Why You Don't Need to Upgrade Your Incompatible Magic Keyboard

Less expensive alternatives are as good or better

Key Takeaways

  • The new M1 iPad Pro is slightly too thick to fit in your old iPad Magic Keyboard case.
  • The $350 Magic Keyboard may be the best iPad accessory ever.
  • There are plenty of keyboard/trackpad alternatives for the iPad.
And iPad Pro on a stand with an external keyboard and a camera lens in front of it.

Brandon Romanchuk / Unsplash

The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro won’t fit in your old $350 Magic Keyboard case. That’s an expensive extra half millimeter if you’re planning to upgrade to the new M1 iPad.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard case (with trackpad) is the best iPad Pro accessory around. It truly transforms the device, turning it into a capable laptop replacement.

It's also more expensive than some laptops. The 12.9-inch version costs $350 and is now obsolete. So, should you just ditch Apple’s version and try an alternative?

"It doesn't completely put me off the new iPad Pro because I would be buying it for unrelated reasons, but I completely understand how it would be a dealbreaker for some people," Rex Freiberger CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire via email.

Planned Obsolescence

With computers, your old Bluetooth or USB keyboard will keep working with any new computer until the keyboard dies. With the Magic Keyboard, you need to "upgrade" to the newer model, which is identical but for a half-millimeter extra space, so it can close on the slightly thicker new M1 iPad Pro.

How bad this news is will depend on how much you rely on the keyboard case. For some people, it doesn’t matter much. "I would consider just ditching the keyboard to upgrade the iPad. The keyboard is great, but I can do without it," said Freiberger.

An iPad Pro on a Magic Keyboard.

Apple

For others, it means they will keep their old iPad Pro instead of buying a new one.

"The 2018 iPad is arguably the best iPad ever produced," cryptocurrency writer and iPad Pro-lover Patrick Moore told Lifewire via email. "Besides, the fact that I would have to ditch my keyboard, and buy another one at my own cost, is simply a deterrent. I'll stick to my 2018 model for now."

Fortunately for Moore and other iPad keyboard lovers, there are alternatives.

Building Brydges

Brydge is a long-time maker of excellent iPad keyboards. Older models were keyboard-only and clipped onto the edge of the iPad. The latest Brydge 12.9 MAX+ snaps onto the iPad using magnets, like Apple’s version, and brings a huge trackpad, which Brydge calls "the largest iPadOS enabled multi-touch trackpad." 

The unit is heavy, weighing in at 2.1 lb (970 g), but it’s made of aluminum, has backlit keys, and a battery life of three months (without backlight, two hours per day). It also connects via Bluetooth, so you can use it with an iPad (or other devices) even when they are not directly connected.

The Brydge 12.9 Max+ iPad keyboard case.

Brydge

This allows you to put the iPad up on a taller stand for better ergonomics. The lack of this ability is the Magic Trackpad’s biggest drawback. The Brydge also has a full row of function keys above the numbers row.

Brydge’s first attempt at a keyboard with a trackpad didn’t end well. According to some reviewers, the keyboard was excellent, as usual, but the trackpad didn’t work as well as the Apple version. The new Max+ model is a lot better, and at $249 (available in June), it’s still $100 less than Apple’s keyboard case.

Another alternative is Logitech’s Combo Touch, which also is available for the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro and the iPad Air, and starts at $199. It’s an actual case that clips onto the iPad and uses a kickstand to hold it upright. It’s not a bad solution, but there’s an even better option. 

Any Keyboard, and Apple’s Magic Trackpad

The iPad can work with any Bluetooth or USB keyboard. You can even use keyboards built for Windows PCs, thanks to a panel in the iPad’s setting that changes the layout of the ⌘, ⌥, and ⌃ keys.

An iPad in a folded stand case with a keyboard sitting in front of it on a white desk.

Brandon Romanchuk / Unsplash

Some keyboards, like those from Logitech, can pair with up to three computers and switch between them with a button press.

But you can go even further. How about one of those cool, clicky mechanical keyboards all the cool kids are going crazy about? It’s less portable, but paired with Apple’s Magic Trackpad for the Mac, it can put your iPad at the center of a desktop computer setup. And the iPad can be raised up on a stand, if you'd like.

This is a surprisingly good solution and has one huge advantage—a good mechanical keyboard costs a fraction of the price of Apple’s Magic Keyboard case and still will be compatible with anything for years to come.

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