse / trackpad support we were at 80% of being able to do it, now we are at 93%.
That remaining 7% will depend on the iPad OS division and its ability to adapt the operating system to new uses where the keyboard and mouse are essential for productivity.
It will also depend on Apple offering applications such as Xcode , Final Cut Pro or Logic for iPadOS . That will send a determining message to other professional software developers to do the same.
The Magic Keyboard is a before and after for the iPad
Right now it is no longer a question of when the hardware will allow us to do more. That is already resolved. Only the question remains of when the software will meet the needs.
I have no doubt that this is a before and after for the iPad .
Even lacking that small percentage, it has become completely natural to work on everything I have to do in my day to day, except when it comes to opening Premiere Pro —because it does not exist on iPad— or Photoshop —because its version for iPad is pretty lacking.
Writing, editing texts, publishing, answering emails, using dozens of collaboration or productivity tools, retouching photos in Lightroom, surfing the web or chatting, everything works extremely well.
The Magic Keyboard does not need batteries or pair it via Bluetooth, it works as soon as it is coupled with the iPad Pro . In addition, it has an extra USB-C port to charge the device, which is greatly appreciated for long hours of work.
Magic Keyboard Price
The new Magic Keyboard is priced at $ 299 / € 339 for the 11-inch model and $ 349 / € 399 for the 12.9-inch model.
That, combined with the price of the iPad Pro , in any of its versions, puts it within the range of a cheaper MacBook Air or MacBook Pro 13 “ .
I know that causes doubts to many potential buyers, but this is the price of modularity in premium devices and the Magic Keyboard is very premium, there is nothing that comes close in quality, performance and construction.
For those who have doubts between acquiring MacBook Air / Pro or an iPad Pro + Magic Keyboard, I think the decision comes down to uses. There are specific activities in which the iPad is not an option such as professional video editing, professional sound editing or professional retouching of photography, architecture or in many aspects scientific research or app development, where specialized applications are needed and / or the ability to connect multiple external monitors.
Many of these activities, over time, will be able to adopt the iPad as the main device as the operating system and professional apps become more sophisticated.
That said, for the vast majority of people, an iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard will be more than enough, with the great advantage of having versatility in their favor. The screen is multi-touch, you can write directly to it with an Apple Pencil, you can separate it from the keyboard whenever you want or the camera is much more powerful.
Without forgetting that if you want to update the iPad Pro or the Magic Keyboard you do not have to buy both devices again.
New iPad Pro 2020
I have left my opinion of the new iPad Pro at the end of this review on purpose, because between the 2018 and 2020 model there are few differences and for any user I would say that it will be imperceptible.
The changes are reduced to:
- Processor A12Z Bionic, which is slightly faster than the previous A12X Bionic
- The camera module is brand new: a 12 megapixel ƒ / 1.8 large-aperture lens and another 10 megapixel ƒ / 2.4 ultra-wide-aperture lens.
The novelty is the LiDAR sensor (acronym for “Light Detection and Ranging”) that allows determining the distance from the emitter to an object or a surface using a pulsed laser beam.
It is capable of detecting objects up to 5 meters away and its objective is to significantly improve the operation of the device with augmented reality.
Everything I have written about the iPad Pro 2018 remains in the new 2020 iPad Pro: it is very fast – faster than most laptops on the market – autonomy impresses, the design is what I liked the most in a product of Apple in many years — in fact, the iPhone 12 is expected to adopt it — and the 120 MHz display is a wonderful experience.
Even with its limitations and cons, the Magic Keyboard is brilliant . It is much more than an accessory, it is a very important component in the iPad ecosystem that begins a long journey to provide the Apple tablet with a first-rate and quality keyboard and trackpad.
My recommendation is to conceive it as a workstation, as a base where the iPad Pro rests to perform certain types of tasks. Something as easy to do as bringing it closer to the magnets in the vertical area, so that it engages immediately.
Weight and thickness – especially when it’s closed and connected to the iPad Pro – can be a problem for many and I’m curious how Apple will solve this over time: Will it make the Magic Keyboard lighter or will it aggressively seek to make the tablet lighter and finer in the future? I bet, above all, on the second.
Two hours after using the combination of iPad Pro + Magic Keyboard everything feels very natural and I can’t stop thinking: why did Apple take so long to happen?
- Premium quality
- Full keyboard
- Exact trackpad
- Extremely stable
- No physical ESC key
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