The upshot: this is the best iPad keyboard you can buy. If the iPad were my only device, I’d buy this. The keys are great. (Finally.) The trackpad is tiny but better than anything else its size. The magnetic frame is a delight. The whole unit feels incredibly solid.
And yet, we have a situation where the whole is less than the sum of its parts because the genius of this thing is wrapped in a terrible material for a top-tier professional accessory: pseudo-soft polyurethane.
Coming in at $300 (for the 11-inch, small version) it wasn’t worth it to me. But if the iPad is your only device, you may not have any other options. And if you’re like me, material aside, you won’t want to use anything else.
Smudges, fingerprints; this case is a magnet. There’s also an almost imperceptible give between the material and its enclosed frame. After spending a week with this thing—moving between my office, the couch, and my bed—I’m certain this case will look awful in less than a year. Pleasing polyurethane patina is not a thing.
Which sucks. Because if the iPad plus Magic Keyboard is supposed to make a play for the hearts of MacBook users, I’m afraid that crowd will be left wanting. The Magic Keyboard polyurethane is the antithesis of my MacBook Pro’s aluminum chassis.
And at $300, it’s laughable that an otherwise great product would be wrapped in this.
(Now, a Magic Keyboard—same everything—but made of aluminum? Take my money.)
Okay. Let’s set the material aside for a moment. Besides, I’m tired of typing polyurethane.
The keys are great. I said it above, but I’ll say it again: finally. Although the 11-inch size (for my iPad Air, 4th generation) was a touch small for my large hands, there’s no getting around how great it feels to type on this thing.
If Apple’s keyboards forevermore hit this level of travel and clickyness, I think the typing world would find it perfectly acceptable. At this point, can we consider keyboards a solved problem space? No more innovation needed. Hard stop.
There’s backlighting, which is nice. I don’t need it, but I appreciate the subtle glow in the early nights of autumn.
No function key row was a miss. I hate having to reach up towards Control Center to adjust the volume down a click. Imagine if you had pull off to the side of the road every time you wanted to change your car’s speaker volume. That’s how frustrating (and flow breaking) the lack of function keys is.
The trackpad feels nice and exquisitely engineered given its size. In practice, I didn’t mind the smaller size, but I did find my finger running off the edge until my muscle memory was rewired. Two software preferences helped make the experience near perfect: turning the tracking speed all the way up and enabling tap-to-click. Once I had those settings tuned, I didn’t think much about the trackpad after that.
(In case you’re wondering, Trackpad Notions Per Hour is my only litmus test for this type of hardware. And the only passing grade is zero.)
I’m not a materials engineer, so when I say the Magic Keyboard hinge is a feat of engineering what I really mean is that the mechanism is good enough to quickly fade into the background. There’s no wobble or flex. It’s almost hard to believe the design works, but it does.
The design is striking, managing to blend the stability of a laptop (particularly the lapability) with the elegance of something entirely different and futuristic.
My only complaint is the restricted viewing angle. I wish it would lean back another 10–15 degrees. I kept instinctively trying to adjust the screen beyond where it would go, and I never completely adjusted to the reduced rotation.
The magnet system is a sublime experience. It’s easy to guide the iPad into the correct position, and the attraction is strong enough to win my trust. When they’re together, the iPad and Magic Keyboard feel like a single unibody unit. Closed, it feels satisfyingly solid. Like when you’re carrying a book with a high quality spine, binding, and pages.
Removing the iPad is easy. There’s a small area towards the bottom of the iPad that isn’t covered by the case, which makes it simple to grab and peel away the tablet.
All In One
If you want a great typing experience and the iPad is your only device and you want that typing experience to be the same between a desk and your lap, then the Magic Keyboard is your singular option. It’s expensive, I’m not a fan of the polyurethane material choice, and I’m immensely curious whether another iteration on the materials and design will make this a must-have. But otherwise it’s the best you can get. You’re just going to pay for it.
Sunday, 15 November 2020