The new iPad Pro is a laptop replacement — but the keyboard is crazy expensive

ipad pro 2020
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s slogan for the new iPad Pro 2020 is pretty apt: "Your next computer is not a computer." I’d like to add another: "Your next computer is not affordable."

Sure, on the surface, the new 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are not that pricey at $799 and $999, respectively. But not once you add on the Magic Keyboards for these devices. 

A new peripheral from Apple coming this May, the Magic Keyboard delivers what iPad fans have been waiting for, including a solid 1 millimeter of travel, a backlit layout and (especially) a touchpad. In fact, Apple has redesigned iPadOS so that it is optimized for this trackpad. The cursor changes shape as you hover over different elements, for example. 

The Magic Keyboard has a couple of other neat features, including a floating cantilever design. You attach your iPad Pro to the keyboard magnetically and then can adjust the slate up to 130 degrees for the best viewing angle. Last but not least is a USB-C port for passthrough charging.

But you’re going to pay a lot for this accessory. The Magic Keyboard costs $299 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and $349 for the 12.9-inch iPad. Assuming you buy the entry-level Wi-Fi model, you’re looking at a minimum of $1,098 for the 11-inch iPad Pro with keyboard.

That total is nearly $100 more than the new MacBook Air. Add an Apple Pencil and you’re at $1,227. Plus, the MacBook Air starts with double the storage compared with the iPad Pro: 256GB vs 128GB.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the size I think most people would be more comfortable with in terms of replacing your laptop. And when you add the Magic Keyboard to the mix you’re looking at a minimum of $1,348, which is more expensive than the 13-inch MacBook Pro ($1,299). Once you add the Apple Pencil, that total grows to $1,477.

iPad Pro 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

To be fair, the iPad Pro can do a lot more than the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. For example, you can take notes, draw and sketch on the display with the Apple Pencil. And you can use the new dual camera systems for capturing photos and 4K video. And only the iPad Pro lets you experience augmented reality apps, aided by a powerful new LiDAR scanner.

Another positive for the iPad Pro vs MacBooks is that you can buy one with cellular connectivity, although I wish these tablets were 5G capable instead of offering just 4G LTE. However, buying a Wi-Fi + Cellular model hikes the price even more, adding $150 on top of everything else.

And all of this is before you add additional storage. To get the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with 256GB and cellular and a Magic Keyboard you’ll pay $1,598, and throwing in the Apple Pencil brings that to $1,727. That’s around the same price as the $1,799 13-inch MacBook Pro with a quad-core Core i5 CPU and four Thunderbolt ports.

I’m not saying the iPad Pros are not going to be worth the splurge, but even with the addition of the keyboard and trackpad they are still best for a narrower audience than the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

From photographers and videographers to illustrators, podcasters and designers, the iPad Pros are best suited for creative types who prefer a touch-first experience and who are constantly on the move. And they’re only for those who are willing to pay a pretty penny for their versatility compared to traditional laptops.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • mgj167
    admin said:
    The iPad Pro finally offers a real keyboard and trackpad, but get ready for some sticker shock

    The new iPad Pro is a laptop replacement — but it is not affordable : Read more

    I wish "articles" like this would be clearly marked as an opinion piece, which it is. I have not seen the new iPad Pro nor the new keyboard, so I can't comment on specifics, but it appears to have some nice features. Whether others think this is expensive is TBD, but again they are opinions. Do I wish it were less expensive -- sure!

    I'm a very happy iPad Pro 12.9 3rd gen user. (I do not own or use a MacBook, nor would I consider it, although it is a fine machine.) I have three keyboards I use with my iPad Pro, two of them suitable for at the desk, plus the current Apple keyboard case. My OPINION originally was the Apple keyboard case was too expensive for me. But I was able to find one at a discount, and I love it for travel -- it's lightweight, works well for my application, and also looks professional in meetings. I would and do recommend it to IMHO it really is a preference issue. IMHO if the new keyboard case is lightweight then with the extra features, it might really have a place. Honestly many other options available (at least for the 3rd gen 12.9 iPad Pro) are either heavy or clunky -- again my opinion -- and unsuitable for at least my use.