For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to use a tablet with a keyboard as my primary laptop. Now that I own an iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard, I’m convinced that this is my future. As someone who owns a desk-bound iMac, I wanted something portable to take on the go. Whether it was on vacation or just a quick trip to Starbucks, I wanted something portable.
Well, with the improvements Apple made to Stage Manager with iPadOS 16 and iPadOS 17, I’m more convinced than ever that I made the right decision. There is no question that iPadOS 17 has all but sealed the deal as using my iPad Pro on the go with the Magic Keyboard is my happy place.
If anything, the iPad Pro is now my favorite device, even more loved in my life than my iPhone. Gasp!
Magic Keyboard Evolution
In order to get to the point of love that I have for the Magic Keyboard, it’s helpful to know a bit of history. Apple’s first attempt at a keyboard for its iPad, in November 2015, was released for the first generation iPad Pro. Using Apple’s butterfly-switch mechanism and fabric material, the Smart Keyboard was only good for one angled position.
Apple updated this product with the Smart Keyboard Folio in 2018, which offered two angles for typing. This model was compatible with the 3rd generation iPad Pro (11 and 12.9-inch sizes) from 2018 and later.
Finally, on March 18, 2020, the Magic Keyboard was unveiled. Introducing a trackpad and using the Smart Connector of the iPad Pro (and later iPad Air) lineup, it comes with USB-C pass-through charging. Two of its best features are the use of a backlit keyboard and the scissor-switch keys, which are a real joy to type on.
- Compatible with the iPad Pro (3rd, 2nd and 1st generation) and iPad Air (5th and 4th generation)
- Trackpad, a USB-C port for charging, backlit keys, and front and back protection
- New floating cantilever design
- Folds into a case
Why I Purchased a Magic Keyboard
Thinking back, my purchase of a Magic Keyboard was partially wanting a shiny new toy. At the time, the Magic Keyboard was unproven and no one really knew how well it would work. Even so, I loved the idea of pairing up an iPad and keyboard in place of a laptop. This would let me have the best of both worlds with an iMac still at home. What I believed was that an iPad would help me with the basic tasks I might want to do on the go and my 27-inch iMac would be sticking around as my work powerhouse.
At $299, the Magic Keyboard is not inexpensive for the 11-inch iPad Pro model. When I purchased the Magic Keyboard, I had the 2020 11-inch Pro but recently upgraded to the M2 iPad Pro. While I can tell a difference in overall iPad performance, there isn’t any functional difference with the Magic Keyboard.
What I have discovered is that the Magic Keyboard is a perfect size for me. I love the portability of the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard so much. Yes, it weighs close to a MacBook and I know the arguments why the iPad isn’t a laptop replacement. However, and I’m being completely honest, I don’t really bother with those discussions.
What Makes the Magic Keyboard and iPad Combination So Awesome?
One of the things that makes using the iPad and Magic Keyboard combination so easy is battery life. The iPad gets right around 10 hours of battery life, which is more than most Windows computers can say. Using the Magic Keyboard doesn’t really affect battery life, at least not that I have noticed over the last 2 years. As someone who uses this combination at least a few times every day, if battery drain was prominent, I would have noticed by now.
As Apple added a pass-through charger to the Magic Keyboard, it’s also easy to charge the iPad while in use. The Magic Keyboard is powered by the iPad, so it doesn’t have a separate battery to worry about. Using pass-through charging keeps cables out of my way and still allows for battery life boosts when the charge is low.
I really can’t remember any point over the last 2 years, roughly 730 days, that I have said to myself “Battery life on my iPad is terrible.” This goes both for my old 2020 iPad Pro and now my new(er) iPad Pro from 2022.
Fun to Use
Perhaps my biggest argument in favor of the iPad/Magic Keyboard combination is just how fun it is to use. The keyboard is compact and never in your way, which means access to the iPad’s touchscreen remains seamless. I love that I can have the keyboard attached and still use my Apple Pencil to write, draw, color, or do any other task on the iPad.
At no point has the Magic Keyboard ever gotten in the way where I just had to rip it off to use the iPad. Sure, I take it off regularly to watch movies more comfortably on a sofa or practice drawing while watching instructional YouTube videos. Total side note here but I’m running down the clock on my 2023 resolution of learning how to draw on my iPad. I’m not going to make it, so now it’s a 2024 resolution.
I am prepared to argue all day long that Apple makes the best touchpads for laptops, full stop. There are plenty of good Windows touchpads, more than enough to please the user base. However, when it comes to a best-in-class touchpad experience, it’s Apple all day long. The good news is that Apple has brought the same touchpad greatness they have with laptops over to the Magic Keyboard.
After unveiling mouse cursor support at the same time Apple introduced the Magic Keyboard, it fundamentally changed how we use our iPads. Even if you use a third-party keyboard with a touchpad, like a Brydge or Zagg keyboard, it still changes how you control your iPad in a major way.
While the pointer only appears when in use, it appears the millisecond after your finger hits the touchpad. This is classic Apple behavior and one of the reasons why the Magic Keyboard is my favorite. I can leave the Magic Keyboard attached all day long and if I never put my finger on the touchpad, it never gets in the way. This must be the “magic” part of the Magic Keyboard name.
A keyboard, any keyboard, is only as good as the typing experience it delivers. I’m happy to say typing on the Magic Keyboard delivers and then some. It’s just a smooth typing experience with just the right amount of squishiness for me. It’s unlikely the Magic Keyboard would please mechanical keyboard fans, but I love it.
Best of all, whatever I type on the Magic Keyboard shows up instantly. I’m not someone who really looks at Bluetooth lag and shakes my head in disgust as I almost never realize it’s there. What I do realize is that when I type something on the keyboard, it shows up on my iPad Pro. In reality, this is all I’m really concerned about. As long as the tablet and keyboard can get the job done, I’m going to use them.
I have seen plenty of reviews of third-party Apple keyboards where you can tell a slight delay exists. There is no doubt it would be difficult to use a tablet keyboard with noticeable delays when typing.
It’s So Portable
I’ve mentioned this above already, but the combination of the 11-inch iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard is so portable. It’s one of the reasons I love this combination most. Yes, there is no question it adds some bulk to the iPad Pro. I also know that with the 12.9-inch iPad Air/Pro combination with the Magic Keyboard, it weighs a few grams more than the MacBook Air.
Even though that weight comparison might be true, there is just something about the Magic Keyboard and iPad that feels so portable. Even if the MacBook Air weighs less, for me, the iPad Pro/keyboard combination is still smaller and therefore more portable. I can choose a smaller bag to bring when I want to travel around with it for a day or a week. I also don’t need the larger charger brick that comes with a laptop.
Instead, I just need a single charging brick and a USB-C cable for my iPad and a USB-C to lightning cable for my iPhone. As they run off the same power brick from Apple, this combination is also easily more portable.
With the software release of Stage Manager on the iPad in iPadOS 16, the ability to connect the iPad via USB-C to a monitor is just awesome. This may be one of the best use cases available and was made even better on iPadOS 17. On this software release from Apple last year, you can connect the iPad Pro to a monitor and open up to 4 separate apps on a monitor screen from the iPad. This essentially gives you two screens as you can use the iPad and a monitor just as you would a laptop and a monitor.
With this connection, I can open Safari, Google Docs, Mastodon/Twitter, and Gmail all on one screen. You can resize each app to be different sizes and place them anywhere on a monitor screen. What makes this feature so great is that it’s actually easier to manage window sizes here than it is with a non-tablet. Apple has created an environment where apps won’t overlap, something laptops will easily let you do. If you have the ability to use a monitor with an iPad and a keyboard, it’s the total package.
Will I Ever Go Back to a Laptop?
The answer to this question isn’t absolutely yes or no in either direction. I think it’s safe to say laptops are Apple’s future as far as computers go. As someone heavily invested in its ecosystem, I know my next computer is likely a laptop. Even so, I’d still likely leave it at home connected to a monitor and travel with my iPad Pro. This would be even more true if my travels were personal and vacation-based with my family and not work-related.
Having the iPad Pro and keyboard available is a wonderful feeling when I just want to pick up and go. Going to get an oil change? Take the iPad Pro and keyboard. Taking the kids to gymnastics? Grab the iPad Pro and keyboard. It’s just so much easier to flip the iPad into the Magic Keyboard case, throw it in a bag, and go about my day.
The bottom line, the last 2 years of using my iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard have been wonderful. I can’t recommend the combination enough. Forget those who say it’s not a laptop replacement. For 95% of people who don’t do heavy work, it absolutely can replace your laptop.
- 8-core CPU and 10‑core GPU
- Wi-Fi 6E connectivity
- Features technologies like ProMotion, True Tone, P3 wide color, and ultralow reflectivity
- iPadOS makes the device more intuitive
- 11-inch Liquid Retina display (2388 x 1668)
Final Verdict: Is the Tablet and Keyboard Combination Worth it?
When it comes to using an iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard, it’s a yes every time. I have rarely run into a scenario where I cannot complete a task on the iPad and Magic Keyboard. Sure, there are things that are easier on a laptop, but it’s just not as much fun.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Fadhli Adnan/Shutterstock.com.