A new and shiny iPad Pro: the first week.
A week ago on Wednesday, I was in line outside an Apple Store before they opened so I could pick up the new iPad Pro. A couple years ago I ditched my laptop and bought an iPad for my mobile computer. I’m pleased with how things have gone, and decided it was time to dive even further into the world of iOS as a first-class computing platform.
To be successful with the iPad, fresh thinking is required. The natural comparison one makes is to wonder if an iPad is “as good as” or competitive with a traditional computer. And that’s a reasonable question to ask, because the tasks one might want to accomplish on the iPad are often the same tasks that they traditionally accomplished on a computer.
But too often I think folks get too far in the weeds with this question, because they often ask “can I accomplish those same tasks in the same way I do on my computer?” Which is the wrong question to ask. Despite Apple’s marketing folks wanting to make lots of computer comparisons, the iPad really is a different sort of device than a laptop.
Instead of asking if the iPad can do things the same way as a computer, look at whether the iPad can do the tasks you need. Those ways might be different. Sometimes, those ways might be better.
I bought the 12.9” iPad Pro, which features the newer, smaller bezels. Although the overall device is notably smaller than the pervious version with the same-sized screen, it’s still a big step up from my previous 9.7” iPad Pro. The new iPad is the same size as an 8.5×11” sheet of paper.
This device is sized comparable to a small laptop. This is both good in that I have a lot of screen real estate (more on that in a bit) and bad in that it’s not as practical for some uses such as laying in bed and reading.
The form factor of this iPad features squared-off sides, much like the original iPad, or the iPhone 4/4s/5/5s models. I think it’s easier to hold than the more recent models, and the edges are slightly rounded so it’s quite comfortable.
This iPad has introduced USB-C to the product line. I’m going to need a few new cables and update my power brick at my desk. Shrug. Such is progress.
About That Bigger Screen
I have a few further thoughts on the screen. The display is gorgeous, featuring a very deep color gamut and the TrueTone display that was originally introduced on the 9.7” model I’m replacing.
Sadly that beautiful screen is often noticeably smudged by fingerprints. This has always been an issue for phones and tablets, but wasn’t as much of a problem with my previous model. You see, the Smart Keyboard design for the older iPad Pros featured a soft fiber covering on the side of the case that rubbed against the screen when closed, allowing the case to help remove the worst of the smudges. The new case features an updated design without that soft cover; instead the screen now rests against the keyboard portion of the case and there’s no screen-cleaning action happening there.
Not specific to the new model, but specific to the big size of the iPad, I find myself learning how to make use of the additional screen real estate. With the smaller iPads, using Split View always felt like a stretch, with at most one of the applications feeling big enough for real tablet use. With the bigger screen, I can easily run two applications side by side in a very usable fashion.
The new iPad Pro devices are about $200 more expensive than the models they replace. As I look at what I’m using it for, and what I’d spend on a laptop, the price seems reasonable, but depending on your use cases you might come to another conclusion. If this was purely a device for reading ebooks or the occasional email or browsing, I’d have a hard time justifying the cost, but when I look at my use cases, it’s worth it.
Only you knows whether it’s right for you.
Doing the Business
So, in the week that I’ve used the iPad Pro as my mobile computer, what has it done, and what am I planning to do with it?
I haven’t yet fully put it through its paces for real photo or video production. Yes, I’ve browsed photos and done some very basic editing, but there’s nothing new in that regard when compared to my previous iPad. I am looking at beginning regular publishing on YouTube and am likely to give LumaFusion a shot for mobile editing. I expect that the insanely-high-performance processor in this new iPad (various benchmarks have it performing faster than many of Apple’s current computers) will be beneficial for the video editing tasks. More to come there.
So far it’s working great and I’m enjoying the experience overall as I get used to the bigger size.
And To Answer Your iPad Pro Questions…
Earlier this week I noted on social media that I was writing about my first week with the new iPad and asked folks what they wanted to know. Here are some answers to those questions that I haven’t already covered above.
1) Are you writing the article with said iPad Pro?
2) Is the proper plural iPads Pro or iPad Pros?
Yes (I do all of my writing for the web in Ulysses), and let me consult with my community of products consultant.
Can you use it for “take-along” photo editing / field work ?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Yes, depending on my use case. For individual images, there are a lot of great editing tools now available on the iPad, whether it be Lightroom CC (the mobile version), Affinity Photo, Snapseed, or other photo tools. I enjoy using the touch interface for working on an image, and anticipate spending many hours working with photos on this device in the future. As an event shooter, I will often have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of images after an event. For volume culling, bulk/synchronized editing, or mass export purposes, the iPad is not yet a great tool when compared with something like Lightroom or Bridge on a computer.
Why it can’t also run MacOS for the computer all of us really want?
I don’t think MacOS would work very well on a touch screen device. And if MacOS were updated with different interfaces that were more touch-friendly, would it be the computer all of us really wanted?
Are you a happier, kinder and better person now that your device is bigger?
Nah. Turns out that one’s happiness and attitude and such isn’t necessarily dictated by their choice of computing platforms or device sizes.
Except for folks with BlackBerry devices. WEIRDOS.
Have you tried hooking up a keyboard and mouse and using a windows cloud VM [Virtual machine]?
I have not.
Can you actually use it with the keyboard when it’s on your lap?
With the 9.7” iPad Pro with the older Smart Keyboard, I got pretty adept at using it on my lap, but the fact it bent at the top of the keyboard meant that I had to be able to sit a certain way and it would be considered kludgey at best.
With the new Smart Keyboard Folio, the surface that rests on your lap is one solid piece that doesn’t bend. This makes it more practical for lap-top use. It works well assuming you’re sitting in a fairly static/stable position. If you’re at an odd angle, or are on a chair and swaying from side to side, or are sitting in a less-than-stable environment (riding in a car, on light rail, etc), it’s still not as stable as a laptop that’s made of two solid slabs with a hinge in the middle.
This is primarily due to the fact that although the keyboard is well-built, the iPad + keyboard combo is still top-heavy when open. You have a relatively lightweight keyboard piece on the bottom, with the metal-and-glass iPad sticking up at an angle.
If typing while on a bus was a primary use case, I’d perhaps suggest a more firm laptop would be a better option than a tablet with this sort of configuration (whether that’s an iPad, Surface, etc).
I read that it is intended to be a laptop replacement but I am skeptical because previous iPads were just comically large versions of iPhones. Can it really replace my laptop?
Based on this question, I asked for clarification on what this person does on their laptop, and you’ll see that question/answer next.
But I do think that the “comically large versions of iPhones” comment also gets at something. There are two types of folks: those who negatively think “Argh, it’s just a giant iPhone!” And a second type who excitedly think “Sweet! It’s a giant iPhone!”
[Responding to the “what do you do on your laptop” question] Typing reports and editing complex technical documents. Typing on a iPad was a frustrating endeavor and editing text in a professional document with styles, formatting and multiple editors changes tracked is a challenge even with a keyboard and mouse.
As you note, complex document editing is sometimes a bit of a mess even on a big screen on a traditional computer. Having both written and served as a technical reviewer for these sorts of documents in the past, I feel your pain. I’m guessing you’re using Microsoft Word for this editing, since that’s pretty much the standard across any of these sorts of industries. According to this Microsoft support article it sounds as if Word for iPad does support tracking and viewing of changes. While I haven’t used this feature personally (I’m pretty much all in the Google world for documents and spreadsheets at this point) I would suspect that using it on a 12.9” iPad would be comparable to using it on a similarly-sized laptop screen.
Does It Blend?
I wasn’t able to test this personally with the new model. Instead, I offer this vintage iPad moment: