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Magic Keyboard for iPad, 2020: First Impressions

Over two years ago, I wrote a piece about long form writing on iPad, which I’ve grown to love as an activity over the years. My combination of iPad and Canopy/Magic Keyboard served me well for much of the intervening time.

But then I made the mistake of lending my Magic Keyboard to Jessica in the middle of last year, and I never got it back.

So rather than picking up a new Magic Keyboard, I took the opportunity to pick up a Smart Folio keyboard, even though every time I had tried one in a store, I basically hated it.

Over time, I did get used to the strange feel of the keys. And not having to think about battery life or Bluetooth connection issues was nice. Overall, I never ended up loving that set up, but it got the job done.I knew whenever I moved on to another iPad I’d need to go keyboard shopping again.

Enter 2020, with its new line of iPads and a new Magic Keyboard made specifically for iPad. I knew immediately I would want to try this new keyboard and integrated trackpad out.

The new keyboard arrived via FedEx yesterday. So here are my initial impressions. Keep in mind that I have the iPad Pro 11-inch, so the corresponding keyboard is the smaller version:

  • Wow, this thing is heavy. Seriously heavy. It needs to be heavy. I get that. Any lighter, and it would likely topple over under the weight of the iPad itself. But it makes the Magic Keyboard into an accessory I’ll lug around specifically when I want to write (as I am now) rather than one I carry with me most of the time.
  • The weight also makes it slightly less advantageous to head out of the house with my iPad instead of my laptop. This smaller combo of 11-inch iPad and keyboard is still lighter than my MacBook Pro 13-inch, but not by much.
  • The keys feel really good. I still think the new scissor switches have more travel than I would like, but I get that most people prefer the extra travel. So I’m okay with it. At least the keys are very sturdy. None of that sponginess from the old desktop Magic Keyboards. And precise.
  • I love the backlight. Typing in the dark on an iPad is no longer a problem.
  • I would like if there were a bit more of an angle of view. It’s way nicer than the old Smart Keyboard folio in terms of adjustability. But I’m a tall person. Being able to tilt back even further would be nice. (Maybe it wasn’t possible, due to it toppling over?)
  • Connecting and disconnecting is a breeze. The magnets are that perfect balance of strong enough to not disconnect accidentally, vs easy enough to disconnect with one hand. I don’t think I have to worry about the iPad falling off as much as I thought I would.
  • Typing on my lap is better than I thought it would be. Better than the Keyboard Folio, for sure.
  • Opening with the iPad inside the case is a bit awkward, as the heavy side is on top instead of bottom. But closing the case is very nice. I’ve found I can push down in one motion to a certain point, and the iPad will come to a full close on its own. And I like that it clearly “snaps” shut.
  • The keys are not full-sized, of course, so I still find myself, as I always have on iPad keyboards, typing with three fingers and thumb on each hand, rather than using both pinkies. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but I’m never going to be quite as fast on an iPad keyboard as I can be on my laptop. If I moved to the 13-inch iPad, this would not be an issue, of course.
  • Speaking of larger iPads, typing on this as I am now, I can totally see Apple making a 15-inch iPad Pro. It would give them more room for a larger trackpad and better palm rests. And an even bigger screen would make for an even better drawing tablet. I’d be shocked if that doesn’t happen in the next few years.
  • Now that I’m over the concept of having trackpad support on iPad, I have to say the implementation is pretty darn good. I always found having to reach up to the screen while using iPad in keyboard mode awkward. It’s amazing how fast you get used to using a trackpad on iOS. It feels way more natural than I would have expected. Having a trackpad that’s so small is weird, given how big trackpads have gotten on MacBooks lately. But it’s a very handy thing to have around.
  • The super-dark grey is a very nice color. I picked up a Smart Folio (the keyboard-less version) in the new Cactus color, which is a nice lighter green color. It looks really cool with the Space Gray iPad. But this sleek all-dark look on the keyboard is also very nice.
  • The rubbery material of the outer shell soaks up finger grease like nobody’s business. It’s going to be hard to keep this thing clean.
  • I haven’t noticed any keyboard-shaped grease stains on my screen yet, from being toted around while closed in a bag. But this is my first full day. I suspect that will happen eventually.
  • The USB charge-through port is a cool idea. But given reports of how slow charging is in that configuration, I figure I’ll stick with mostly charging via the iPad’s main port. I generally don’t use other USB accessories with my iPad, anyway.
  • Not being able to flip the keyboard around back and use the iPad as a touch device while still connected is a bit of a bummer. But given how heavy it would be to hold and use standing up, I don’t think I would have left the keyboard connected for this purpose much, anyway.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this keyboard. It’s not as nice as my laptop keyboard, of course, but it blows my Smart Keyboard folio out of the water. And the old Magic Keyboard/Canopy combo, frankly. This is as good as typing out long blog posts on an iPad has ever been. I look forward to using it more.