Apple's Magic Keyboard for iPad: Still Excellent, but Time for a Revision

Two years in, this expensive accessory makes the iPad feel like a laptop, but it's not without flaws.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
iPad Air 2022

The Magic Keyboard has been Apple's iPad-transforming keyboard case for years. It has its pros and cons.

Scott Stein/CNET

I'm typing, right now, on a 12-inch iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard, alternating with the iPad Air and the same keyboard, but smaller. I've done this, off and on, for a while. Sometimes I forget I'm on an iPad at all. You can indeed make an iPad feel very laptop-like, and there are several keyboard case accessories that get you there. Apple's $300 case might be the best, but it's also a product that's oddly imperfect -- and expensive. 

I love the Magic Keyboard. But I sometimes get annoyed by it, too. Though the angled, hovering iPad stand design makes it a great iPad-as-laptop or desk-typing accessory, it still lacks some features you'd really expect for this price. Who knows... maybe Apple will give it an update when the next iPad Pro arrives.

What I like

The keys

The best thing about Apple's keyboard case is the feel of its keys. For me, the key travel is perfect, and it mirrors the feel of Apple's most recent MacBooks. I write fast and instinctually, and the positioning of the keys is pretty good for my muscle memory. The trackpad beneath is just the right size. Sure, it could be bigger, but it's big enough.

I'm talking about the 12-inch version of the Magic Keyboard -- the 11-inch model is a little more compressed. It works, but I also get that "typing on a Netbook" old-fashioned feeling I had years ago on 10-inch laptops. The side keys (Tab) and the edge-oriented keys (Return, some symbol keys) suffer the most. All the keyboard cases made for the 11-inch iPads have some sort of key compression like this, though.

The backlit keys are subtle and work well in low light or darkness, although sometimes the lights take too long to automatically turn off. And Apple has no key backlighting adjustment controls on the keyboard (which other keyboard cases often have).


The Magic Keyboard adds an extra pass-through USB-C charge port that can be used while the iPad's USB-C port is connected to other things.

Scott Stein/CNET

And the extra USB-C charge port

The Magic Keyboard has one little bonus that's been super handy -- there's a pass-through charge port for USB-C on the side of the hinge. It's on the left side, while the USB-C port on the iPad is on the right. This means I can charge from either side at a desk, which is really important to prevent the iPad from becoming incredibly annoying. That port can't output to things like monitors (you need to use the iPad's own USB-C/Thunderbolt port for that), but it's a useful charge-up aid.

And the portability

The Magic Keyboard folds smaller than most other keyboard cases, wrapping tightly around the iPad. But it lacks protection for the iPad sides, and the magnets can detach when inside a bag or if you drop the iPad, knocking the entire case loose. 

What needs fixing 

No function keys

Some iPad keyboard cases have extra rows of dedicated function keys, including volume control and play/pause buttons. I love these, and Apple oddly left them out on the Magic Keyboard. Apple has a lot of keyboard shortcuts in iOS, but dedicated function keys would be a great addition.

iPad Air 2022

The iPad (left, with the Smart Keyboard) vs. the iPad Air (right, with the Magic Keyboard). The floppy old smart keyboard cover isn't as good, but it does fold back flat.

Scott Stein/CNET

It can't fold flat as a folio case

The Magic Keyboard's odd design means it can't fold all the way back, with the keyboard parked behind the screen. You either use it as a laptop-thing, or fold it shut. iPads are sketchpads and readers, too, and you can't use the iPad easily for those purposes with the Magic Keyboard on. That means popping the case off (it attaches with magnets), and then you're left holding a naked iPad. Surely Apple can figure this out? The old Smart Keyboard cover isn't as good for work, yet was more flexible as a folio case solution. But it doesn't work with the Magic Keyboard-compatible iPads (Air, Pro).

And that price

At $300 (or $350 for the 12.9-inch version), this is just a lot of money for a keyboard case, especially when the entry iPad costs about as much. It's half the price of the iPad Air! It'd be lovely if a new model split the difference and became at least somewhat more affordable, because having a good keyboard on the go is increasingly useful with iPadOS.

I still love the Magic Keyboard, and it tends to stay on every iPad I've used it with. But it sure can be weird sometimes.