Apple has updated the Magic Keyboard to work perfectly with the 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but can you get away with using the older model? In most cases, it shouldn't be a problem.
When Apple introduced the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro range in 2020, it caught the imagination of many users wanting to shift over to an iPad-as-notebook setup. While it acted as a protective cover, the main party trick was to use magnets and a hinge to float the iPad above the keys.
With the introduction of the 2021 iPad Pro range, Apple has updated the accessory to fit the new 12.9-inch model perfectly. However, since this typically involves changes to how accessories are designed, this would usually require consumers to buy the updated version to match their new tablet.
In the case of the Magic Keyboard, which was priced at $349 for the 12.9-inch model at the initial launch, users who already own the first version aren't necessarily willing to pay another $349 for a second, but slightly different, keyboard for the latest iPad version.
To put the matter to bed, AppleInsider put together the 2020 and 2021 versions of both the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard in different combinations, to see if there's going to be a problem.
What's the issue?
The 2021 version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is practically the same dimensions as its 2020 counterpart. Both have the same 11.04-inch height and 8.46-inch width, and all of the ports and components are in the same locations with identical measurements.
However, the 2021 model uses a mini LED-blacklit display, which has caused Apple to make an ever so slight change to the design to make it thicker. The 2021 model is 6.4mm (0.25 inches) thick, while the 2020 version is 5.9mm (0.23 inches) in depth.
This half-millimeter difference is a sliver of material, which for the vast majority of cases and other accessories you can purchase, should not matter at all. The problem is that the Magic Keyboard is that awkward exception.
When closed, the Magic Keyboard is designed to be as close-fitting to the iPad as possible, to ensure as slim a profile as Apple can produce. This tight tolerance is down to such a small level that less than a millimeter in change can actually matter.
After initial reports discovered there were changes to the design that could make the new iPad Pro too thick to work with the older Magic Keyboard, Apple was quick to respond. The company stated on April 29 that the case would work, but it may not "precisely fit when closed."
Since the 11-inch iPad Pro is the same thickness, due to not using a mini LED backlight, the Magic Keyboard for that model doesn't have the same fit issues.
2020 iPad Pro in 2021 Magic Keyboard
Of the two combinations in question, the 2020 iPad Pro and 2021 Magic Keyboard is the pairing that should work perfectly fine out of the gate. Given the 2020 iPad Pro is half a millimeter slimmer than the 2021 Magic Keyboard is designed to work with, there shouldn't be a problem getting the two together.
The iPad fits as normal onto the Magic Keyboard, using the same magnets and spacing as the newer model, and it works just fine when open.
The important bit is when the Magic Keyboard is closed, and there is a visible difference. You can see a gap along the side between the iPad Pro and the cover, toward the spine of the keyboard.
There's a little bit of give in the Magic Keyboard's assembly, so it is possible to squeeze and minimize the gap when sliding it into a tightly-packed bag, for example, but it's certainly not a massive canyon of wasted space.
2021 iPad Pro in 2020 Magic Keyboard
Again, for the new iPad Pro and old Magic Keyboard combination, the two work fine with each other when open. This is entirely expected, and the main point of interest is when it is closed.
When closing the Magic Keyboard, there's no sign of rubbing or creaking, so there's no mechanical issues to be worried about here.
While the first combo certainly had a gap, this one doesn't have any spare space at all. It certainly appears quite tight as a fit, but not to a point where it doesn't fit at all, and certainly not to a degree where it could damage your iPad Pro.
It seems that Apple may have designed the original Magic Keyboard with a tiny bit of play, and that small amount of forgiving breathing room in the design is all consumed with the thicker tablet.
A tight fit, but fine
The story here is that Apple has made a version of the Magic Keyboard that will accept a marginally larger tablet than the previous iteration. Emphasis on "marginally larger."
There's nothing stopping you from putting the 2020 Magic Keyboard on the 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It will work fine, but it will be a little tight when it's all packed away.
Unless you have equipped the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a particularly thick screen protector, you probably don't need to spend another $349 on a Magic Keyboard ($14 off with code APINSIDER at Adorama using this activation link). The one you've got will do the job.
Stay on top of all Apple news right from your HomePod. Say, "Hey, Siri, play AppleInsider," and you'll get latest AppleInsider Podcast. Or ask your HomePod mini for "AppleInsider Daily" instead and you'll hear a fast update direct from our news team. And, if you're interested in Apple-centric home automation, say "Hey, Siri, play HomeKit Insider," and you'll be listening to our newest specialized podcast in moments.