Apple now sells two choices for iPad Pro keyboards. AppleInsider compares the Smart Keyboard Folio to the new Magic Keyboard to see how they stack up and which one is worth it for the price.
As it stands, iPad Pro users have two official options when it comes to Apple-branded keyboard cases. Users could use any of Apple's Bluetooth keyboards, but the Magic Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folio are the only two available just for iPad.
Each of these supports the same models. There is both a Magic Keyboard as well as a Smart Keyboard Folio for both the 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pros from 2018 and 2020.
On the surface, it appears the primary differentiator is the inclusion or lack of a trackpad. But actual differences go far beyond that with a huge array of functional, design, and cost differences.
Smart Keyboard Folio
Apple's Smart Keyboard has been around for several years now. Debuting with the original 2015 iPad Pro before being redesigned as the Smart Keyboard Folio in 2018 with the redesigned iPad Pros. The redesign wasn't well-received and for the past year and a half users have been exploring other options.
But the Smart Keyboard Folio isn't without its merits. Between the two, the Smart Keyboard Folio is far lighter than the Magic Keyboard, lending itself better to travel when you want to keep your weight down as much as possible.
The Smart Keyboard Folio also has the benefit of being almost entirely water-resistant. Apple makes these keyboards from a woven fabric that is stiffened around the keycaps. Because of this, no liquid is capable of getting into the keyboard itself, and the same goes for dust or other small debris.
There are two viewing angles on the Smart Keyboard Folio, a more vertical one for watch media and a more inclined angle for productivity. It connects via the Smart Connector and has minimal draw on your iPad's battery life.
Apple's Magic Keyboard has much more going for it. It too uses the Smart Connector but has a full scissor-switch mechanism-based keyboard and a glass trackpad. This does eat up a bit more battery life, but not by all that much.
Using a scissor-switch mechanism for the keyboard is a big change. It isn't water-resistant like the Smart Keyboard Folio, but it is far more responsive for typing. The fabric keys have a "click" to them but it is very soft and can even become "stuck" even when they aren't being pressed.
Magic Keyboard is also backlit. It adjusts automatically based on the ambient lighting in the room but can be manually adjusted from settings.
Overall, the Magic Keyboard is far nicer and more reliable.
One small, but critical detail, is the arrow keys. On the Smart Keyboard Folio, Apple has a compact design to the arrow keys but are a bit harder to identify. Apple reverted back to the inverted "T" design with the 16-inch MacBook Pro and they changed it on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro as well.
By choosing the Magic Keyboard, you are also adding a second USB-C port to your iPad Pro as well. This is great for charging the iPad and leaving the port on the side of the tablet free for other accessories.
While the Magic Keyboard is heftier, it is due to metal plates within the keyboard itself. This makes it much more rigid and easier to move about. If you pick up the Smart Keyboard Folio by just they keyboard, it bends and warps while the Magic Keyboard stays firm.
Trackpad support on the iPad Pro through the Magic Keyboard
Trackpads are newly supported within iPadOS as part of the 13.4 update. It makes a huge difference if dealing with editing text, spreadsheets, and even video work. You can always use an external Bluetooth mouse, but having it integrated right into the trackpad it is much more convenient.
Key features of the Smart Keyboard Folion versus the Magic Keyboard
|Magic Keyboard||Smart Keyboard Folio|
|Connectivity||Smart Connector||Smart Connector|
|Key Type||Scissor switch mechanism||Woven fabric|
|Arrow Keys||Inverted "T" design||Block design|
|Price||$299 and $349||$179 & $199|
Should you buy the Smart Keyboard Folio or Magic Keyboard?
The decision between the two is mainly down to if you need the trackpad or if you want to spend the lofty price Apple asks for the Magic Keyboard. If you don't want to spend the money, the Smart Keyboard Folio is a great, durable keyboard that uses the Smart Connector and offers up some protection.
But if you want the best of the best, you will have to shell out for the Magic Keyboard. The keys are better, more durable, backlit, and the entire body is more stable. You are also buying an additional USB-C port to the iPad Pro and a fully articulated hinge — not to mention the trackpad. But you will pay for the privilege.