This is a device I never thought Apple would produce. A 12.9 inch screen? Wow, that’s huge, and has been the subject of many rumours of many years. In September those rumours became a reality – now EFTM has had a solid hands-on experience with a device that is surprisingly brilliant.
Over the years, my own use of the iPad has diminished as I rely more on a laptop for day-to-day work and the iPad has become an entertainment and consumption device. So – can the iPad Pro find a niche in the market that shifts the perception of what an iPad can do?
This thing weighs as much as the first iPad, which wasn’t exactly a brick, but its a hefty increase on what we’ve come to know from the recent iPad Air 2. It’s certainly not made to hold in one hand for an extended period. This device is made to sit flat on the desk, titled with a cover or stand, or – docked in the optional Smart Keyboard – more on that later.
Just the iPad
As a standalone, the iPad Pro is an iPad on steroids. The screen is enormous, and while it’s a deeper level of Retina it’s not something you notice on standard use. The home screens display the same number of Apps on the screen (5 x 4) and still just 6 apps in the lower dock.
Apple News, Websites, Email – all you regular apps just pop on the bigger screen.. Reading news and websites here look very nice. Very nice.
Then of course there is the new split-screen mode which doesn’t just give you a twitter feed or lists on a small split screen – with the size of the iPad Pro you’re actually able to run two full iPad apps side by side. That’s pretty impressive when researching on a website on one side and pasting into notes on the other for example.
And the keyboard is full size, with a number row all the time.
One interesting feature under the hood is a variable refresh rate on the screen. Normally you’ll get a 60 frame per second refresh when watching video and at all times when using an iPad. On the iPad Pro when the device knows you’re doing something “static” – like looking at a photo – and drops that down to 30. Not huge on the general scale of things, but a simple way to save a little bit of battery. Which, by the way should give you a full 10 hours of use.
Let’s be clear – right here, right now, this is not a stylus. It’s not a smart pen trying to replicate the finger. It’s also not a stylus with a few buttons which can send commands to the iPad Pro. It’s a smart stylus (ok ok, Pencil) that uses a combination of Bluetooth and under-screen technology to work – and work very well.
Forget all the amazing apps that are available like Paper, Adobe, Procreate, Canva or whatever you suggest – just open the Apple Notes app.
In a new note, choose the “drawing” option and start sketching.
It looks like a lead pencil on paper. Tilt the Apple Pencil on the side and you get the full width of a sharpened lead pencil to shade away like a kid with a pencil. It’s fantastic. Genuinely.
While recording Two Blokes Talking Tech this week, I drew an iPhone:) Took 15 mins, I reckon it came up ok?
My kids had a look, and they took to it like a pencil to paper:)
Under the top of the pencil is a lightning plug. You can use this along with a lightning double adaptor on any powered lightning cord.
If you use the iPad pro all day, with the pencil – so, lets say you’re an artist – you’ll need to charge the Apple Pencil every night.
However, if things are desperate, and you’re stuck wanting to finish drawing, plug the Apple Pencil into your iPad for 15 seconds and you’ll get another 30 minutes of usage.
The Apple Pencil only works on the iPad Pro, and is available as an optional accessory for $165.
The standard Smart Cover is available again for the iPad Pro, acting as a great protective cover for the screen, as well as a tilt stand for desktop use or movie viewing.
But it’s the Smart Keyboard where things get productive. A $269 accessory it’s a pricey additional cost. When you consider a good keyboard for iPad Air might be $100, this needs to add serious value. I’m not sure it does when compared dollar for dollar, but on sheer quality and capability, it’s a great accessory.
The mechanism under each key is the same as that which Apple introduced on the new Macbook. It doesn’t feel identical to the MacBook but it certainly feels more like that than any other standard keyboard.
It takes no time to adjust, and I felt as comfortable typing here than on any laptop I’ve used, and that’s really the comparison that matters here.
There is no “home” button on the Smart Keyboard, so you still need to reach up and press that button to return home or swap apps – and the reason I mention that is that it’s common on most 3rd party Bluetooth keyboard I’ve used. There is the familiar “globe” key – which switches the keyboard type – so you’re able to access emoji’s with ease.
Clipping the iPad Pro into is easy – with a magnetic snap into place, it’s harder than you think to get off, but that gives it a solid steady feeling when in use.
Sound & Entertainment
Another sleeper of a feature on the iPad Pro is the sound. Wow. Four speakers, which dynamically adjust the left / right balance based on which way you’re holding the iPad.
I watched a quick episode of “Let’s Talk About It” on Presto, and the sound was excellent – as was the picture. Then I downloaded Adele’s Hello – which I’ve listened to a lot – and the sound was sensational.
Not better than having a top-notch set of headphones plugged in, or paired to a good quality Bluetooth speaker.
But, it’s possibly the best I’ve heard from a tablet – or laptop in this price range, just sitting on my desk streaming music.
Sadly, the Spotify App crashed every time I tried to use it – so perhaps a bug needing an upgrade there, and then I can enjoy even more music.
So, what’s the upshot?
If this is the future of tablets, I’m keen.
I’d love to have this level of Apple Pencil compatibility and features on the iPad Air. Given Apple’s ability to create smaller parts and components, I can only hope that the screen technology that allows the Apple Pencil to work, as well as the speakers that make entertainment great will soon come to the smaller iPads.
I’m going to give it a go as my primary portable device for a while, I think it can work. But I think in reality this is suited more than ideally to people who draw, people who design, people who are creative.
In the same sense, I think people who are looking at high quality drawings or 3D modelling will be blown away by the power and quality of what the iPad Pro can do.
It’s not for everyone, but for those who find the iPad Air to small to be creative, or not enough for how they want to consume their media or work data like medical information or CAD drawings – this is made for you.
Could it replace the laptop? Time will tell, I’ll wait to see how good the Microsoft Office for iPad Pro is to make a complete judgement on that one.
It’s not cheap, but in reality the pricing for what you’re getting is about spot on.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.