Apple's constant push that iPad is a computing device and our constant whining of it being a productivity machine finally comes to an end with the all-new Magic keyboard. Well, yes, it's this new keyboard that makes the iPad (always a powerful tablet, ahead of the competition) a clamshell laptop. The magic happens in the backlit keys, trackpad, and the floating design with iPad angle adjustment. However, it's not just the keyboard but the iPad Pro with the polished iPadOS that makes it a complete package. Here's how the two pieces of hardware combined make the 2020 iPad Pro a great laptop alternative.
Old bottle, new wine
If you talk about the looks, the new iPad Pro continues with the very same practical design that was introduced with the 2018 Pro models - a huge screen with narrow bezels, no home button, and curved edges. The rear now houses a double camera module with LiDAR Scanner on the top right. And you get the regulars - Type C port at the bottom, power key on top, volume controls and SIM tray for the cellular model on the right panel. I also noticed the magnetic strip at the rear, that's used for connecting it to the Magic Keyboard. Overall, it seems to be solid hardware and weighs a little over 470 grammes.
The innards, however, are a different story. The bright, sharp and crisp Liquid Retina display is the best amongst the tablets in the market. Colours are accurate. TrueTone automatically adjusts colour temperature basis the light of the current surrounding, not my favourite feature. Apple has added the ProMotion technology that automatically adjusts the refresh rate up to 120Hz. With the home button gone for good, iPad Pro also supports gestures (just like the iPhone 11 Pro). Swiping up from the bottom takes to the home page, swipe up and hold shows the running apps and more. The touch response is super smooth and impressive.
Reading, streaming videos and gaming on the iPad has always been a delight and the experience was raised a notch higher on this iteration. Over the last few years, Apple has focused on improvising the functionality. The addition of features such as side-by-side support, dock for quick app access, files folder, drag and drop, support for an external device, and more, enhanced functionality yet the experience wasn't close to working on a laptop. However, the OS improvisations along with the Magic Keyboard is a game-changer. I was able to work on long-format stories, which involved checking various emails, documents, and more. Working on excel sheets was a breeze. Used to working on MS Office apps, I had subscribed for Office 365. However, alternates to MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps are available for free to download and use from the App Store.
For me, the camera lens on the iPad isn't about photography but utility. I often scan documents using the iPad. This year, Apple has added a dual-camera module - a 10MP ultra-wide camera along with a 12MP wide-angle camera. And I often ended up using the ultra-wide camera for capturing shades of the sky while working from my terrace. The third lens on the camera module is a LiDAR scanner but it isn't meant for assisting with photography. With Apple's focus on Augmented Reality, this Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner is going to enhance the AR experience (not just gaming). I have been thinking of redesigning my living room for long. Using the Canvas app, I was able to quickly map the room, measure dimensions of the walls and existing furniture. It was not just quick but accurate too. In theory, the scanner determines distance by measuring how long it takes light to reach an object and reflect. It's a great gaming device too. All this is powered by the A12Z Bionic chip with 8-core graphics, which is powerful enough to handle heavy graphic apps, video editing and multitasking.
The keyboard magic
Apple had introduced a smart keyboard for the earlier gen iPad Pros but it had its own set of challenges, especially with the viewing angle. Also, it wasn't as sturdy. This new Magic Keyboard addresses them all. It folds into a case, protecting the front as well as the rear of the iPad Pro. While it feels sturdy, it does add a lot of weight. The keyboard feels heavier than the iPad Pro itself.
The Magic Keyboard has a 'floating cantilever design' that uses magnets to holds the iPad Pro and at the same time offers angle adjustability for better viewing angle. While initially, I was a little sceptical about the keyboard holding the iPad Pro, the tiny magnets on the keyboard do a pretty impressive job. Angle adjustability is as flexible as Lenovo's Yoga range, making it pretty close to a regular laptop.
The keyboard completely redefined the experience. It has a well-spaced keyboard with the number row on the top. The function row and the escape key are missing, and for changing brightness, media control and more, I had to reach access control centre on the iPad Pro. That said, the full-sized backlit keys were comfortable to type on. What I loved is the addition of trackpad that makes scrolling, zooming in or out, selecting the text, and more way easier. It supports the gestures used on the Mac. For instance, three-finger gesture support included swipe up to reach home, swipe up and hold to view running apps, swipe left and right to switch between running apps. While using the keyboard, there were very rare instances when I had to reach the touch interface of the iPad Pro. Placing a Type-C port on the hinge is a welcome addition as I was able to charge the iPad using the same. This frees the Type-C port on the iPad Pro that can be used for data transfer or connecting headphones. This hinge port comes handy as when plugged to the Magic Keyboard, the battery on the iPad Pro lasted close to six hours as compared to 10 hours without the keyboard.
A laptop alternative?
For the last couple of weeks, I have been using this iPad Pro as my primary work machine. And there wasn't an instance where I missed my laptop. One of the primary reasons is the seamless cloud sync between Apple devices. All the documents, files and even bookmarks on my MacBook Air were accessible on the iPad Pro, making the transition smooth. The combination of the iPad Pro along with the new Magic Keyboard works well. And there is the 2nd generation Apple Pencil for taking handwritten notes, smart annotations, sketching and more. Creative professionals are going to love the smooth and accurate functioning of Apple Pencil. If you are looking for a stylish laptop alternative and budget isn't a constraint, you should consider the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.
Apple iPad Pro 11-inch: Rs 71,900 onwards
Magic Keyboard for 11-inch iPad Pro: Rs 27,900
Apple Pencil: Rs 10,900