Turn Your iPad Pro Into a Laptop

The Magic Keyboard Really Is the Ultimate iPad Pro Upgrade


April 20, 2020 Reviews By Photo by Tucker Bowe
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Brand: Apple
Product: Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro
Release Date: April 2020
Price: $299 (11-inch iPad Pro); $349 (12.9-inch iPad Pro)
From: apple.com

For the past month or more I’ve been working from home using Apple’s new MacBook Air. It’s been my preferred day-to-day computer because, even though I have a 2017 MacBook Pro, the Air’s new keyboard makes it way more comfortable to use — fewer typos. Plus, I’m mainly working in Chrome and don’t need that powerful of a machine.

For the past few days, however, I’ve tried to completely abandon the Air (and the Pro) and exclusively use the new iPad Pro as my computer. Obviously, there’s been a lot of debate if the iPad Pro could actually replace your laptop in the past two years, and one of the main stumbling points has been the keyboard — there weren’t really any good options(or at least, none that were as good as your laptop’s keyboard).

That’s the big change this year. Apple announced the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, its most advanced keyboard accessory ever for the iPad Pro. It basically takes the best features from the Air’s new keyboard — scissor switches, click-anywhere trackpad, backlit keys — and puts them in a form factor that works for the iPad Pro. At $299 and $349 for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, respectively, it’s an expensive add-on to an already expensive machine, but it’s really the only accessory that’s designed to make the iPad Pro feel like a Mac.

And it does. I’ve been typing and clicking on the Magic Keyboard for the last few days and it feels very similar to my Air. And it’s a night-and-day upgrade over the Smart Keyboard ($179+), Apple’s cheaper, other keyboard for the iPad Pro (which doesn’t have a trackpad). Here are my biggest takeaways.

It’s a joy to type on.

The keys on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro use the same scissor mechanism as the keys on the new Air, and typing on both feels virtually identical. I love it and it’s a huge improvement from the minimal-travel butterfly keys on the older MacBook Pro and Air. Apple also decked this keyboard out with other familiar features, such as backlit keys that automatically adjust their brightness depending on ambient light conditions. The big omission here is that there are no function keys on the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard, meaning you’ll have to adjust things like screen brightness or speaker volume using traditional iPad/iPhone touch gestures. The other downside is that you can’t adjust the key’s backlight brightness on the keyboard itself — you have to go into a Settings menu — which might be a little annoying if you want to have the backlight off when watching movies or videos in a dark room.

These aren’t game changers — far from it — but it’s just one thing that kept reminding me: I’m using a tablet, not a laptop.

The trackpad is small, but everything you want.

There’s no getting around the fact that the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro is a shrunken-down version of the keyboard on the new Air; and since most people prefer big keyboards, it’s going to feel like a bit of a trade-off. The trackpad takes the bulk of the hit here as it’s roughly half the size of the trackpad on the Air. But aside from size, it feels almost identical — in fact, it might be even clicker. You can customize the speed of the cursor, and you can use one-, two- and three-finger swipe gestures. All exactly like you would do on a Mac.

The iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard (left) and the 2020 MacBook Air (right) are different in size, but feel very similar to type on.

This isn’t a flimsy add-on. It’s a well-made beast.

The keyboard magnetically clips onto your iPad Pro much the same way Apple’s other keyboard accessories, but it looks and feels a little different. It has a “dual-hinge, floating design” that looks pretty neat and allows you to adjust viewing angle between 90 and 130 degrees. It works well, but my only real complaint is that the display is right on top of the keyboard — it feels a bit crowded — but I guess that’s what you’d come to expect from an iPad accessory. That said, it’s really sturdy and feels premium — the iPad Pro doesn’t move around or sway when typing on this keyboard.

I’m not the most power user of the iPad Pro, admittedly. I wasn’t using Lightroom or Photoshop to tinker with photos, nor was I editing videos, so I can’t really speak to how using the Magic Keyboard with the iPad Pro would feel from the point of view from a creative, like a graphic designer, photographer or app developer. But as somebody who uses a Mac every day and has used many different iPads over the years, I can say that this the accessory that makes the iPad Pro feel most like a laptop. And it’s not even close.

Logitech is known for making great iPad accessories that are more affordable than what Apple is offering, but they don’t make a keyboard-and-trackpad combo for the new iPad Pros (yet). Its Combo Touch, for example, is extremely popular but only compatible with the iPad (7th generation), iPad Air (3rd generation) and older 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro is available right now.

(This article was written entirely using the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard.)

Apple provided this product for review.

The New MacBook Air Is the Best Lightweight Laptop

The 2020 MacBook has an all-new keyboard that, frankly, is a pleasure to type on. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol's editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

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