Apple's souped-up iPad Pro is supposed to be a laptop replacement -- yet as many have already pointed out, it just isn't up to the task. So I decided to use the iPad Pro as its namesake suggests: As a huge arse iPad. To my surprise, I liked it.
Death to "Pinch To Zoom"
The iPad Pro's 30cm size isn't for everyone, just like Samsung's 30cm Galaxy Note Pro tablet or HP's own 30cm slate weren't for everyone. Big isn't a new idea for tablets, but even compared to a 23cm tablet like the iPad Air 2, the awkwardness alone might ward you away from this gargantuan tablet, especially if it does more than just sit on your nightstand or coffee table.
Despite the size, I'd still say the iPad Pro is the iPad to own if you just want a tablet for tablet-y things. Here's why.
iOS 9 is designed for bigger screens. Although many of the software bumps in iOS 9 will play nice with old Air and mini models, things like picture-in-picture and side-by-side multitasking work so much better on a bigger screen. If I want to catch up on my YouTube subscriptions while playing Hearthstone, I can actually see everything that's going on. Need to send a quick email or text message while reading a full-size comic? Sure thing.
Still, these multitasking capabilities have lots of rooms to grow. Apps like Netflix have yet to add PiP mode, and full multitasking functionality is primarily reserved for Apple's own apps. But the promise is there -- and on a bigger screen, the promise is even more enticing.
It's not just the screen that makes this iPad better than those that came before it. You're also getting four speaker grills, which create a richer soundscape whenever you're listening to music or watching Netflix. It's still a pain to position this big tablet in a way that makes extended viewing comfortable (unless you buy a nifty stand), but the view and the sound has never been better.
But what I loved most about the iPad Pro is reading. In an era when most media has gone digital, the iPad Pro may be the most versatile reading machine I've ever tested. Reading anything on a smartphone is usually a pinch-to-zoom nightmare. On a 23cm iPad Air legibility is a little better, but not perfect, especially when text isn't adjustable. The iPad Pro? It's a downright luxurious reading experience.
Working in digital media with a background in magazine journalism and a chronic love for comics, presentation means a lot to me. The iPad Pro preserves how something was made to look and read. Not once did I have to zoom-in to read something or see a certain detail, and it preserved the feeling of just picking up a magazine, book, or comic and reading it as it was intended.
In a way, the iPad Pro is the perfect device if you love the experience of reading physical media but want to step firmly into the digital age.
The Setbacks of Going Big
However, it's not all positives when it comes to that big display. Some apps just haven't been optimised for the larger screen. For example, Spotify currently won't even work on an iPad Pro. That's not a permanent problem of course -- the service will certainly push out an update -- but you might run into some issues if you pride yourself on being an early adopter.
Spotify y u no open?
And because some apps haven't been perfected for the larger display, you run into resolution problems. Using Apple's News app is a perfect example. Overall, the app works MUCH better than it does on iPhones. However, that larger display makes low-resolution images piped in from other websites even more hideous. More of these issues emerge in other apps too, and often UI controls and other design elements look like they were simply awkwardly scaled-up from smaller platform counterparts.
The biggest aesthetic annoyance here is that the iPad Pro doesn't include an appropriate home screen design for its size. App icons are spaced out four or five apps across that huge screen, leaving behind an incredibly unappealing amount of dead space. It's something you get used to over time, but it seems like a small feature that Apple should have figured out already.
But maybe the most obvious head scratcher about the iPad Pro is just sheer physics. Tablets are made to be mobile -- less bulky than a laptop but more than just the phone in your pocket. The iPad Pro skims right along the divide of being a great travel companion and a huge nuisance. In New York City, I commute every day by subway. Because of this, I already have bags fit for a 38cm laptop, so transporting a 30cm tablet, one that's also super thin by the way, wasn't a problem whatsoever. But no doubt about it, the thing is big and can be a little tiring to hold after a while, but the pros outweigh the cons in this case.
So what about using it?
Surprisingly, I actually liked it more than an iPad Air 2. The Air was always in that middle ground of being slightly too small to hold in the crux of your elbow but kind of big and heavy to hold in one hand for an extended period of time. But the iPad Pro is actually pretty easy to manage since it goes all in: It's simply big and heavy. You get used to holding it like an old school clipboard, because there's really no other way.
Everyone will be different in this regard, and it's probably best if you just give it a try at an Apple store before financially committing to it. But as far as tableting on the go is concerned, the iPad Pro is no different for me than its smaller forebears.
The iPad Pro is a great tablet, and just an OK productivity machine. It's not going to eliminate your laptop -- so for most users, it still lives in that supplemental device area, something you might want but don't necessarily need like a laptop.
At its most basic level, the iPad Pro is a multipurpose, 21st-century coffee table book much like it always has been. It's just better at it. For people who ravenously consume magazines, books, and comics, and who want to drastically cut down on the dead trees filling up their homes, then the Pro could be worth the exorbitant amounts of cash.
But you're also spending money on the promise of the iPad Pro, especially if iOS 10 brings even more productivity apps to the Pro and third-party developers continue designing for the bigger display.
Starting at $1249, the iPad Pro is probably too expensive for most people to buy as a really nice reading device. If you think you'll get some use out of it as a sketchbook, then it's worth a little more. And if you really want to squeeze it into your work life -- whether as a sketchpad or a low-powered laptop replacement -- then you're just an Apple Pencil and/or Keyboard away from doing so.
Regardless, I can't wait to see where Apple takes it from here.
iPad Pro Specs:
- OS: iOS 9
- Dimensions: 12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches
- Weight: 713 grams
- Display: 30cm LCD Retina Display (2732x2048)
- Resolution: 2732 x 2048 (264 PPI)
- Processor: A9x w/ M9 motion coprocessor
- Camera: 8MP back and 1.2MP front
- Battery: 10,307mAh Li-Po
- RAM: 4GB of RAM
- Storage: 32GB or 128GB
- Cellular: Available
- NFC: Yes
- Fingerprint Sensor: Yes
- Price: $1249-$1699
- Note: Apple Pencil and Keyboard sold separately
Images and GIFs by Michael Hession