Tablet

Tablet keyboard's magic lies in dynamic design

Apple's Magic Keyboard case for its 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro, supposedly available only next month, arrived early on April 17.

Those who ordered back then might have had it delivered to them by now. However, future deliveries have been delayed until early to mid-next month.

This Magic Keyboard comes in two sizes for the 11-and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the latter being the version tested.

It doubles as a case, covering the front and back of the tablet when closed.

It features a full-sized keyboard similar to that of the latest MacBook Air, with individual hard keycaps and a scissor-mechanism with 1mm key travel.

It is backlit - a first in Apple's iPad keyboard offerings - so you can finally use it in all lighting conditions.

But the Magic Keyboard's biggest selling point is the integrated trackpad that lets you move the mouse cursor if you are using the iPad OS 13.4 operating system.

Unlike Apple's Smart Keyboard or Keyboard Folio for other iPads, it comes with a new cantilevered design that, in Apple's words, allows the iPad Pro to "float magically above the keyboard".

While it might sound fanciful, how it works is actually simple.

The iPad Pro attaches magnetically to the back of the case and connects to the Smart Connector, like how it works on the Smart Keyboard Folio.

However, the Magic Keyboard's back has a double-hinge design. The main hinge, which connects to the keyboard, can be tilted up to 70 degrees from flat.

The other hinge on the back allows you to tilt the magnetically attached iPad Pro from 90 to 130 degrees for your preferred viewing angle.

Thus, it looks as if the iPad Pro is hovering above the keyboard. To me, the best part of this design is that it brings the screen closer to you.

  • FOR

    • New scissor-mechanism keyboard great to type on

    • Backlit keyboard 

    • Dual-hinge design lets you easily adjust viewing angle

    • Integrated trackpad

    • USB-C charging port


    AGAINST

    • Very expensive

    • No portrait orientation option


    SPECS

    PRICE: $439 (for 11-inch iPad Pro), $519 (for 12.9-inch iPad Pro, version tested)

    CONNECTIVITY: Smart Connector

    WEIGHT: 702g (for 12.9-inch iPad Pro)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The keyboard itself is superb for typing. The hard keycaps deliver a nice "clicky" feel, unlike the rubberised keycaps of the Smart Keyboard Folio.

Every key press exudes a satisfying clunk similar to that of its laptop cousins. I typed this review without many typos or mistakes.

The keyboard backlight brightness is adjusted automatically based on ambient lighting conditions. However, you can manually change the brightness by going to Settings, then General and Hardware Keyboard.

The integrated trackpad - sited below the keys, just like on a laptop - works smoothly and is both comfortable to use and large enough for dragging the mouse cursor across the display.

It allows for some iPad-specific trackpad touch gestures. For instance, you can tap on it with two fingers for a right click or do a three-finger swipe up and pause on the trackpad to bring up the App Switcher for switching between active apps.

There is also a USB-C charging point on the left side of the case to charge the iPad Pro, freeing up the USB-C port of your iPad Pro to connect to other accessories, such as a monitor.

In terms of "lapability" - or whether it can be placed on your lap to type - it is a mixed bag. If you rest your wrists on the keyboard, it is very much usable. But if you lift your wrists away from it, there is a risk of the entire set-up tilting and falling over if the screen is adjusted to 130 degrees.

The Magic Keyboard would have been perfect if it had let the iPad Pro be rotated to the portrait orientation. But I am nitpicking here.

Instead, the biggest bugbear of the Magic Keyboard has to be its hefty price tag.

At $439 for the 11-inch version and $519 for the 12.9-inch version, you can get either an Android tablet or a mid-range smartphone for that price.

Nonetheless, if you are already using your iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, the iPad Magic Keyboard will take the tablet closer to being a laptop.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2020, with the headline 'Tablet keyboard's magic lies in dynamic design'. Print Edition | Subscribe