Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Reviews of the Magic Keyboard for iPad

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

The Magic Keyboard offers a lovely, backlit deck that holds its own against the 16” MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air for best portable keyboards. The key travel is excellent — in between the two laptops in my opinion — and the feel is tight, responsive and precise. This is a first class typing experience, full stop.

[…]

This is not the case that artists have been waiting for. This case does not rotate around backwards like the keyboard folio, meaning that you’re going to be popping it off the case if you’re going to draw on it at all. In some ways the ease of removal feels like an Apple concession: “Hey, we couldn’t fit all this in and a way to position it at a drawing angle, so we made it really easy to get it loose.” It works, but I hope that more magic happens between now and the next iteration to find a way to serve both typing and drawing in one protected configuration.

Dieter Bohn, the Verge:

The trackpad is good. That’s really the TL;DR of it. It is fairly small, of course, and if you’re used to the capacious trackpads on MacBooks, it will probably feel absolutely tiny. On the 12.9-inch unit I am reviewing, it’s almost exactly the same size as the trackpad on my Surface Pro — so it felt familiar to me, at least.

But the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad is better than the Surface’s because it lets you click anywhere on the trackpad, not just in the middle or at the bottom. It’s also smooth, accurate, and there’s zero lag on iPadOS.

John Gruber:

The hinge was way stiffer than I expected. I mean like “What the hell is going on here?” stiff, “Is there some sort of packaging attached that I neglected to remove?” stiff — which, needless to say, was not what I was expecting at all. And I knew the iPad-as-laptop was going to be top-heavy, but not this top-heavy. But where I say expecting I really mean hoping for. What I was hoping for was something approximating the feel and experience of a MacBook — a little more top heavy, a little stiffer at the hinge to accommodate that extra top-heaviness — but basically I wanted an iPad-as-laptop that feels like a MacBook Air.

[…] Once I let go of my preconceptions, I fell in love. This took all of 15 minutes. I went from that “I don’t like the way this thing feels at all” first impression to “I can’t wait to start raving about how great this thing is” in 15 minutes. The iPad Magic Keyboard is to iPad-as-laptop accessories what AirPods were to earbuds: a game changer.

If you want two thousand words perfectly describing the unique qualities of the hinges in the Magic Keyboard — and you do — Gruber’s review is one you must read.

Bohn and Gruber both highlight the lack of a function row on the keyboard, which sadly limits some functionality. You cannot, for example, adjust the keyboard backlight brightness in an immediate way — you must go into Settings, and then into a sub-sub-sub-level menu to get the slider. I find that I rarely need to adjust the backlight level of, say, my MacBook Air’s keyboard; but, when I do, I expect that control to be right there. So, that kind of sucks, particularly because when you do connect a keyboard that has a function row, iPadOS makes pretty good use of it for system features.

The overall impressions of this keyboard-and-trackpad case are very positive from all the reviews I read and watched. There are areas where it appears to be more limited than reviewers hoped; Marques Brownlee specifically called out the restricted range of viewing angles, which makes it less ideal for using with the Apple Pencil. As a way of making the iPad more of a laptop when it ought to be while still allowing it to be a full tablet when that’s more appropriate, it looks far better than any prior work by either Apple or a third party.

Update: Two more good reviews; first, from Craig Mod:

The trackpad registers gestures flawlessly. iPadOS responds as instantaneously as performing the same gestures on the surface of the screen. And with iPad Pro’s 120hz screen refresh rate, it feels remotely tactile in a pleasing way — as if the trackpad and on-screen events were tethered by some organic link above and beyond electric blips.

And one from Federico Viticci:

Which brings me to the point I believe most people are not seeing when comparing the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard to other laptops or tablets. The Magic Keyboard is an accessory that fully embraces Apple’s modular approach to the iPad Pro: it enables a reliable, functional laptop mode while at the same time encouraging you to detach the iPad at any time and use it as a tablet when you no longer need a keyboard and trackpad.

When I read this part of Viticci’s review, I was reminded of that slide Apple used to show in their iMac-related keynotes illustrating the advantages of an all-in-one computer.

The iPad turns this concept on its head because it is both a self-contained all-in-one computer and a modular platform. You can just use an iPad if you want, with no external accessories, and you’ll be fine most of the time for most applications. But you can also add a pencil for artistic and precision applications, or add a Magic Keyboard if you want a better long-form writing experience. Yet it never looks or feels like that tower PC in Apple’s slideshow because all of its accessories connect without wires and are held in place with magnets. There is never a need to “eject” an accessory; it can simply be removed. Most importantly, the magic rectangle of the iPad is entirely independent of its add-ons. It is a more elegant and refined approach to modularity.