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Apple iPad Pro review roundup: Bigger is better, but not quite a laptop replacement

As seen during Apple’s quarterly earnings, iPads aren’t really setting the market on fire and all eyes are on the iPad Pro to hopefully bring about a change in the company's fortunes. With the la

apple-ipad-pro-launched

As seen during Apple’s quarterly earnings, iPads aren’t really setting the market on fire and all eyes are on the iPad Pro to hopefully bring about a change in the company’s fortunes. With the large-screened iPad going on sale this week expectations are sky high, especially after CEO Tim Cook said that this is the iPad that can finally replace the laptop. With the first set of reviews now out, let’s take a look at what the reviewers are saying about Apple’s first take on a tablet that’s good enough to replace your laptop.

Before we delve into the reviews, here’s a quick look at the iPad Pro’s specifications and features. It features a 12.9-inch (2732×2030 pixels) LED-backlit display, A9X 64-bit processor, M9 motion coprocessor and 4GB of RAM. It also comes with an 8-megapixel primary camera, FaceTime HD camera up front. Prices for the iPad Pro start from $799 (Rs 52,000 approximately) for the Wi-Fi only 32GB variant. The 128GB variant is priced at $949 (Rs 62,000 approximately), while the Wi-Fi + Cellular 128GB variant with built-in 4G LTE costs $1,079 (Rs 70,000 approximately).

One of the talking points is no doubt the massive 12.9-inch display, which is the biggest ever in the iPad lineup. WSJ’s Joanna Stern found that the bigger display worked for the iPad Pro and increased her productivity.

On paper, 12.9 inches may not seem much bigger than the standard iPad’s 9.7 inches, but the Pro screen made me more productive. I spent much of my week writing in Microsoft Word on the left hand of the screen and toggling between websites and my inbox on the right. Text looks incredibly crisp, especially in comparison with my MacBook Air’s display, which has just half the pixels.

CNET’s Scott Stein too feels the extra large screen is good for productivity.

You’d think a super-large iPad might feel absurd. But over time, it grew on all of us. It’s beautifully made, and its extra space can be surprisingly useful at times. But it still wasn’t a complete stand-in for an everyday computer for any of us.

Powering the iPad Pro is an A9X 64-bit processor paired with M9 motion coprocessor and 4GB of RAM. As per the reviewers the internals are powerful enough and are one of the biggest reasons for the iPad Pro working like a charm. Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham ran a number of tests and found the performance to be on par with MacBooks.

The A9X is one reason to be optimistic that the iPad-Pro-as-laptop-replacement pitch will become stronger as Apple works on its software—the hardware is here. We’re looking at MacBook Air-class CPU performance and MacBook Pro-class GPU performance, so the iPad Pro ought to be able to handle more multitasking features with aplomb as Apple sees fit to add them.

Stein too put the chipset through multiple tests and came up with similar results. He wrote,

The iPad’s A9X processor is Apple’s fastest ever in an “iDevice,” and our benchmarks bear that out. Not surprisingly, the Pro trounced its iPad siblings in speed tests.

As a laptop replacement, battery life is an important aspect. Apple says that the battery on the iPad Pro is good enough to last about 10 hours, and the tests were in line with the claims. The Verge’s Lauren Goode writes,

In my test, following The Verge’s standard battery test for tablets, I got just about 9.5 hours. In less formal tests, like on the day we shot a video of the iPad Pro while cycling through multiple applications, the Pro would last nearly a full work day without charging.

Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff had similar observations about the tablet’s battery.

Apple promises roughly 10 hours of battery life for the iPad Pro. I regularly got at least 9 hours when using the iPad Pro for word processing, web browsing, some video streaming and a variety of app tasks.

So far so good, the iPad Pro however is let down by iOS 9. The operating system is not fully optimized for the large screen, and the shortcomings are quite visible. Stern writes,

Despite iOS 9’s improved multitasking, there are still shortcomings. You can’t customize the home screen’s comically large icons with files or other shortcuts. Microsoft saddles its Surface Pro with full-blown desktop Windows while the iPad Pro is still too closely related to an iPhone. Apple has to keep working to find the happy middle.

Cunningham similarly writes about the OS’ limitations.

The iPad Pro is perhaps the ideal showcase for iOS 9’s multitasking features, but it doesn’t change the fact that those features are still rudimentary and restrictive compared to what you’d get in a traditional desktop OS. If anything, my heavier use of those multitasking features on the iPad Pro made it easier to spot their shortcomings.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino and Wired’s David Pierce focus more on the accessories that are the other talking points of the new iPad Pro. The Apple Pencil gets rave reviews from everyone, especially for its ease of use and accuracy.

The Pencil probably deserves its own review, but Apple did so much to the iPad Pro to make it a welcome home for the stylus that it belongs here. The stylus is well-built, with some really nice details. It’s weighted properly, just a tad heavier than a graphite pencil and well-balanced. It’s long enough to choke back on it to get some nice leverage for shading and the perfect thickness.

An issue with the Pencil however is the lack of storage. Ulanoff writes,

There is no place on the tablet to store the Pencil and since it’s perfectly round, the Pencil occasionally rolled away from me. As a result, I lived in fear of misplacing or losing it. I think there will be a healthy third-party market for Apple Pencil holders.

The Smart Keyboard however gets mixed feedback from reviewers. Pierce writes,

A strange thing happens when you sit down at a 13-inch device with a keyboard, though: you expect it to work like a laptop. And the iPad Pro doesn’t. The Smart Keyboard doesn’t support keyboard shortcuts in most apps, at least until developers add them. But why can’t you change the volume with the keyboard? Or turn the tablet off? Where’s the escape key? Why can’t you just start typing when you’re on the home screen to bring up the search, the way BlackBerry used to do it? Why isn’t there a search key that works in every app? Seriously, where is the escape key?

Writing for The Verge, Walt Mossberg too wasn’t impressed with the iPad Pro’s keyboard.

It’s essentially a shallow Mac keyboard, with keys like Command that mean something only in Mac OS X, but not a single shortcut key to an iPad function, like Home or Search. It’s also not backlit, and it has only one angle in which it holds the screen. Of the three keyboards I used to write this column, I found that the MacBook Pro was best, the Logitech Create second, and Apple’s iPad Pro Smart Keyboard dead last.

Conclusion

The iPad Pro reviews then are a mixed bag of sorts. While many have good things to say about the large screened iPad, it is far from being a laptop replacement.

Mossberg writes,

For me — a person already using his laptop a lot less in favor of the iPad — the Pro is just not likely to eliminate my laptop use entirely. The iPad Pro will no doubt make a lot of Apple users happy, especially if they use it for graphics. But I won’t be buying one, and I don’t recommend that average users do so either.

Stein writes,

I want the iPad to eat the Mac, the way the iPhone ate the iPod. This iPad has already crept up to become as large as a Mac. But iOS needs to fully change with it. I need to connect to my old files and Web tools better, because that’s what I need as a pro. I want it to become as flexible as a computer should be. The iPad needs to bridge the gap.

Ulanoff however is quite impressed with the iPad Pro and says it is the perfect device for productivity.

If you think the iPad Pro is simply about a bigger iPad, you’re missing the point. Apple’s iPad Pro is a new front in the quest to grow the productivity and business market for the iPad. Consumers are likely a secondary consideration. The iPad Pro does everything a smaller iPad can do, but its size, especially when paired with the Smart keyboard and Pencil, offers benefits tiny tablets can only dream of.

  • Published Date: November 13, 2015 1:16 PM IST
  • Updated Date: November 13, 2015 1:20 PM IST