Of course, as great as the trackpad is, it’s the actual keyboard that’s the entire point of the Magic Keyboard, and this is where Apple has finally done justice to a first-party iPad keyboard.
While fine for dashing off an occasional email, I found the Smart Keyboard folio was seriously awkward for doing any real writing. The key travel was shallow, and the whole thing just felt more mushy than responsive.
The Magic Keyboard doesn’t suffer from any of these imitations. In fact, it feels about as close to a MacBook keyboard as one can expect it to, considering its size and relative slimness. It’s very responsive yet solid and comfortable to type on for long periods of time. I previously considered Logitech to be the clear winner when it came to iPad keyboards (Zagg and Brydge were close seconds), but I think Apple’s new Magic Keyboard now leads the pack.
Beyond the typing experience, there’s also the nicely backlit keys, which automatically adjust based on ambient lighting — as determined by the iPad rather than a sensor in the keyboard. What’s conspicuously lacking, however, are function keys for doing things like controlling volume, brightness, and audio playback, and of course there’s no ESC key either, which isn’t surprising. There are ways to work around many of these things — CMD+(period) doubles as ESC, or you can now reassign something like Caps Lock to be ESC in iPadOS 13.4 — but they do take some getting used to, especially if you switch between an iPad and a MacBook on a regular basis.
That said, however, there’s really no room for an extra row of function keys in this design. While the physical space is there at the top of the keyboard the iPad Pro would overhang them when placed at anything other than but the most vertical angle, making them difficult to hit. In my opinion, the real issue isn’t the lack of function keys anyway so much as it’s the fact that Apple needs to make a few changes in iPadOS to make these controls more globally accessible, both in Control Center and by mapping them to other key combinations that can be used from any app.