Impressions of the Magic Keyboard and iPad Pro

When the iPad first came out in 2010, I immediately bought one. Holding it and interacting with it felt like a revelation. This was the future of computing.

As the years went by and I upgraded to newer models of the iPad, I never really felt the same excitement. The software experience felt like it stagnated. I used it more for reading and watching videos than anything productive.

The iPad Pro without the keyboard the same excitement the original iPad made me feel. The feel of the machine, the bit larger screen and using Face ID to unlock it feels like the future of computing again. I’m curious if the addition of the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil can keep the experience elevated above just a consumption device.

I was early to try blending a tablet and a laptop again. A few years ago, purchased a Surface Pro 5 with an i7 and a keyboard and pen thinking it was going to be my primary mobile machine. I returned after a week because of how unintegrated everything felt. 

The pen was basically a mouse cursor in most of apps I tired (save for OneNote), and I never felt like the Surface in tablet mode was a good tablet experience. Something as simple as reading an ePub felt harder to do than on my iPad.

However, I was amazed at how well the Pencil is supported in iPad apps. I had high hopes for the Magic Keyboard and trackpad support.

Magic Keyboard

Out of the box, this keyboard feels really solid. It’s more sturdy than keyboard for the Surface Pro. It’s stiff and exact, whereas the Surface Pro keyboard felt a little flimsy. This is also a lot easier for me to use in my lap than the Surface Pro.

I do wish the iPad tilted back a little more. I feel like it’s the perfect tilt when I’m slumped in a chair, but when I sit up, it’s just not the correct angle.

I have the 11” iPad Pro and the keyboard does feel a little cramped. I keep missing the command key when trying to copy and paste.

The 12.9” keyboard looks less cramped and seems like it would be a better typing experience. I went with the 11” iPad Pro because I thought if the keyboard/trackpad experience didn’t work out for me, I still prefer the smaller iPad size as a tablet.

The keys feel great, though. I have a 2018 MacBook Pro, and I prefer the Magic Keyboard feel over the butterfly switches in the MacBook Pro. However, I do like the sound of the butterfly switches.

Trackpad

Trackpad support in iPadOS is more intuitive than I was expecting it to be, and it works well across most of the apps I use. Even when an app doesn’t fully take advantage of the trackpad, it is still a pretty remarkable experience. I was expecting it to feel like a bolted on feature that would make me reach for the screen more than I do when the iPad is attached to the keyboard. It does feel natural to use it as I would use a laptop.

There are some places I notice the lack of support. It’s evident when I’m playing a video in the YouTube app and hover the cursor over a playing video. The controls don’t show up like they do on YouTube.com in Safari.

Hover state is just something that developers didn’t have to consider on iPadOS before now.

iPadOS

As great as the iPad experience, as a whole, feels, I still can’t shake the feeling that the operating system is too limiting. I hope WWDC this year previews some improvements, but I’m doubtful I will be able to do any of my work as a developer on it. 

Overall

It’s amazing to me how well the keyboard/trackpad experience has elevated the iPad for me. I’m trying out doing some of my administrative work on the iPad as an experiment. However, I’m a desktop OS kind of person by habit. I like more powerful multitasking concepts like floating windows, thinking about files instead of apps, and the menu bar, but this is a step in the right direction.

Some times I forget I’m on a tablet when I can effortless select text, Command+C, swipe left and Command+V. Though, I do find myself hitting Command+Q thinking it will close the app and take me back to the desktop, err, home screen.