Smart Keyboard Folio vs. iPad Magic Keyboard – Is the iPad Smart Keyboard Worth It?

The Magic Keyboard for iPad Air and iPad Pro is prohibitively pricey compared to the Apple Smart Keyboard. However, it gives a sleek, first-party, all-in-one solution for your Apple iPad’s keyboard, port, and case needs.

If you genuinely don’t want to spend the extra money, a third-party alternative or even a stand and external keyboard could be worth it if you’re willing to carry it all. Is it worth going with the Apple Smart Keyboard instead of the Magic Keyboard?

The iPad Smart Keyboard Folio and the iPad Magic Keyboard

The iPad Smart Keyboard Folio and the iPad Magic Keyboard

First, a little background about each model;

The Apple iPad Smart Keyboard Folio was released to considerable excitement in November of 2018. Finally, Apple developed its integrated keyboard cover to compete with many third-party choices. 

The Apple community was ecstatic! While there were many impressive aspects of the Folio, especially in the bigger 12.9″ edition, it was not without detractors. While it has a full keyboard, two viewing angles, and a perfectly smooth and integrated experience with the iPad Pro, drawing power and connecting instantaneously. When connected, it’s relatively simple otherwise, especially when compared to specific third-party solutions.

Then, in March 2020, the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro got introduced, and it has been making waves ever since. 

Finally, a trackpad and a backlit keyboard! You’ve got a problematic laptop replacement situation with an excellent magnetic-floating cantilever design, configurable viewing angles, and an additional USB-C connector. But, at nearly double the price of the Smart Keyboard Folio, do the additional capabilities truly justify the price increase? All of these issues, as well as others, will be discussed. Let’s get started!

Case Comparison: iPad Magic Keyboard vs. Smart Keyboard Folio

First and foremost, regardless of what else these devices accomplish, they are both cases – meant to protect your iPad, particularly the screen, which is the most sensitive to impact. How does each of them fare?

The term “Magic Keyboard” for Apple’s premium iPad cover emphasizes a “genuine” keyboard, replete with the scissor switches used in the newest M1 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebooks. 

The keys are even lighted, which is a step up over Apple’s Magic Keyboard for Mac, and they have a 1mm key travel. You’ll discover a trackpad beneath the keyboard, which is probably why you wish to get one.

  • There is no trackpad or illumination on the Smart Keyboard and Smarty Keyboard Folio.
  • The keys are coated in a canvas-like material, eliminating key travel.
  • Typing on it most of the time feels like tapping your fingers on a tabletop.

The Smart Keyboard Folio is still lovable, mainly because the design keeps the casing small and prevents crumbs and other particles from falling between the keys. If you’re frequently out and about with your iPad Pro, this (along with the price) could make it more enticing, but we’d still recommend investing a bit extra on the Magic Keyboard. 

If you have an iPad or an earlier iPad Air that doesn’t support the Magic Keyboard, the Smart Keyboard is an excellent alternative if you frequently type on your iPad.

Usability of iPad Magic Keyboard vs. Smart Keyboard Folio

When we think about portability, we primarily consider how easy it is to carry and handle when on the move. The Magic Keyboard is heavier because of the extra electronics in the lit keyboard and the stronger magnets used to create the cantilever design.

The Magic Keyboard has a larger overall footprint. When you lay them on top of each other, you can see how the beefed-up folding mechanism and USB-C electronics produce a bulge out that adds a tiny real estate but not much in terms of room in a backpack.

We recommend the Smart Keyboard Folio if you seek your iPad’s lowest weight, smallest, and most minimalist cover and keyboard experience.

Trackpad

The Magic Keyboard features a trackpad, but the Smart Folio Keyboard and Smart Keyboard do not.

This is a significant benefit for the Magic Keyboard, as a Smart Keyboard requires the usage of an external mouse or trackpad to achieve the same result. The trackpad movements are mostly the same as those on a MacBook. 

Adjustability

Like the Smart Keyboard Folio, the Magic Keyboard uses a strong magnet to keep the iPad Pro in place. But there’s a perfect reason for that grip in this case. The Magic Keyboard’s cantilevered hinge lets you tilt the iPad up to 130 degrees until you reach the ideal viewing position, just like a MacBook. You won’t have to look as far down as you would with the Smart Keyboard Folio since the iPad “floats” over the keyboard.

The Magic Keyboard is a little more comfortable to use on a lap than the others, although they’re still designed for use at a desk. The Smart Keyboard Folio has just two viewing angles, which are somewhat steep. 

Slide the iPad into any two slots above the keyboard, where magnets keep it securely in place. The Smart Keyboard has only one viewing angle and is challenging to use on anything other than a level surface.

Ports

A USB-C pass-through connector for charging is incorporated right into the Magic Keyboard’s hinge. You can only use the pass for charging, but on the plus side, it frees up the iPad’s USB-C connector for any flash drives, wired mouse, or other peripherals you wish to connect.

There are no ports on the Smart Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio unless you count the Smart Connector, which is used to link the device to the tablet in the first place.

Design

Whenever we think of design, we think of two intertwined domains: physical design and experiential design. Physical design, of course, directly influences the experience, which is why good product design is so crucial. 

It’s also why you’d opt for Apple-branded iPad covers and keyboards in the first place: you want an exceptional experience that gets out of the way and lets you focus on whatever you’re using the device for.

Let’s take a look at the Smart Keyboard Folio first. The design concepts of simplicity and minimalism, like with other Apple products, served as the organizing principles around which they made all other design decisions. Based on these criteria, it is a success.

The iPad attaches and detaches quickly with magnets and connects to the keyboard right away – no pairing required. 

There are no batteries because power is drawn from the gadget, reducing weight, space, and the inconvenience of replacing them. It removes additional complexity and failure spots that may develop with more adjustment possibilities by having only two settings that lock in securely and cover the fundamental viewing angles you could desire very well.

Simultaneously, there is such a thing as being too basic — too minimalist.   Furthermore, the keyboard’s simplicity has been pushed to the point where it is no longer fun. Again, you may already own this and enjoy it; if so, our advice is never to try the Magic Keyboard to avoid FOMO. The Smart Keyboard Folio’s faults are brought into clear perspective by comparison and contrast.

The design of the Magic Keyboard is what truly sets it apart. They could have used a typical clamshell mechanism to secure the screen, but that would have been too simple and uninteresting. 

The floating cantilever design is fantastic and draws you into the device uniquely. It’s a significant step forward to get the “exactly perfect” angle instead of choosing between two predetermined positions.

Price

The 12.9-inch variant of the Magic Keyboard costs a whopping $349. To put things in context, that’s more than an entry-level standard iPad costs. The 11-inch size is slightly less expensive at $299, but it’s still significant money.

The Smart Keyboard Folio costs $199 for the 12.9-inch model and $179 for the 11-inch model, with the Smart Keyboard costing $159. That’s an appealing distinction but bear in mind that staying with Apple’s older design means you’re missing out on a lot of functionality.

Is the iPad Smart Keyboard Worth It?

iPad Keyboard

Like everyone else, you were probably looking forward to Apple announcing the “next-gen Smart Keyboard Folio.” You may have been debating whether or not to purchase the Smart Keyboard Folio for years and were eager to see what Apple would do to persuade you to do so. Instead of announcing a new keyboard, it turns out that they announced a completely new keyboard.

The Magic Keyboard is, without a doubt, stunning. It is the most fantastic typing experience with an iPad, and we believe the trackpad makes the iPad Pro a game-changer.

However, there is currently no rationale for spending the money on the Magic Keyboard for the things you do with your iPad regularly.

We recommend the Smart Keyboard Folio because it provides an excellent typing experience on your iPad Pro while remaining lightweight, comfortable, and portable. Without removing the Folio, you can still use your Apple Pencil to take notes. The Smart Keyboard Folio does not need you to alter your iPad usage; it only improves one aspect: typing!

However, if you want to replace the laptop with an iPad or don’t have one and want your iPad to perform more than a standard laptop, we’d recommend the Magic Keyboard.

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