I know a lot of people who consider the iPad, or any other tablet for that matter, a pure consumption device. I, on the other hand, have been using an iPad 2 as my primary mobile computing device for around four years now. I use the iPad for my assignments, recording interviews, taking down notes and writing from the spot when needed. It has never failed me.
However, the near 10-inch iPad 2 has started feeling too large these days, as I can do all of the above work on a good phablet, be it the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 or any other Android. This is why I have been tempted of late to switch to an iPad Mini, smaller but just as productive. That is when Apple announced the iPad Pro, and now I’m confused.
This week I will try and come to a conclusion on whether this is my next iPad, or maybe the MacBook Air replacement. Read on:
What’s with the size?
It is really hard to overlook the fact that this is a really large tablet, the type Moses would have been holding on the Mount. It can be a bit intimidating, especially for those who have used a smaller iPad. But that is because we are comparing it to a tablet. And I think Apple is thinking more top down. More in terms of whether this device can actually make you forgo a PC or even a MacBook Air. In that sense, this is a thinner, more comfortable computing device.
Despite its size, the iPad Pro is slim. May be a bit too slim for something this big, so a good cover is recommended. It comes with a fingerprint scanner that is identical to that on the new iPhones. I think this is a good feature, as a lot of people will be doing serious work on this device.
You will take time getting used to the size. I kept asking myself if it was better to hold this horizontally or vertically. But let me tell you, there is nothing that gives you a better view of a website that a iPad Pro held vertically. You can see much more than you would see with any other screen. Being a web editor, I can already see value in this screen size.
As you would have realised by now, the size is all because this device has a stunner of a screen. It is not always that you get to stare into a 2732×2048 screen, which stands our from anything on any tablet so far. A lot of people who will be using the device will be buying it for the screen, to be used with the pencil. For creative folks, this screen will offer some serious pull.
The add-ons aka accessories
You can’t improve productivity by just improving screen quality or adding more real estate. And that is where Apple has brought in the new Smart Cover and the Pencil. There is nothing unique or innovative about both of these products, but they like other Apple devices just work out of the box. The keyboard for that matter just yokes to the iPad and the cover morphs into a holder keeping the screen where it should be.
However, the keyboard takes some getting used to. For one, it is just half the height of the screen and you don’t have a lot of area to move your fingers. It works really well for those used to an iPad onscreen keyboard, but for others you need to learn to rein in your fingers. The keys have good travel, but it’s not as comfortable as a MacBook Air’s, at least not initially.
The Pencil, meanwhile, uses the charging port to pair with the iPad. Push its charging tip into the port and you are ready to go in a minute or so. You can use this feature to also charge then pencil in a hurry, but it’s better to use the full charger.
The Pencil is, as the name suggests, built like a pencil. But it doesn’t really feel like one as the body is hard, almost as if it’s carved out of marble. A softer grip would have been better appreciated. This smooth, stony feel also makes it a bit slippery. But like a good A R Rahman song, it will grow on you and you will get used to it.
Helping you along is the fact that this scribbler is super responsive and pressure sensitive. In fact, there is a bit of innovation in its ability to shade with the sides, like you would with a lead pencil. The battery lasts 12 hours, which means you could work with it for a week, unless your primary use is to sketch or draw.
Another thing to remember while committing yourself to the iPad pro is that both these key accessories have to be bought extra and together will cost you around Rs 23,000 more. So, I think the Pencil should strictly be for those who will use the iPad Pro creatively. For those who want to scribble for fun, just buy a simple stylus for around Rs 1,000.
Having used one for many years, I can vouch for the fact that the iPad is a very under-rated device when it comes to performance. It is unfailing, as it is unassuming. It is always there when you want it to do something, but we never talk about this bit of the iPad. But the iPad Pro is different. It is a device that stands apart for being more powerful than any tablet out there, and even most of the PCs.
This is the first iPad two allow multi-tasking in the real sense and you can have you mail and notes running simultaneously on split screens, the kind of scenario I am working on most of the time. The other scenario I find very handy is to take down notes as I am interviewing someone on Facetime or Skype. You could not really do it this way on an iPad before.
While I will not really recommend the iPad Pro for games like Asphalt and Real Racing 3 which need you to move the device for better results, this ideal for some other games. One of Apple’s showcase games is a really tough game called Shadowmatic. Most of us won’t be able to progress beyond the first two rounds, but that is enough to really tell you a lot about the processing power and graphics prowess of this device.
The real big test for the iPad is editing 4K video and we will attempt that this week before the review blog is done.
As I promised, I did try editing raw Full HD and 4K video on the iPad Pro. In the first project, i pulled in about a dozen time-lapse videos I had shot on the iPhone 6s Plus over a period of time and clubbed them into a 2.5-minute video with audio. The entire process of creation, of course with limited creativity took me around 10 minutes or so, including the time taken to copy the clips using AirDrop. But what really surprised me was the fact that it took under 30 seconds to process the entire clip and render it. The experience was similar with a clip created using 4K video and the iMovies trailer template. The device too was as cool as a cucumber during the entire process. No mean feat from my experience with 4K video so far.
Yes, this is the best performing tablet I have used so far. But then I have just got my hands on the Microsoft Surface Pro.
Final day: Let me help you decide
At the end of the week, I am convinced that this is without doubt the most powerful iPad I have used. It might even be the most powerful tablet ever, but I want to try out the Microsoft Surface Pro before coming to that conclusion.
My only issue is that the accessories could have been better integrated to the tablet: virtually as well as physically. For, instance, someone as forgetful as me won’t take long to leave the Pencil back on a table in a coffee shop. There should have been someway to yoke it to the tablet, or at least the covers. Also, I craved for a software that sprung to life when I have the Pencil in my hand, something like the Samsung S Note.
My other issue is size. While it adds to productivity it is also a headache protecting the iPad Pro, especially given the thin frame. And this reinforces my view that this will be a niche device, not for everyone.
I might just stick to the latest iPad as I don’t have all that use for the extra screen space, and am not great with sketching anyway. However, if you are looking for a most portable replacement for the MacBook Air, this the iPad Pro is certainly a contender. Also, a great tool for the creative guys, this might interest a lot of writers too.
I don’t think the pricing is high, as this device is meant not as a tablet, but a very productive and portable PC-replacement.