I’ve gotten used to disappointment with Apple keyboards. I never liked the Smart Keyboards for iPad Pro and the lack of backlighting on the original Magic Keyboard holds it back in comparison to cheaper, comparable quality Bluetooth keyboards that do. Thankfully I was never forced to use the terrible Butterfly Keyboards that MacBook users have had to deal with for years, but they can’t be ignored. The last Apple Keyboard I liked was their older Wireless Keyboard and I owned it ten years ago. This is not a good track record.
I guess I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up and expected different this time, but here we are. The new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is far more limited than I initially hoped and this has been confirmed by video reviews from people who got them early.
Before I go further, here are a couple of the YouTube videos in question, in case you haven’t already seen them.
Ok, let’s unpack this. First of all, the keyboard and trackpad look great. I have absolutely no qualms with buying this product, excessive pricing aside, because of that. Even if I end up returning it, I want to thoroughly review the Magic Keyboard because they do seem to be spot-on.
As for the comments about the weight, meh. That doesn’t bother me so much. I didn’t care for how light the Smart Keyboard Folio was because I didn’t think it provided enough protection without some additional help. I’ve also been using a Brydge Pro for a while now, and it’s not exactly light. I’m good with the extra weight if you get a great keyboard and user experience in exchange.
The problem I have looking at these videos is the extreme lack of flexibility. Literally. The Magic Keyboard exists in a world of 2-in-1 convertible devices and the Microsoft Surface Pro. My Lenovo Yoga C940 has a 360 degree screen that can fold back on itself. Every Yoga I’ve had since 2013 does this. The Surface Pro has a fully adjustable kickstand. It isn’t my favorite thing in the world, as it isn’t always ideal on a lap or small space, but it does give you the freedom to angle the device exactly where you want it. My favorite iPad Keyboard Case of all time, Logitech’s Slim Combo, had a similar kickstand setup that was very effective. My current Brydge Pro’s hinges allow me the same level of flexibility.
When I looked at the initial images of Apple’s new Magic Keyboard online, I thought we would have the freedom to use this new hinge mechanism to position the iPad Pro as we saw fit. The reality of this product doesn’t measure up to that. The positioning range shown in these videos is quite small and I find that extremely disappointing, especially in light of the very high price tag. Apple had a chance to deliver something better than the competition here and give its customers a best-in-class portable user experience for the iPad Pro. Unfortunately, by the looks of these and other videos, they failed to do so.
I also find it absolutely baffling that there is no way to get the keyboard out of the way here. Even Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio can be folded back on itself for those times when you need the keyboard to get out of the way. This isn’t a strength of the Brydge Pro, but at least I can remove the iPad Pro and flip it over. Sure, you can take your iPad Pro off of the Magic Keyboard, but then you have no protection for your device while you use it as a tablet.
Also, you don’t always have the luxury of putting a keyboard case down someplace safe and leaving it there while you use you iPad Pro. I find myself in this position often when using mine to take notes while walking a job site or doing a bid takeoff. It looks like the Magic Keyboard will not work for me in these situations and that’s a problem. When you pay the price of a base model iPad for an accessory, it needs to be versatile enough to handle anything you throw at it. When I look at these early hands-on videos, versatility isn’t what I see. The Magic Keyboard is made for people who need a traditional laptop keyboard experience and nothing else. That’s it.
Maybe my opinion on the Magic Keyboard will change when I get my hands on it. Maybe it won’t feel as limited as it looks in these videos in real-world use. I hope so, because there is no way I can justify the current price of the Magic Keyboard if it does nothing more than turn your iPad Pro into an old-school laptop with less range of motion than a current MacBook Air.