New 12.9-inch iPad Pro is 0.5mm thicker – so you’ll need a new keyboard

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(Image credit: Apple)

The new iPad Pro 2021 is easily the most powerful that Apple’s ever created. With the new M1 chipset at its heart, you’re going to be hard-pushed to find anything nearly as capable.

There’s also a new screen technology, using 10,000 mini LEDs to deliver a high-contrast, rich-colored display that Apple is confident its users are going to love, and 5G technology too. 

But that new tech comes at a cost if you want the Magic Keyboard, the accessory that makes the iPad Pro a compelling buy.

The extra half-of-a-millimetre thickness needed for those extra diodes inside mean that the original Magic Keyboard – one of the best accessories for the iPad Pro, thanks to the flexible hinged stand and the inbuilt trackpad – won’t close properly on the new model and you’ll need to buy a new unit for $349 / £329.

This likely won’t be an issue for those that have bought the iPad Pro 2020 – unless you’re a bleeding-edge creative, chances are you won’t be thinking of spending north of $1,000 for new model 12 months later.

Hope on the horizon

But those who bought the Magic Keyboard to use on older models of the iPad Pro, after Apple helpfully made it backwards compatible, might be irked at having to spend more again.

That said, there’s a good chance that the older keyboard will work just fine with 2021’s iPad Pro, and only the nittiest of nitpickers will spot that the new iPad Pro doesn’t sit perfectly in the older case, and could decide that’s not worth buying a new accessory for.

This change is only for the 12.9-inch model of the iPad Pro – the 11-inch version doesn’t come with the new screen and thus doesn’t pack extra thickness, and all models of keyboard will work with 2021’s 11-inch iPad Pro.

The improved display could well be one of the key selling points of the new tablet from Apple, with OLED-rivalling levels of contrast ration and color reproduction, so Apple being could have been forced into rebooting an accessory to accommodate the new change – it would be nice to see an exchange program that offered money off if you brought in an older Magic Keyboard, though.

The one ray of light for iPad accessory lovers is that the change could mean older Magic Keyboards will be discounted at other retailers – as a great accessory, a lower barrier to entry could see those with last-generation iPads picking up a bargain.

The new iPad goes on pre-order from April 30, and we'll be bringing you a full new iPad Pro 2021 review – including the new Magic Keyboard was – as soon as we can get our hands on one.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.