Upgrading to new 12.9-inch iPad Pro? Your $349 Magic Keyboard is now useless

iPad Pro 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

There’s an awful lot to like about the iPad  Pro 2021, but there’s bad news for anybody intending to upgrade from previous 12.9-inch models to the new version with Apple’s powerful M1 chip and mini-LED display.

It seems that the $350 Magic Keyboard accessory, which worked interchangeably between the 12.9-inch 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models, won’t fit the new 2021 edition, despite screen sizes remaining the same between generations. 

The change was first uncovered by French site iGeneration, which revealed that a new iPad Pro placed in an old Magic Keyboard case simply won’t close correctly. “The problem is that once closed, the Magic Keyboard tightens the tablet fairly closely," a translated version of the site explains. "Apple did not leave a millimetre of flexibility, because the accessory must hold the iPad in place."

While Apple’s typical design trajectory is to get thinner and lighter with each generation, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro bucks the trend this year by being 0.5mm thicker than the previous model. 

The reason for this is thought to be the introduction of mini-LED screen technology, which is a big upgrade on previous generations, offering owners far better picture quality. That would seem like the likely culprit, given the 11-inch model doesn’t get that particular upgrade and maintains the same dimensions as the previous version. It’s also compatible with previous 11-inch versions of the Magic Keyboard.

That’s a bit of a kicker to buyers of the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, who will have to factor in an extra $349 on top of the minimum $1,099 price for the new model. That price is for a limited 128GB of storage, of course, and can go as high as $2,399 if you want 2TB and 5G connectivity.

That optional 5G is one of the new features debuting with the 2021 iPad Pro models. In addition to that and the Mini LED display, the new iPad Pro models introduce a TrueDepth sensor to the front-facing camera for improved FaceTime calls, and introduce Thunderbolt support, meaning 4x the bandwidth of the previous generation. 

They’re also powered by Apple’s brilliant M1 chip that debuted on last year’s MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac mini. This chip will give a 50% CPU boost on the A12Z Bionic which powered the previous generation of iPad Pro, and offer a 40% leap in graphical performance. 

Granted, the number of customers upgrading from last year’s iPad Pro 12.9-inch to this year’s model is likely small. But early adopters and power users who need to have the latest and greatest are bound to be disappointed. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.