I’ve been using the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro for a while now and I think I’m finally ready to give this a proper review and give you the reasons why you absolutely should not buy any other keyboard case, including the Brydge Pro Plus.
Now my first video I did on this keyboard was basically a mixture of first impressions, all of the tips and tricks I found on how to best use the keyboard, and finally, my speculative take on why I think this Magic Keyboard is Apple’s Master plan for the iPad Pro. So if any of that sounds interesting to you, you can click the end screen button at the end of this video, which is going to be focused on my personal experience after a week and what really matters about this Magic Keyboard case, so let’s get right into it.
The most important thing to know about this keyboard case is that it is the only one out there for the iPad Pro that both has a trackpad and uses the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector for power, so there are no batteries that need charging and no unreliable bluetooth connection. So the hard-wired connection of the Smart Connector makes the Magic keyboard case incredibly reliable, with absolutely no lag when using the keyboard or the trackpad. You simply can’t and won’t get this on any other keyboard case for the iPad Pro, and that’s why Apple priced it at $300, and yes, that price tag does sound a bit nuts, but it makes sense compared to Apple’s other option.
They have the Smart Keyboard Folio for $180, so the question is, what features do you get for the extra $120? And are they worth it? Well, I’ll explain these features in a minute, but you get a really great trackpad, you get a much better keyboard, you get automatic keyboard backlighting, you get much better angle adjustability, you get an extra USB-C port built into the hinge for pass-through charging and finally, you get the ability to quickly take the iPad pro off of the case to use in tablet mode. Now to me, the built-in trackpad alone is worth $100 by itself, so all of those features together, as well as the more premium and modern look are definitely worth the extra $120 over the Smart Keyboard Folio, so it makes sense why Apple priced it at $300.
You may have heard people complain about the weight of the iPad Pro with this case on, but after a week of using the 11” model, I can tell you that the weight is not an issue at all, it feels nice and solid and definitely not too heavy. I like to use my MacBook while on my couch, and this Magic keyboard was perfect on my lap because of the extra weight that makes sure it’s not too top heavy. The base of the keyboard is really solid and there’s no flex in the keyboard, so it feels just as natural as the MacBook feels.
Design of the Magic Keyboard
I love how clean the design of this keyboard is. It’s very simple with the all black design and the embossed Apple logo. And with it folded down, it’s perfectly flat on both sides and the rounded hinge makes it feel like a notebook. Carrying it around literally feels like you’re carrying around a slim textbook. And it honestly just feels so much more premium than any other keyboard case I’ve ever used, despite the rubbery Polyurethane material, which I’m actually starting to like because it makes it more grippy to hold and use on your lap compared to Aluminum. I also love how thin it is, especially the bottom keyboard portion, which gives it a very unique yet satisfying feeling compared to using a MacBook, which has most of its thickness on the bottom portion. The one thing that really bugs me about the design is that it’s a bit tough to open up the case, but if it was easy, then that would mean that the hinge wouldn’t be as solid, and I’d much rather have it be as sturdy as possible. I found that the best way to open it is to stand it up vertically on the hinge and pull the keyboard portion down onto the table.
The one thing that I always do with my MacBook is have it plugged into power, and then I use a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge my iPhone directly from the MacBook, and I found that I can do the exact same thing with the Magic Keyboard case because of the brand new pass-through charging feature using that USB-C port that’s built into the hinge. This is incredibly important to me and I’m glad that it works so well. And the best part about the pass-through charging is that it’s basically hidden behind the iPad Pro, making the cable stay out of the way, so you can barely notice that it’s plugged in. So this pass-through charging feature is incredibly important because it frees up the original port for things like hooking up external storage, and if you’re wondering why you can’t do this with the port on the Magic keyboard cases hinge, it’s because the Smart Connector wasn’t designed to transfer complex data between devices. It’s already extremely impressive that it can accept pass-through charging, power the keyboard backlighting and send keyboard and trackpad inputs to the iPad Pro, all at the same time. I also love how easy it is to adjust the angle of display, it’s just so quick and simple compared to the Smart Keyboard which was horrible for display angles.
So this made it great for watching Netflix, and I know a lot of people complained about the limited amount of angle adjustability, but I couldn’t find one realistic scenario where I needed it to aim higher up than it already is. A lot of people are also upset that the keyboard doesn’t fold behind the iPad Pro to use in tablet mode, but if Apple did this, then the hinge wouldn’t be nearly as sturdy as it needs to be to keep the iPad upright and solid enough for touch input. And people are missing the point of the floating iPad design. The bottom of the iPad Pro is exposed so you can easily lift it off of the case and use it as a tablet, and then when you’re done, you simply place it back onto the case, and the keyboard and trackpad are instantly connected before you even have time to reach your hands down to type. And for those who need a stable solution for drawing, you have a couple of different choices. You can flip the Magic keyboard upside down and it becomes very stable and slightly propped up for drawing, or you can take the iPad out, close the Magic keyboard down, and place the iPad onto the closed case so you don’t have to worry about scratches or anything like that. Now let’s talk about that trackpad. I was surprised by how incredibly well it works. It’s very quick and responsive thanks to the smart connector, and the glass panel feels very smooth, so it becomes very accurate after you turn off trackpad inertia in the settings.
Click Feedback and Ergonomics
I love using tap to click just like on my Macbook, but even physically clicking it was better than on any other trackpad since it uses a unique floating design which gives you even clicking feel anywhere on the trackpad, compared to the standard diving board design which makes it increasingly harder to click as you get closer to the top of the trackpad. Yes, the trackpad is slim, but after a week, it never seemed to be limiting, especially if you turn up the tracking speed in the settings. Two finger tap is a must for using it as a laptop replacement, and I’m glad to see it work so well on the Magic Keyboard case. And I was also impressed by how easy it is to control two finger scrolling speed on the trackpad. I can both scroll slowly through an app, and very quickly scroll back up to the top of the page. It just works perfectly. So I’m fully confident that you absolutely won’t find a better trackpad on any other keyboard case for the iPad Pro, especially since this is the only one that uses the Smart Connector. The Brydge Pro Plus is the second best option, but according to Killian Bell from CultOfMac, the trackpad was so unreliable that he gave up on it and reverted to touch countless times. He mentioned that the trackpad support was built before Apple released cursor support, so the Brydge Pro Plus doesn’t support three finger swipe gestures at all, scrolling with two fingers is juddery, and you can’t even tap with two fingers to right click. And don’t just take his word for it, Brydge emailed us stating that they delayed our order of the Pro Plus keyboard case because of issues with the trackpad, and to be honest, I don’t think it’ll improve by much since it uses bluetooth instead of the smart connector. The trackpad issues alone are why I think it would be a huge mistake to buy the Brydge Pro Plus instead of the Magic Keyboard case, even if you’re saving $100. And as for the keyboard, it feels so good to type on it that I can say with certainty that it feels better than the butterfly keyboard that came on many MacBooks, and it feels slightly worse than the new Magic Keyboard on the 16” MacBook Pro.
The only downside is that the 11” model’s keyboard is not as big as a full-size keyboard because the 11” iPad Pro obviously isn’t as big, so it’ll take some time to get used to it before it starts to feel like second nature. But one thing’s for sure is that this is hands-down the best-feeling keyboard on any keyboard case for any tablet out there, and thanks to the smart connector, there’s no input lag either. And as far as the software, you get all of the same shortcuts that you get with a MacBook, and here’s a quick pro tip. Hold down the command button within any app to see the full list of shortcuts for that app. Now the major issue that people are having with this keyboard case is that it doesn’t get a top row of function keys, but I believe that a lot of people are being misled into overreacting, thinking that this is a big deal, and I’ve found that it’s really not. Most of the functions on the Brydge Pro’s top row of function keys can be done using the trackpad with minimal effort, like pinching with two fingers to exit a fullscreen video instead of pressing the escape key. And there are easy ways to map the Caps Lock or Globe key to work as a real Escape key for those who need it. I’ve realized just how quick it is to use the trackpad to move the cursor up to the control center and then use two fingers to quickly adjust the brightness or volume, and then you also have quick access to pausing and skipping tracks, and exiting the control center is as easy as bringing the cursor down to the bottom of the screen. And finally, there’s the keyboard backlighting brightness key which seems very convenient, but not a lot of people know that the Magic Keyboard case takes data from your iPad Pro’s ambient light sensor and automatically turns on the keyboard backlighting when it gets dark, so you don’t even need this key. As soon as it starts to get dark, the backlighting is already on and it gets brighter as your room gets darker.
It’s an absolutely genius solution, and I found that the backlighting was always at the perfect level of brightness, so you really don’t need manual controls. Now you gotta ask yourself, is it worth Apple shrinking down the keyboard and trackpad size to try to squeeze in a top row of function keys when there are decent alternatives already in place? I’d say it’s definitely not. And that’s with only one week of experience. I can confidently say that given a month or two, you’ll get used to using the trackpad and then those function keys won’t matter to you anymore. So after a week of using this Magic Keyboard case, I’ve realized that a lot of the complaints that people are having aren’t really a big deal at all. When it comes down to it, adding the Magic Keyboard case turns the iPad Pro into something it’s never been before, And next month, Apple is gonna announce iPadOS 14 with brand new features that will make this keyboard case even more useful than ever before, so I think those who are willing to dish out $300 on this keyboard case, will not be dissapointed.