The heavy truth about the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard

When Apple announced the new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, it decided to play coy about how much it weighed. The result is that, despite some accurate speculation, none of us found out for sure until this week when the first keyboards arrived in the hands of reviewers and customers. And so, during the midst of our global isolation event, we were all spared a couple of weeks of bad takes from tech pundits. Alas, those days are now over.

But I’ve got good news! While the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro does indeed make an iPad Pro weigh as much as a laptop, you only have to buy one if you want to use your iPad that way. It’s your choice—and that says it all about the iPad’s greatest appeal.

Weighs as much as a laptop

There’s no getting around it: the new Magic Keyboard is heavy. So heavy, in fact, that when you attach one to the 11-inch iPad Pro, it’s almost as heavy as the old 11-inch MacBook Air. And when you attach one to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it’s almost as heavy as the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

brydge keyboard ipad Brydge

Brydge makes keyboard for iPads similar to Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

This is a revelation that will come as no surprise to those of us who have been using the iPad with heavy laptop-style keyboard cases for the last few years. When I’m sitting in my backyard writing on my iPad Pro with a Brydge keyboard attached, I’m essentially working on a 13-inch laptop, and it weighs just as much as you’d expect.

But these specs legitimately break some people’s brains. This is because they’ve made the mistake of classifying the iPad as a lesser sort of device, a compromise that people only use because it offers something the Mac can’t. The moment that the iPad begins to approach the Mac’s domain, those people get defensive. “Why don’t you just use a MacBook Pro,” they say. (I’ve heard that one an awful lot over the years.)

There’s a lot to unravel there. As I wrote last month, “What makes the iPad great is its ultimate flexibility.” Yes, I choose to use an iPad in part because I’ve built up a collection of apps and Shortcuts that let me do my job. But I also choose to use an iPad because it can so quickly transform into other devices. My “laptop” can also be a (relatively) lightweight tablet, or can turn into an audio editing workstation that I control via an Apple Pencil. Or I can clip it into a desktop stand, attach a USB keyboard and Magic Trackpad, and make it into a tiny iMac. The iPad’s whatever shape I want it to be—while still being itself.

There’s a reason Apple’s videos about the Magic Keyboard always show someone grabbing the iPad with one hand and walking away with it. That’s the killer feature. That’s what separates it from every Mac laptop. It’s a laptop—until the moment you decide you don’t want it to be that anymore. And then it’s not.

Not everyone wants a laptop

But part of being flexible means that not every use case is going to work for every user. One of the most perplexing things I’ve seen in my years of covering Apple is the tendency of some people to get irrationally angry when Apple makes a product that they’re not interested in buying. (The reaction to the 12-inch MacBook was… something else.)