The iPad Magic Keyboard Case

Posted by Ryan Himmelwright on Fri, Sep 30, 2022
Tags hardware, apple, ipad, keyboards
City Hall, Durham NC

As mentioned in my previous post, I found myself trapped on the couch, bed, or generally away from my desk when my son was born. However, I still wanted to work on projects when possible. As a result, I started grabbing my 11” iPad Pro more than ever. Using the iPad for nearly everything, I began to wonder… should I get the Magic Keyboard to go with it?

Background/Why

Keyboard and trackpad setup with old case

Keyboard and Trackpad setup with my old iPad case

In the past, I would sometimes use a keyboard and trackpad with the iPad, but it was clunky and not what I would call ‘portable’. I’ve always wanted a keyboard case for the iPad, but not at the expense of making it an unwieldy device.

Sitting on the couch in the middle of many nights, I conducted a bunch of research on all the various cases out there, and eventually decided on the official Apple Magic keyboard. All of the other options either didn’t have a trackpad, were massive, or just didn’t seem as well matched for my needs.

Yes, the magic keyboard is very expensive, as many reviews state. However, most reviewers also claim that despite the high cost… they love the magic keyboard. This is a ‘buy once, cry once’ item (quite common with Apple hardware). So, one night at 3 AM, in a new parent daze, I ordered one.

Initial Thoughts

New magic keyboard case with sticker

New magic keyboard case, with sloth sticker

When the keyboard arrived several days later, I recorded a few initial thoughts during the first day or two of use:

  • It felt heavy: All of the reviews I watched said this, but I blew it off thinking they were being a bit dramatic. I knew it weighed more than the iPad, but my iPad without a case feels very light, so I thought that the case couldn’t be that bad. But when I first picked it up … I was surprised at the heft it had.

  • The keyboard felt great: I liked the ‘pop’ the keys had when typing, and loved how low and flat the keyboard felt when on a desk. I did worry that my palms sat right on the edge and that during longer typing periods, it might be uncomfortable.

  • It looked plain: So I added a sloth sticker 😄.

Longer term Thoughts

Now that I’ve been using the iPad with the magic keyboard for several months, here are some refined thoughts.

The Good

the floating hinge makes it very easy to grab the ipad off the case for reading.

The floating hinge makes it very easy to pop the iPad off the case for reading.

  • The weight isn’t that bad: It is something that might surprise you when you first pick it up, but mostly from the sheer density. It’s light for a keyboard case while remaining quite slim. I learned that the iPad and keyboard are lighter than my old 11” netbook I used to love for its portability.

  • Perfect terminal console device: The portability, satisfying keyboard, and beautiful screen make this a perfect terminal console device. I love to ssh into systems to work from the iPad. I even updated my Neovim config and switched back to using it as my main editor, mostly because it’s much more usable on the iPad compared to VS Code.

  • Easy Reading Setup: Despite being a keyboard case, the iPad still functions as a great reading device. With my old case, I started to take it off for reading as the case-less iPad feels so light and nice to hold. The floating hinge design of the magic keyboard case makes it effortless to pop off the iPad when I want to read. When done, I plop it down and the magnets snap it back into place.

  • Multiple functions in one: The magic keyboard serves many roles for the iPad. It’s a keyboard, trackpad, case, magnetic stand, and additional charging port. The iPad is at its best when viewed as a modular computing device. The magic keyboard is the accessory that brings that paradigm to life.

The ‘Could Be Better’

Portrait orientation is nice when writing.

The ability to connect the iPad in portrait orientation would be nice.

  • Yeah, just as I feared, the edge does cut into my palms over time. It is worst when typing with the iPad on my lap, but hardly a problem when on a table.

  • As far as I can tell, there is no way to use FN keys with this keyboard. I figured I’d be able to trigger them by combining the numbers with the globe key or another modifier, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. WHY!?!?

  • There is nowhere to securely attach an Apple Pencil. It still magnetically attaches to the side, but easily falls off when in a bag. As a result, I’ve given my pencil to my wife to use with her iPad mini for now.

  • The case smudges easily and is hard to clean.

  • I wish I had the option to set or flip the iPad into a portrait orientation. This would be nice while reading long documents or when writing. Because the iPad only connects and powers the keyboard via the SMART connector, it’s not possible to connect to it in alternative orientations.

Conclusion

New magic keyboard.

My magic keyboard setup

I love the magic keyboard case and am so happy I took the plunge and bought it. It has transformed my iPad from a video and reading consumption device, to a portable, productivity, powerhouse. I can do all of my portable computing with the iPad now, and it has filled the role that my netbooks and other portable laptops did in the past. All of this, while remaining a perfect tablet for reading and watching videos.

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