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I was wrong about Apple’s new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro

Angled front profile of Magic Keyboard
Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (2024)
MSRP $299.00
“Apple’s new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is expensive, yes, but it’s also one of the very best iPad accessories you can buy.”
Pros
  • Lovely design
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Great typing experience
  • Trackpad stands out
  • Function keys, finally!
Cons
  • It loves to wobble
  • The white model gets dirty easily
  • Whew, it’s expensive

For the better part of the past three years, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Apple’s keyboard accessories, especially the pricey ones with the word Magic in their name. They look cool, to this day, all thanks to that magnetically suspended design. But the build quality and longevity have been lacking.

The story has been pretty messy so far, primarily because there haven’t been many comparable alternatives. Logitech’s keyboard works fine, and it also happens to be cheaper, but at the same time, it looks just like another Microsoft Surface wannabe.

As for other keyboard options without a trackpad, well, they simply don’t cut it for demanding workflows. That left Apple’s Magic Keyboard as the only reliable solution, with all its inherent flaws in tow. Naturally, when Apple revealed the updated version at its big iPad event earlier this year, I was pretty skeptical. Oh, how I was wrong.

If you’ve been eying it, I pushed it through all kinds of scenarios. From furiously typing away a few thousand words to using it for video editing, I used the new Magic Keyboard through all the workflows that I could imagine. What follows is an account of using the kit as my daily driver for a few weeks.

Apple’s new Magic Keyboard is undeniably stylish

Magic Keyboard and iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

There is nothing out there that comes close to the updated Magic Keyboard. Period. I am talking about aesthetics as well as build quality. Apple has retained the cantilever design for magnetically attaching the iPad to it, but this time, the design is closer to the MacBook.

In fact, it looks and feels better than my MacBook Air — for two reasons. The combination of silver metal against white keycaps is unique across the Apple portfolio (save for the iMac). But what the Magic Keyboard offers is all that fun in a slimmer chassis.

A reduction in weight is also instantly noticeable, and thanks to a similar treatment given to the iPad Pro, the combination now feels noticeably lighter compared to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and its Magic Keyboard.

Close up view of corner on Magic Keyboard.
It gets dirty. Alright? Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

As far as the material goes, it’s still the same rubberized material on both sides, but the texture feels drier to the touch. What I am happy about is that on the deck portion, there’s one less avenue for the material peeling off the edges, thanks to the aluminum material.

For this review, I got the white Magic Keyboard, but I’d argue that the black one looks slick as well. What I don’t like is that the white exterior is still as welcoming to dirt smudges and grime as its predecessor. It will need frequent cleaning with an alcohol-based cleaner and soft fabric.

The 2024 Magic Keyboard’s biggest upgrades

Rear shell of Magic keyboard
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Apple hasn’t made any improvements to the key travel or the underlying switch mechanism inside. But if you’re used to working on a MacBook, you’ll feel right at home. In my case, I can hit a higher typing speed on the Magic Keyboard than on Apple’s laptop keyboards.

The most notable upgrade for power users is the addition of a full-function key row. A healthy bunch of third-party keyboards have been offering a dedicated row of function keys for a while now. The most well-known example is the Logitech Touch combo keyboard for the iPad. This one not only costs a fraction of what Apple asks you, but also offers a pen holder and, of course, the function keys. ESR’s Rebound keyboard also offers this, however, I would have loved a dedicated user-programmable key, the kind we get on the iPhone 15 Pro.

I can hit a higher typing speed on the Magic Keyboard than on Apple’s laptop keyboards.

Or, maybe, a function button for Siri, similar to what Microsoft partners are doing with a dedicated Copilot key on laptops. Given the massive AI-charged overhaul that Apple announced for Siri at WWDC 2024, the virtual assistant is going to become a core experience across in-house and third-party apps.

Magic Keyboard front view of deck.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Needless to say, a dedicated button would certainly have helped, especially for scenarios where you can’t vocally say the hotword and would rather prefer pressing a button to call it up. Since that didn’t happen, users will have to long-press on the dictation key to summon the virtual assistant.

Another notable change is a bigger trackpad. In enlarging the size of the trackpad, Apple has also paved the way for a larger palm rest area. While working with the older configuration, either side of my palms naturally rested alongside the corners of the keyboard deck, and it was not particularly uncomfortable.

On the updated version, your palms comfortably rest on the metallic palm rest, thanks to the larger area on either side of the trackpad. It’s cozier and feels closer to what you would get on the MacBook, without the added vertical height troubling the underside of your wrists.

Subtle refinements, too

Side view of Magic Keyboard And MacBook Air.
The new Magic Keyboard makes the iPad feel even more like a laptop. Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

While a larger trackpad is a welcome change, you really experience its true benefits when dragging and dropping apps, especially across screens. But the real upgrade lies under the glass sheet. Instead of clicking, users now just have to press and an engine underneath will provide the haptic feedback.

The trackpad on the older Magic Keyboard wasn’t really bad. Even though it was quite slim, the button clicks were quite noisy. On the new model, it’s almost silent. The movements are precise and smooth, and multi-finger tap and swipe gestures work flawlessly. I actually prefer the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard over my MacBook Air.

You might run into a bit of a different hands-on experience if you pick the 11-inch version of the new keyboard. On this version, the Return, Tab, Caps Lock, and the right Option keys are smaller compared to what you get on the 13-inch version.

Buttons on Magic Keyboard
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

It’s not a deal breaker, because I have worked on the 11-inch version for two years without any issues. However, the 13-inch models offers a more MacBook-like experience, which is easier to get used to.

A larger trackpad is a welcome change.

Apple has made some subtle changes, too, aside from the obvious material overhaul. For example, there is a thin rubber gasket running around the keyboard deck that is ever so slightly raised and keeps the screen from coming in contact with the keycaps.

I’ve faced this issue on my Microsoft Surface Go, which attracted nasty keycap imprints on the screen that are hard to get rid of. This was also the case with my 12-inch Apple MacBook before that.

Still a work in progress

Thickness comparison of Magic Keyboard and MacBook Air
A Magic Keyboard atop the deck of a M3 MacBook Air. Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Unfortunately, not all the changes yield a positive outcome. Apple has redesigned the central ridge at the back, which is now exposed and flattened compared to the cylindrical unit we got on the previous-generation Magic Keyboard.

The exposed ridge on the 2024 iteration is topped off with a chrome finish, leaving it vulnerable to scratches and scuffs. So far, mine has remained in a relatively pristine state, but I would strongly advise against going commando and I would always keep the iPad Pro-Magic Keyboard assembly in a sleeve.

Another drawback is that the secondary USB-C port on the ridge is, once again, exclusively for charging. It won’t allow data transfer. Thankfully, it won’t slow down the charging pace. Using a USB-C cable with a display unit, I measured 30-watt  charging output via this accessory port, which is slightly slower than the peak value of what the iPad Pro’s USB-C port allows.

On the topic of drawbacks, here’s an infuriating one. The keyboard backlight turns on and off automatically based on the surroundings. You can adjust its brightness, but you can’t toggle it on or off. It’s an awkward design choice, but it likely has to do with reducing the power draw.

Let’s turn over to the back, and specifically, the metallic ridge holding the two halves together. The secondary USB-C port, which is now positioned vertically (alongside the X-axis) makes it a tad more difficult to plug in a cable compared to the vertical inlet on the older version.

One big, glaring issue

The biggest flaw is associated with resting state ergonomics. If you’re tapping on the screen or drawing on it with the Apple Pencil, especially in the upper half, the whole assembly rocks and wants to topple over. I would strongly suggest that before you buy one that you get your hands on it at a nearby retail store and check if your screen interactions would lead to a frequent rocking motion.

For tasks like dealing with sliders using the Apple Pencil, you will want to take the tablet off and into your hands, or put it on a table. It’s that annoying. Of course, the top-heavy nature of the whole setup is to blame here, but that’s not the sole reason.

You see, the flattened ridge doesn’t sit completely flush when in contact with the flat surface on which the Magic Keyboard is resting, leaving a very small vertical gap that allows it to rock back and forth. On the previous-generation Magic Keyboard, the cylindrical hinge was in contact with the surface, even though the contact area was smaller, which led to a significantly smaller degree of rocking movement.

The issue is particularly noticeable when you try to work with the Magic Keyboard in your lap — you know, like a laptop. To keep the whole kit steady, you will need to train a vigilant eye on either side of the trackpad and make sure you apply even pressure to not just keep it balanced, but to also prevent it from toppling over.

Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil P
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

For someone like me — whose job entails typing articles and editing media with the Apple Pencil all day long, essentially treating the setup like a laptop — this is a design flaw that I can’t quite get past with ease. But there is also an engineering caveat here that answers the lack of backward compatibility.

Given the delicate weight balance of this machine, allowing the heavier older-generation iPad Pro to hang atop the magnetic cantilever board would certainly worsen the rocking problem. That seems to be the reason why the updated keyboard is exclusive to the newer — and lighter — models.

Apple Magic Keyboard 2024 price and availability

M4 iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

The 2024 Magic Keyboard is available now only for the 2024 iPad Pro. The 11-inch version costs $299 while the 13-inch size goes up to $349. It’s available in black and white colors.

You can buy the new Magic Keyboard from all of the usual places you can get Apple products — including Apple’s website, Amazon, Best Buy, etc.

Should you buy the 2024 Magic Keyboard?

top view of deck on Magic keyboard
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

The new Magic Keyboard is a very curious device. At best, I can call it an indulgence. It’s unlike anything else out there, and that, in itself, makes for a compelling proposition. But is that compelling enough to spend $349 on it? If it’s really caught your fancy, and you won’t feel the financial pinch, you won’t regret the splurge.

Everything is fantastic here. Well, almost. It’s a bit topple-loving, still gets dirty, and that secondary USB port is only good enough for charging. On the positive side, the build quality is terrific and it looks better than any product in Apple’s lineup.

Everything is fantastic here.

As a keyboard, your fingers will love it, unless your digits have grown to love low-profile mechanical switches. I won’t recommend the Magic Keyboard to folks shopping for a keyboard case for their iPads, primarily because it’s one heck of an expensive option.

But if you plan to push it as a workhorse for at least a few years — like I intend to do — go ahead and get one. Just don’t forget to put a skin on it.Dbrand’s hydro-drip skins look terrific, and so does its black steel texture option, so you might want to start there.

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
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