Having started out with my first impressions a week ago, highlighted my core questions and decided on Monday that the iPad Pro couldn’t replace my iPad Air 2 (only be an additional device), it’s time to make my decision.
I think between us at 9to5Mac we’ve been putting the tablet through its paces in a pretty comprehensive fashion! We don’t always reach the same conclusions about devices, but in this case I found myself agreeing with the bottom-line of each of my colleagues who’ve been trying it.
Dom described it as a giant Netflix machine, and it certainly is. With that huge screen and extremely loud speakers, movies and TV shows are very compelling, and – unlike a MacBook with the same size screen – you don’t feel like you’re looking at a work device.
Zac saw it as the best entertainment iPad, and I agree with that – with the single proviso that it’s just too big for comfortable ebook reading in bed. But reading ebooks on your lap is a delightful experience. Magazines are just wow. Casual web-browsing – sat on the sofa, just passively consuming content rather than planning to act on it – is a joy. In portrait mode, you can see a decent chunk of a page at a time, everything is big enough to read comfortably and it just feels like a much more relaxing experience than using a MacBook or a smaller iPad where you have to do more scrolling.
Jeremy found that it sat awkwardly between two devices – not feeling like a better alternative than either his iPad Air 2 or his MacBook Pro when it comes to either work or play. I agree 100% on the work side of the equation. I’m more sold on the play side of things, but given that I like to read in bed every night, ultimately I’d have to agree that my iPad Air 2 is a complete solution where the iPad Pro isn’t.
But it’s not just my colleagues’ views I’ve been reading, it’s yours too – in the comments on my earlier diary pieces. So let me address a couple of those before delivering my own final verdict …
A number of the comments you made related to the two dedicated accessories.
Some suggested I wait for Apple Pencil availability before making my decision, as this is currently a big unique selling proposition for the Pro. I absolutely agree that for many people, this will be the killer device – the accessory that transforms the Pro from merely a big iPad into something else entirely.
But, honestly, for me the Pencil is totally irrelevant. I’ve never been able to draw, nor had any interest in learning (I picked up photography from an early age, so that satisfied my desire for visual creativity). And I literally never hand-write anything, not even a shopping list. All my notes are either typed or dictated.
So great as the Pencil looks, I wouldn’t have bought one even to try – I just don’t have any use for it.
The suggestion that I should wait for Apple’s own Smart Keyboard was something I did definitely consider. It’s absolutely true that a significant part of my dismissal of the iPad Pro as a writing tool was because I wasn’t impressed by the Logitech Create keyboard.
But early reviews of the Apple keyboard didn’t lend much hope that I’d like it any better – indeed, they suggested I’d probably like it even less.
I could also wait to see what other third-party keyboards appear. Brydge, for example, expects to have one available next year, and the iPad Air 2 model quickly became my daily-driver. With a keyboard I love, I might have looked more fondly on the Pro as a mobile writing tool.
But there are two other factors. First, a trackpad is still a much more pleasant experience than a touchscreen when it comes to editing. I tend to plan my articles by making upper-case notes, shuffle these around into a logical order and then begin writing. That involves a lot of selecting, moving and cutting text, and my MacBook Air is a much more efficient tool for that.
Second, a lot of my writing is done in Scrivener, an app I adore. I sometimes use it for first drafts of articles, and I wouldn’t even dream of writing a book without it. While an iOS version has been long-promised, the developer hit a number of road-blocks, and is now (sensibly) declining to provide an estimate of when it might be available.
So, all in all, the iPad Pro wasn’t going to replace my MacBooks for writing.
My complaint about the unwieldy size of the iPad Pro for reading books in bed might sound like a relatively trivial one, but I read a lot, so ebooks are an absolutely core part of what an iPad is all about for me – and a lot of that reading is done in bed. My Kindle used to be one of my favorite gadgets until I decided that carrying two tablets around everywhere was silly, and switched to using my iPad instead (which also had the benefit of not needing a light on, so I could read in bed without disturbing my partner).
The iPad Pro makes a fantastic ebook reader on your lap, but is just too awkward in bed.
The size of it was also an issue for general mobile use. The iPad Air 2 slips so easily into any bag that I can carry it everywhere without even thinking about it. The iPad Pro needs a larger bag and definitely isn’t something you carry with you just in case.
So I’d already concluded that the iPad Pro couldn’t replace any of my existing devices. The only remaining possibility would be to keep both iPads, effectively viewing it as a fourth category of device – distinct from iPhone, standard iPad and MacBooks.
But great as it is for some tasks, it’s too much of a niche case for me: it just wouldn’t be earning its keep. I’d get better value from a thousand bucks by spending it on other things.
None of which is to dismiss the iPad Pro at all. I think it’ll be an absolutely fantastic device for many people. Artists and designers will adore it. Musicians, too, for large sheet music as well as composing. It will be a brilliant tool for many corporate road warriors (Tim Cook may be biased, but I believe him when he says he now travels without a MacBook, using only his iPhone and iPad Pro).
I also, to my surprise, do think it has a role as a consumer device. My specific issue aside, Zac is right about it being a near-perfect entertainment machine, and Cook is right that for many people, this will be the only computer they need. I know for sure that I’m going to recommend it to loads of people as an alternative to a laptop if they just want a single device for Internet and entertainment purposes.
For many, it will be a much better choice than a MacBook or MacBook Air. For a non-tech person, it’s easier to use. The tablet format is more convenient for entertainment. The battery life really is ten hours, unlike MacBooks whose real-life usage is closer to five (especially if you’re using it intermittently throughout the day). The option of built-in LTE is far more convenient than using a phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. And there’s almost nothing a non-tech person can do to screw up an iPad.
But adding this to my existing roster of iPhone 6s, iPad Air 2, MacBook Air 11 and MacBook Pro 17 is a step too far – even for me!
I remember a scene in Boston Legal where Shirley Schmidt, one of the partners in the law firm, brings an associate into her office. “You‘re a very good lawyer,” she tells the associate, cutting off her thanks. “But … not good enough: we’re letting you go.” And that, ultimately, is how I feel about the iPad Pro. It’s a very good device, just – for my needs – not good enough. I’m letting it go.