While researching the Apple iPad Pro, I found a lot of reviews that focused on its utility as a laptop replacement and tried to compare it to the Microsoft Surface Pro. Fine, but I wasn’t looking for a laptop replacement. And I find the Apple versus Microsoft debate a bit pointless – pick one and be happy, don’t waste your time trying to convert people.
As an Apple guy who has owned iPads since they first came out in 2010, I wanted someone to write a review from the perspective of a current iPad Air owner. Now that I’ve had my iPad Pro for a couple of months, I thought I’d write the review I wanted to read.
iPad Pro means increased usability
The iPad Pro is about the size a letter sheet of paper, 12″ x 8.7″ to be precise. Apple marketing is fond of saying “78% larger than an iPad Air,” but that’s based on pixel count. It doesn’t translate to a 78% increase in usability. Or does it?
- Split-screen multitasking. At the moment, I’m using a split screen with WordPress on the left and Safari on the right. It’s like having two iPad Minis sitting next to each other. I use dual monitors in my home office and I find this is a similar experience. It matches my work style, composing on one screen while researching on the other. I’m also starting to like being able to tend to messages or email while staying in my composing app. I didn’t really mind flipping back and forth when I had my iPad Air, but of course now I think it’s so last year!
- Watching Videos. I’m the main cook and dishwasher in our family, so I spend a good bit of my evenings in the kitchen. To pass the time, I take in a lot of Amazon Video, sporting events, TED Talks, and even cooking tips on YouTube. I have to say it’s way more enjoyable on the iPad Pro. Some of this is because the speakers are so much better, but the screen is big enough that I can watch it from anywhere in our kitchen. I also do some work in iMovie, which is an app that greatly benefits from increased screen size.
- Reading. My once laser-corrected eyesight is getting worse by the day. I can no longer read my iPhone without reading glasses and on an iPad Air I found myself constantly zooming in to read articles and email. Now I can comfortably read without zooming or my glasses, both of which were a pain in the ass. This is very useful for any app where I’m reading in full screen mode – Flipboard, Kindle, ESPN, etc.
- Gaming. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m still hooked on Clash of Clans. Big fan of the commercials featuring Liam Neeson (Taken), James Corden (The Late Late Show), and Christoph Waltz (Spectre). It’s simply a more immersive experience on an iPad Pro. I liken it to watching a movie in an IMAX theater. High wow factor, and it’s true for any graphics-intensive game.
Features of questionable value
There are a couple of features that I can’t quite declare as positively useful:
- A9X chip with M9 motion coprocessor. This purportedly makes the CPU and graphics performance 2.5 and 5 times faster, respectively, than an iPad Air. If you put the tablets side-by-side and open the same app simultaneously on each, you will see the iPad Pro opens apps a little more quickly. So I guess there’s that. But once you start using the iPad Pro exclusively, you’re no longer aware of the slight speed difference and the latest generation chip is just another bit of tech marketing. I’ll take it back if the new chip was necessary to support split-screen multitasking, but I couldn’t confirm that.
- Smart Connector. This allows the new Apple Smart Keyboard to exchange data with and draw power directly from the iPad. No Bluetooth connection and no charging cable for the keyboard. Apple marketing likes to say that “you never have to charge the keyboard again,” but this ignores the fact that you have to charge the iPad more often because it’s also powering the keyboard. More importantly for me, it ignores the fact that the Apple Smart Keyboard isn’t a very good keyboard. I went with the Zagg Slim Book because it has backlit keys and I can adjust the angle of the screen.
It’s hard to say there are any downsides, but I’m trying to keep it real for people who are thinking about upgrading from an iPad Air or iPad Air 2:
- Weight. The iPad Pro weighs 1.57 pounds where the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 both weigh about a pound. I used to lay in bed and hold the iPad in one hand while I read. The iPad Pro is just heavy enough that I don’t do that anymore. My wife got me something called a tablift for Christmas and I use it all the time!
- Software Maturity. Developers are just beginning to release apps designed to take advantage of the iPad Pro. Most apps today look a little awkward because they are simply bigger versions of iPad-sized apps. In another year or two, I’d expect to see apps that make better use of the increased screen size, but it will take another year or two. Even iOS has some tweaking to do. The grid for app icons is still 5 x 4 (4 x 5 in portrait mode) even though the screen is big enough for 6 x 5.
- Cost. At current pricing, the iPad Pro starts at $799 while the iPad Air 2 starts at $499. Is it worth the $300 premium? Only you can answer that because only you know how much weight to put on increased usability.
I’m obviously happy with my iPad Pro. It’s expensive no doubt, but a trade-in to Gazelle helped make it affordable. People often ask if it’s a laptop replacement and for me the answer is no. I still use my laptop everyday and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. That’s probably the subject of a different blog post. The point of this post is to highlight specific usability advantages over the iPad Air. So if you have an iPad Air (or Air 2) and are considering an upgrade to the iPad Pro, think about the usability advantages I described above and I’m sure it will help you make a good decision!
PS – I’m sure many of you noticed that I did not discuss the Apple Pencil, which is designed specifically for use with the iPad Pro. It is, however, an option that most people will not buy, so I chose to leave it out. I’ll write about the Apple Pencil in a future post. For now, suffice it to say that the Apple Pencil + iPad Pro is a killer combination for anyone wanting or needing to draw!