Alongside Apple‘s official reveal of the 2020 iPad Pro, the Cupertino tech giant announced the Magic Keyboard that would ultimately help define the iPad’s stance within the tech industry: a tablet that could finally replace your laptop.
The Magic Keyboard is just that — a keyboard. While these have been released before for almost all of the iPads since the first generation iPad Pro, this iteration incorporates a multi-touch trackpad for the first time ever. The surface area is tucked neatly underneath the full QWERTY keyboard and acts as a dedicated pointer for the iPad, in lieu of the Apple Pencil and, of course, your finger. Other features of the new keyboard are the scissor-type 1mm-travel keys that are backlit and dimmable, a pass-thru USB-C charging port that can charge accessories as well as the iPad itself, and the “floating” stand design acting as the pièce de résistance.
The keyboard size, tactility, and ultimate familiarity makes the keyboard a killer app in itself, but the trackpad truly makes the peripheral a must-have for diehard iPad Pro owners. Its surface, albeit small, remains as usable as any trackpad on a modern day laptop that isn’t created by Apple — Macbook Airs’ and Pros’s trackpads are glass and enormous, so the iPad Pro’s one is minuscule in comparison. Nevertheless, its smooth surface, ability to scroll with multiple fingers, and inclusion of “soft touch,” where you simply tap instead of clicking in, gives the trackpad a full-experience feel for a device that was never meant to have one.
However, the Magic Keyboard is not without its faults. The hinge — while strong — is very cumbersome to open and requires two thumbs to pry apart. The trackpad is so small that your finger often finds the edge before reaching where you wanted to click, and all the gestures took a little bit of time to get used to; you’ll have to remember that two fingers down in an app would scroll, but the same gesture brought up the Search bar while on the Home screen. The surface of the unit is a rubbery-matte feel that collects dust and requires a good towel to wipe clean. And while the latest Macbook Air comes in at the same 2.8 lbs in weight, the iPad Pro 12.9” with the Magic Keyboard — along with its thickness — feels massive in comparison.
If you’re in the market for a laptop, chances are you’ll most likely shoot for a Macbook Air or Macbook Pro in 13” configurations and disregard the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard because “it’s different” and you’ll prefer a bit of tradition. But if you’re willing to adjust your work style to account for discovering apps and workarounds for incompatibilities, like handling complicated filetypes or needing to download a separate Google Meets app for a conference call, the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard is not only faster than the Macbook Air but more versatile as well, acting both as a laptop replacement and one of the best tablets available.
The Magic Keyboard is priced at $299 USD for the model that fits the 11”, and $349 USD for the 12.9” version. For Macbook Pro users however, Apple has confirmed the battery will see efficiency improvements with the latest update.