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Don't buy the new iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard — buy this combo instead

2020 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard - 1
2020 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard - 1 (Image credit: Lory Gil / iMore)

Earlier this spring, Apple unveiled a refresh to its iPad Pro lineup, with improved cameras and sensors, and that device was great; in fact, it was everything we expected and more. But the real headliner of Apple's recent spring announcements was the new and improved Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, which sports features like a floating hinge stand, backlit keys, and a trackpad. Yet, as impressive as these updates are, I wouldn't recommend that most people spend their hard-earned money on them.

Yes, I think that the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard are great products, and yes, I know that some of us at Android Central have even recommended that our readers go for iPads over Android tablets or even Chromebooks in the past. Still, in this case, I feel differently. You see, the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard offer more firepower than most people really need and more than they should probably spend on. They're like trying to kill a fly with a bazooka.

The iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard offer more firepower than most people really need, for more than they should probably spend.

So what should you get instead? Well, I'd argue that most people can accomplish the majority of their productivity tasks quite effectively with a good Chrome OS device (a detachable or convertible with a stylus) or an Android tablet with some of the same accessories.

Now, I know that my suggestions won't come close to the iPad Pro in terms of raw processing power or speed, so if you really need those features, then feel free to laugh this off. If you're a professional musician, artist, architect, or even a prosumer with similar interests and hobbies, then the iPad Pro setup will probably work much better for you.

However, if most of what you do when you're "productive" involves word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and video conferencing, as well as some light creative work such as sketching, drawing, or note-taking, then my suggested alternatives are good options worthy of your consideration. Especially if you're not already invested in the Apple ecosystem (or if you don't want to be!).

iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard

2020 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard - 2

Source: Lory Gil / iMore (Image credit: Source: Lory Gil / iMore)

My colleagues at iMore have been doing an excellent job diving into the new iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, so if this is a device that you're seriously considering, definitely head on over there and read their awesome reviews and analysis. I have no interest in bad-mouthing the device, and as I've noted many times before, I have several iOS and macOS devices in regular use in my household.

But as I said earlier, in my opinion, the new iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard is not only overpriced, it is also overkill for what most people need. Case in point — to get the most out of the device, you'll need to purchase at least three different items, including the iPad Pro itself, the Magic Keyboard, and the Apple Pencil.

PricesiPad Pro 2020
iPad Pro$799-$1,449
11-inch Wi-Fi up to 13-inch cellular
128GB to 1TB
Magic Keyboard$299-$349
11-inch vs. 13-inch
Apple Pencil 2$129
Totals$1,227-$2,127
Depending on configurations

At these prices, you could easily get a well-configured MacBook Air, a lower-end MacBook Pro, or any number of good Windows PCs. Of course, you can also configure some of Apple's less powerful iPads with Magic Keyboards (no trackpads) and first-generation Apple Pencils for even less. However, those configurations will still run you anywhere from just under $600 on the low end to over $1,000 on the high end.

My main argument thus far has dealt with the cost of the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard setup, but let's also not overlook that this device runs iOS, which may not be as familiar or comfortable to Android or Chrome OS users. Additionally, most apps that you may have purchased on Android are going to have to be repurchased on an iPad, so that will add to the literal (and opportunity) cost of switching to this premium and powerful portable.

So what are some good alternatives for the Android and Google faithful? Let's take a look at two of the most intriguing new Chrome OS and Android devices.

Option 1 Chromebook with detatchable keyboard

Laptop mode for the Duet

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)
PricesLenovo Duet Chromebook
Lenovo Duet$280 to start
Keyboard with TrackpadIncluded
StylusPrice TBA
Device will support stylus
TotalsStarting at $280

This detachable Chromebook from Lenovo is the latest (and best) attempt at creating a successful Chrome OS tablet. While Chrome OS on tablets has taken its fair share of well-earned criticism, Google has made several improvements to the tablet UX and UI in recent Chrome OS releases. Honestly, though, if you're going to use a device like this for productivity, you're probably just going to keep the keyboard attached. Then it's just a highly portable and convertible Chromebook.

This device includes a keyboard with trackpad, as well as stylus support. As of now, we don't have pricing information on the stylus option, but you can bet that it won't be priced like the Apple Pencil. Even if it were, that would still make this combo under $400, and I suspect that all-in you're going to be paying less than $350.

The Lenovo Duet Chromebook is scheduled to be released in May 2020, and I know that my colleague Ara Wagoner is already chomping at the bit to get her hands on one for a full review!

Of course, if you prefer a more traditional, clamshell-style laptop device to a detachable, Chromebooks have you covered there as well. There are dozens of great options with touchscreens, 360-degree hinges, and even stylus/pen support in prices ranging from $300 on up to $1,000, with a bunch of quality devices in that $500-$600 sweet spot.

Option 2 Android tablet with detachable keyboard

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 laptop mode

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

I know what you're thinking, "an Android tablet?!" Indeed, Android tablets have often been lambasted more in the past than Chrome OS tablets, but that's because most of them have been poorly constructed and woefully underpowered. Not so with the latest and greatest from Samsung. Heck, we liked it so much we even rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars in our review.

With the Galaxy Tab S6, Samsung is clearly trying to come after Android users and Samsung faithful (of whom there are many) who are eyeballing an iPad Pro setup. As with most Samsung devices, this one comes with a fantastic screen, and it also includes an S Pen, which is one of the best digital styli available. You can even purchase the optional keyboard attachment, which includes a trackpad so that you can be productive while typing up that report or analyzing that Excel file.

PricesSamsung Galaxy Tab S6
SamsungGalaxy Tab S6$650-$729
Wi-Fi or Cellular
128GB or 256GB
Keyboard Cover$180
S PenIncluded
Totals$830-$909
Depending on configurations

One of the biggest drawbacks to this device is that it is priced a little too close for comfort to the iPads Pro. Yes, it's cheaper, but not by much. But with Samsung's much-improved One UI on top of Android, as well as the ability to connect the device to a PC or Mac through DeX, you can have access to even more of a desktop experience with your Android tablet.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is definitely my second choice here, but that doesn't mean it's not a perfectly good, viable option, particularly if you use a lot of Android productivity apps and already have a Galaxy phone or other Samsung devices.

Conclusion

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Obviously, this article was meant to be a little provocative and stir up some healthy debate, but I'm not facetious here at all. I really do believe that most people can accomplish most of their productivity tasks on cheaper convertible Chrome OS and Android devices as opposed to more expensive and premium iPads pro.

Yes, iPads have extra enhancements like Sidecar that can turn them into second screens for your Mac computers, but you know what? Chromebooks and Android tablets can use apps like Duet Display to accomplish pretty much the same effect, and you can connect them to both PCs and Macs.

Sure, iPads get five years of software updates, but new Chrome OS devices can get up to eight — that's some impressive longevity!

Also, for as much well-earned praise as Apple gets for building solid hardware and supporting software updates for upwards of five years or more, most newer Chrome OS devices like the Lenovo Duet will receive updates for up to eight years. Beyond that, if your device is still alive and kicking, you can always run Linux off it. That's some impressive longevity right there!

Honestly, I don't think that most of our readers will need a lot of convincing here. As great as many Apple products are, iPads run iOS (well, technically iPadOS), and bouncing between Android and iOS is not something that most of you do every day. While AC faithful may indeed pick up an entry-level iPad for entertainment purposes, they're most likely not considering iPads Pro for their productivity needs.

Still, I think it's worth pointing out that there actually are good alternatives for different types of productivity machines in the convertible/detachable Android and Chrome OS space, and those options are usually a lot easier on the pocketbook than productivity machines from Apple.

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

25 Comments
  • I'd never buy another Samsung tablet for one reason. Updates. They screw you on updates big time when it comes to tablets.
  • Although I do own a Tab S6 and love it so much, I do agree with you on lack of updates. Samsung phones and tablets are powerful enough to handle at least 4 to 5 years of updates and they neglect on software support...shame.
  • You get two major updates on all Samsung devices. It's the Android standard and more than some. I'm okay with this. Google barely does anything to Android anymore anyway.
  • The Android standard for updates is pathetic that's why Apple is better, you get 5 years of software updates and no Android tablet can compare with the iPad. Apple won this war long since. FACT!
  • I wouldn't keep my phone for more than 2 years anyways so that's not a big deal to me, I don't agree that that's why Apple is better, or that Apple even is better. However, I use my iPad every day and I love it, iPadOS is great, I can see myself keeping it for 5 years, iPads overall are quite reasonably priced. The iPad has no equal in the tablet market, the price to performance along with updates leaves it unmatched.
  • I just said one of a few reasons why iPads are better than the inferior Android tablet competition which isn't just updates, Apple's build quality is superior along with iPad OS being competently designed which is something Android tablet OEMs can't get their heads around with Android sucking on tablets which are just blown up versions of their phone apps which are poorly optimised for tablets but the Android fanboys are in denial about Android being crap for tablets.
  • Personally love my iPad pro and the new magic keyboard. Nothing comes close to iPad experience especially the Samsung Galaxy tab offerings which are horrible in every way other than good hardware. Chromebooks atleast are better than Android tablets.
  • Haha overpriced tablet running ios and 300 bucks for a keyboard. What a joke. Get a teal computer instead
  • Well you could say the money charge is horrible. Nothing horrible about Samsung Galaxy Tabs. Your preference is just biased is all. iPadOS makes for a horrible desktop experience, despite Apple ham fisting in new desktop features. The Magic keyboard is super expensive and way over engineered. Surface Pro much better design.
  • And your opinion isn't biased? Android fanboy.
  • It is either horrible or horribly priced - take your pick! :)
  • I've been using an iPad Air with a smart keyboard as my primary computer since the plague struck. It's honestly been working just fine as a really cheap laptop substitute. With the option to remote in via VMWare, I really don't see the reason to spend more.
  • Well you spent quite a lot already.
  • Money well spent. Android is crap for tablets, and no updates and an inferior experience as a tablet.
  • I would never recommend that anyone buy a Chromebook or Android tablet (if that's even a thing anymore) since the support is atrocious and again the apps are garbage compared to iPadOS. It makes no sense. I would recommend getting a $329 iPad and a 3rd party keyboard case.
  • Chromebook support is atrocious? When all Chromebooks get updates guaranteed for 8 years? (And Google will still provide support for Chrome and other applications even after the 8 year period is over?) ChromeOS apps are garbage? You mean the combination of PWA apps on ChromeOS, Android apps and Linux applications that no other platform can match? Even assuming that you solely meant Android apps, Apple advocates are hypocrites on this because the "app gap" between macOS and Windows is much worse than the one between Android and iOS. "Pro" users rely on virtualization and bootcamp to run the Windows software that they NEED (not want) and oppose Apple putting iPhone CPUs in Macs for that very reason. Not a few have said that they will likely be forced to switch to Dells or Lenovos if Apple makes that change. And oh yes Android tablets are still a thing. So much so that Samsung alone sold more tablets than Apple sold Macs last year. Despite the propaganda - which is oddly repeated on even Android sites - iOS, er, iPadOS has only 35% of the tablet market. While Windows tablets are "a thing", Android has nearly all the remaining 65% as analysts categorize Surface-style 2-in-1s as laptops, as well as similar Chromebooks. There are plenty of factual arguments to make in favor of iPads over Google platform devices. You however were incapable of making even a single one.
  • I pretty much agree with your points. I have had mostly a positive experience with ChromeOS. However, since I enjoy tweaking/messing with tech I have always found ways around whatever issue I've come across. The average user won't ever do such things; they just want a device that works so they pay the Apple premium price for a fancy web browser. I personally would always recommend a Chromebook over an iPad if money is the concern. Plus, every Chromebook comes with a built-in keyboard (I'm excluding the tablet-like Chromebooks) which pretty much everyone is used to. I personally enjoy the Chromebooks that can flip and be used as a tablet; they give you the best of both worlds (albeit it with a little girth/weight). The android apps are alright (I wish all my smart home apps were compatible but hey there is always side-loading), the Linux apps are also cool (I don't have much use for them but Libreoffice and VSCode are nice). I really hope Google moves everything to PWA's as I see those to be MUCH more user friendly. Either way, if you want JUST a standard tablet/touch experience then maybe an iPad wouldn't be a bad idea. Or, if you are really on a tight budget, get a kindle fire (the 8 or the 10 inch). Wal-mart even sells the "Onn" brand android tablet which isn't half bad for $99-129. You have lots of options which is great. I would only recommend a surface device to people who are serious about having all worlds in one; even then its a tough sell since (I love the surface devices; don't get me wrong but they are tough to recommend).
  • I'd love to have what you're smoking because Android tablets are rubbish and is like the wild west. iPads are so much better than any Chromebook or Android tablet.
  • Your opinion is just biased towards iPadOS. Chromebooks are great, thousands of excellent apps. Both are Mobile First Operating Systems anyway.
  • And your opinion isn't biased? Give me a break.
  • So here’s why this article didn’t pop like intended. Literally no one (figuratively speaking) thinks that any Android tablet can hold a candle to the iPad. It’s laughable. You want to stir up clicks, you need “LOL ANDROID IS EXPENSIVER THAN IPHONE NOW” articles that have a ring of truth to them, even if that truth is subjective. ;)
  • Yes Apple is more powerful than an android tablet or chromebook. Which is fine, until it isn't. You can use a powerful computer to do less powerful things, but when you need to do powerful things with a less powerful computer, your out of luck. I'd rather have a powerful computer using 70% of it's abilities, than be stuck with a computer that needs 20% more to complete some task effectively. We all know that in the future, that less powerful computer with be completely worthless.
  • "...I'd rather have a powerful computer using 70% of it's abilities, than be stuck with a computer that needs 20% more to complete some task effectively...." It would be interesting to know what tasks you are speaking about that a Chromebook or Tab S6 cannot handle well. When my 2010 MPB that finally gave up the ghost, my heavy lifting was handled by a Toshiba 2 Chromebook, also use an old iPad Air 2. My only complaint of both was their inability for connecting the ScanSnap scanner. A few months ago we resurrected the wife's 2010 MBP (added 4GB more RAM, now having 8GB). Most all our business apps and photography/graphic apps are web based, thus computing horsepower truly is not a big deal; we are very productive. Of Course YMMV.
  • Why are you offering these instead of the: ChromeOS: Pixel Slate
    Windows: Surface Pro 7 or Surface Pro X. Both are superior devices.
  • The butthurt against Apple is real with you, nobody said the iPad is a laptop replacement, but the iPad is a better tablet than the Pixel Slate, Chromebook (which Android apps suck on) and any Surface Book in existence.