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If you recently purchased an Apple iMac, you’ll have received one of their all-new Magic Keyboards in the box (along with a Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2).
However, if you either need to replace it or you want to buy one for a second Apple device, they don’t come cheap. Buying it through the Apple website will set you back $99 USD (£79), though you can sometimes find lower rates on Amazon.
So is it really worth the money? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Magic Keyboard and try to decide whether or not that price tag is justified.
Why Is the Magic Keyboard So Well-Regarded?
Firstly, let’s take a look at why some Mac users swear by the Magic Keyboard, regardless of cost.
For those who don’t know, the Magic Keyboard was only released in October 2015. It was the successor to the Apple Wireless Keyboard which had been a mainstay of Mac users since it was first introduced way back in 2003.
From a pure usability perspective, the biggest change between the two is the way the individual keys behave while typing. Given that typing is ultimately the main function of a keyboard, this is an important modification.
According to Apple’s website, they: “re-engineered the scissor mechanism to increase key stability by 33 per cent and optimized key travel. Together with a new lower profile, these improvements make typing with comfort and precision a breeze.”
It’s clearly marketing jargon, but it’s also true; typing does feel easier, “cleaner”, and more precise.
No More Batteries
The biggest drawback of all wireless keyboards is their reliance on batteries. If you’re in the middle of working on an important document and your batteries die, the last thing you want to do is lose your train of thought and drag yourself to a shop to buy replacements.
That is no longer a problem with the Magic Keyboard.
Apple decided to replace single-use AA batteries with an integrated Lithium-Ion rechargeable cell, which only needs to be charged once per month with a Lightning cable. The Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2 also got the same treatment.
Apple also claims that a mere two-minute charge will be enough for “an extended working period” — whatever that means.
Perfect for Macs (And All Other Apple Devices)
Arguably the most “magical” thing about the Magic Keyboard is that it will automatically pair with your iMac with no user input. Simply switch on your computer, plug in the keyboard, and the two devices will automatically recognize each other.
Apple don’t necessarily make it clear that the keyboard can also be paired with their other gadgets such as iPads and Apple TVs. On the back of the keyboard there is just an on-off switch, a Lightning port, and an antenna bar – the old Apple Wireless Keyboard’s ability to hold down the power button and make it pair with new devices has been removed.
Actually, all you need to do is head to Settings > Bluetooth on an iDevice and turn the slider on. It will automatically find the Magic Keyboard and you just need to tap/click on it to pair the two.
iOS Works Great With Keyboards
Using a Magic Keyboard in conjunction with Apple’s mobile operating system really starts to unlock it’s full potential, especially with regard to the iPad Pro. Travelling with just your tablet and your keyboard while still maintaining high levels of productivity suddenly becomes a very real possibility.
Of course, the cost of a 128 GB iPad Pro and a Magic Keyboard is almost $1,000 USD – there might be better (Apple-based) alternatives available, but it certainly unlocks some interesting potential.
Here are some of the most popular and useful keyboard tricks, keep in mind that you can press and hold cmd from within any app to see a complete list of available commands. There are hundreds more – try experimenting with your most-used Mac shortcuts, they will probably work.
- cmd + tab: Switch between apps
- cmd + space: Search
- cmd + B: Bold
- cmd + I: Italics
- cmd + U: Underline
- cmd + X/C/V: Cut. copy, and paste
- cmd + R: Refresh web page
- cmd + [: Back (browser)
- cmd + ]: Forward (browser)
- cmd + T: New tab
- cmd + shift + T: New incognito tab
It’s worth pointing out that these shortcuts work with any bluetooth keyboard that you connect to your iOS device, but if you’re after a keyboard to use with your desktop it’s nice to think it has some mobile potential too.
What Are Its Drawbacks?
Despite all the positives, it would be foolish to think that Magic Keyboards are perfect.
No Number Pad
The biggest single issue with Apple’s offering is the lack of a number pad. If you do a lot of work in spreadsheets, financial programs, or math/engineering software, this is a serious annoyance. If you’re already used to typing on a laptop, it’s not so bad.
The Magic Keyboard also lacks keys such as Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End – yes, there are workarounds, but they’re not as straightforward as a simple key.
We can only assume that Apple made the decision for size/portability purposes, but given most Mac users will leave their keyboard on a desk most of the time, the judgment doesn’t really stack up.
The Magic Keyboard doesn’t boast as many features as it’s third-party competitors.
Aside from the numberpad, the biggest omission is arguably backlit keys. They’ve been a standard on Apple’s laptops for years, so why were they left out of this product? This somewhat limits the keyboard’s usability (and its aesthetics).
It’s also incompatible with non-Apple products. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s par for the course with Apple, but it makes justifying its hefty price tag a lot harder if you want to use it with your Windows laptop or Linux server.
As mentioned, if you buy a new iMac you’ll get a Magic Keyboard included. However, if you need to buy a replacement or you want to get one for some of your other Apple devices, you’ll have to shell out almost $100.
Given the lack of compatibility and lack of features, it’s a lot of money. The good news? There are alternatives available.
With a keyboard that costs $99 and an AppleCare plan that costs another several hundred dollars (depending on your device), it might be reasonable to expect your Magic Keyboard to be covered.
The bad news – it isn’t (though there is a caveat).
According to Apple’s terms and conditions:
In addition to the Apple-branded product and accessories contained in the original packaging, “Covered Equipment” includes the following according to your Plan:
(i) Under APP for Mac, (a) one compatible Apple-branded display if purchased at the same time as the Covered Equipment, (b) an Apple-branded mouse, Magic Trackpad, Apple Battery Charger and keyboard if included with the Covered Equipment (or purchased with a Mac mini or Mac Pro), or (c) an AirPort Express or AirPort Extreme Base Station, AirPort Time Capsule, Apple memory modules (RAM) and Apple USB SuperDrive if used with the Covered Equipment and originally purchased by you no earlier than two years before the Covered Equipment purchase.
In layman’s terms, that means unless you got a free Magic Keyboard with your iMac, or you bought one at the same time as you bought a Mac mini or Mac Pro, you will not be covered. If you bought a keyboard as a standalone item for use with other Apple products, you won’t be protected by AppleCare.
Suddenly, $99 is looking a bit pricey…
Does it Represent Value for Money?
It’s hard not to feel that Apple’s Magic Keyboard could have been so much more. The release doesn’t feel like enough of an upgrade over their previous wireless version to warrant a $30 USD jump in price.
That said, it really does work exceptionally well with iMacs and other iDevices, and as you’d expect from Apple, it is flawlessly designed. Is that enough to justify spending $100 on one? Perhaps — it depends on how integrated you are with the Apple ecosystem.
Its best hidden feature is probably the way it can control your iPad/iPhone, but ultimately that functionality can be replicated by other products such as Logitech’s Bluetooth Easy-Switch K811 offering.
Have coughed up for a Magic Keyboard? Why? Was it worth the price?
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