I bought the first-generation iPad when it was launched in 2010. Five years later, it still works and is actively used by my family. For my mom, it is her only access to the Internet. My sister sketches on it, while my five-year-old niece watches her favorite YouTube videos. Since then, I have used multiple variants of the iPad, including the mini and the Air, but I never ended up using any of them daily. With smartphone screens getting bigger and being able to handle most of my needs, the iPad seemed a device I could do without — it couldn’t replace my smartphone and at the same time was not good enough to substitute for my laptop while traveling. For me, the iPad was dead. Also Read - iOS 15 update expected compatibility for iPhones, iPads: Will iPhone 6S see the end of life?Also Read - 2021 iPad Pro almost matches M1 MacBook Air in benchmark tests
Last week I got the iPad Pro Apple’s new vision of how the iPad could be much more than being majorly a consumption device. How a bigger display, a powerful processor and an altogether new way of input with the Apple Pencil could convert the iPad into a creativity and productivity device. The timing was perfect as I was heading out on a week-long work trip so I substituted my laptop with the iPad Pro combined with the Apple Smart Keyboard. Challenge accepted! Also Read - Flipkart Apple Days sale: iPhone 12, iPhone 11 and more iPhone models up from sale with discount
BIGGER IS BETTER
In my mind I always thought the iPad Pro to be bigger, much bigger than it is in real life. So I was in for a surprise when I first saw it in person. The 12.9-inch display along with thick bezels on all four sides is quite manageable and not as unwieldy as I expected it to be. But the biggest surprise is how light it relatively is considering its size. At no time during this week of using the iPad Pro did I feel it to be too heavy to hold — be it using as a tablet or in the laptop mode with the keyboard accessory on. It felt right at home.
Still, the iPad Pro is not the tablet you would whip out while commuting in the metro. Or while you are lying in bed and just want to read something. It is not a tablet that you can hold with one hand and read while walking around.
The iPad Pro is the tablet that you would seek when you want to get work done. It is the tablet you would keep on your lap or on a table to type or watch videos. For me, the iPhone 6s Plus is good enough for most of my web browsing, reading and emailing needs, which rendered the iPad and other tablets useless that were great consumption devices but not good enough when it came to creation. The iPad Pro has to deliver on the “creation” bit to be useful to me.
Coming back to the design, the iPad Pro doesn’t look very different from other iPads, it is just bigger. But being bigger means it has more room for other things like a bigger battery and four speakers on every corner. The speaker arrangement is by far the best I have seen on any tablet or for that matter, even most laptops. The audio experience is unmatched and it is smart too — the software automatically changes the speakers for high frequencies depending on the orientation of the tablet. Heck, even the mail sent “whoosh” sound comes in stereo sound!
I watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on the iPad Pro and the experience was much superior than what I have had on any other tablet. The audio output quality coupled with the Retina display makes for a good video viewing experience.
In terms of design, there’s one more new addition — the Smart Connector — which is located on the left spine if you hold the iPad Pro in landscape orientation. This connector is used for accessories like the Smart Keyboard. The connector provides both power and data connectivity. You just attach the keyboard accessory to the connector and it gets automatically paired with the iPad Pro. The keyboard does not need to have its own battery either.
The iPad Pro is the most powerful iOS device Apple has ever made. It’s 12.9-inch Retina display houses a mind numbing 5.6 million pixels. Just to give you an idea of what it means, while doing multitasking via split-display you get almost the equivalent of two iPad Air displays in portrait mode. For those seeking numbers, the iPad Pro’s display is 78 percent bigger than the iPad Air.
For the iPad Pro, Apple has also redesigned the multitouch subsystem to be able to differentiate between your finger and the Apple Pencil. When the system senses the Apple Pencil, it scans for signals up to 240 times per second, which means there is almost no lag when you use the stylus. When it comes to display refresh rate, it can sense the content on the display and variate the refresh rate to conserve battery.
Driving all these 5.6 million pixels and enabling multitasking and “productive” applications is Apple’s A9X chipset, which Apple claims provides 1.8 times the CPU and twice the graphics performance than the A8X chip on the iPad Air 2. During my week-long usage, I could not find a single use case that made the iPad Pro stutter. It handled multitasking effortlessly, played back movies with ease and even graphics intensive games. I had people sketch and even edit videos on it, which went off seamlessly.
The iPad Pro has the same 8-megapixel iSight camera and 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera, which are found on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4. The cameras are disappointing considering the rear camera cannot shoot videos in 4K while the front-facing camera cannot even shoot in 1080p, maxing out at just 720p. While I don’t see many people holding the iPad Pro to shoot photos or videos from the rear camera, the FaceTime camera could have at least recorded videos in 1080p.
On the battery front, the iPad has a 38.5watt-hour battery, which is good enough for what would be considered all-day use. During my usage, I was able to use it for nearly seven hours of usage that included Internet browsing; multitasking on Mails, Twitter, Trello and Slack; and working on documents while playing music in the background. Then I watched a movie that lasted for nearly two hours and the iPad Pro still had about 25 percent of battery left. In my experience, the iPad Pro would last a typical work day on a single charge.
Apple has for long been saying how making both the hardware and operating system in-house gives it an advantage over other players that just make hardware but use operating systems made by either Google of Microsoft. That advantage really comes to the fore with the iPad Pro.
With iOS 9 Apple has come up with a number of features that make the iPad Pro the productive device that none of the iPads before have managed to be. The biggest addition has to be ‘Slide Over’ and ‘Split View.’
When you are in any app, you can swipe inwards from the right edge of the display to get a new ‘Slide Over’ menu that shows multitasking compatible apps on your iPad. You can select any app out of the list and it opens taking only a fourth of the display while your primary app continues to work in the remaining display. You can even change apps by sliding from the top of the ‘Slide Over’ display to go back to the list of apps. This comes in handy while following Twitter or other apps like messaging services and calendar, which don’t require too much display real estate.
For apps that require more display area like the web browser, email, pages and the likes, you can touch on the border dividing the two running apps on the display and go into ‘Split View’ that divides the display into two halves. The great thing is that the display size of either app is almost as big of what you’d get on an iPad Air.
While watching a video or in a FaceTime call you can hit the home button to get into the picture in picture mode. You can then move the video window around on the screen and even resize it and open another app to work on — a feature that has been made keeping the iPad Pro’s big display in mind. You can easily have the video playing in the size of an iPhone and still have enough display area left for working on other apps.
What most of us forget is the operating system is just one aspect of the user experience. In the long run, it is having compatible apps that take advantage of the hardware and operating system that really matters. In my opinion that’s one of the things that makes the iPad Pro really special.
Right from day one, there are enough apps out there that make the iPad Pro a great tablet to own. Microsoft has made its Office suite apps custom made for the iPad Pro available that support the high resolution display as well as ‘Split View’ functionality for multitasking. Adobe has its suite of image editing, sketching and other apps customized for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. The popular Paper app is taking advantage of the Apple Pencil too.
With previous iPads buying add-on accessories like a stylus or a keyboard was optional. Most people, including yours truly, were satisfied with the Smart Cover alone, considering there was only so much you could do with those ‘tiny’ iPads. That is not the case with the iPad Pro, where you just cannot make much use of its features without at least two accessories — the Smart Keyboard Case and the Apple Pencil.
In my opinion, almost everyone who buys the iPad Pro needs to buy the Smart Keyboard Case, there is no other way of making the most of the tablet otherwise. Yes, iOS 9 brings a full sized onscreen keyboard for the iPad Pro but it isn’t good enough, especially if you plan to write a lot on it. The keyboard accessory also doubles up as the cover and connects to the iPad Pro via the Smart Connector. It requires some weird folds for the iPad Pro to snap into place on the keyboard’s edge or for the keyboard to act as a stand itself when you want to watch videos. Also in closed mode, the keyboard lends an unusual hump on top of the display.
The keyboard is made of what Apple calls “custom-woven” fabric and the individual keys are formed directly on the fabric itself. This makes the keyboard thin and durable. It takes a little while getting used to but after a couple of days of use, I could easily blind type on it. In fact, I am typing this review on the iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard itself.
The keyboard also brings some much needed shortcuts like ‘command+tab’ to shift between apps, ‘command+space bar’ to activate spotlight, and ‘command+shift+h’ to go to the home screen. Beyond these, it all depends on whether individual apps support keyboard shortcuts or not. You can long press the command key in any app to see which shortcuts, if any, are supported.
The second accessory is the Apple Pencil, which is Apple’s take on the stylus input for the iPad Pro. In order to make it better than regular pencils, Apple has added a new subsystem to the touchscreen the doubles the display refresh rate to 240 times per second as soon as it detects the Apple Pencil’s touch. This reduces the lag between when the Pencil touches the display and when the corresponding action happens. The Apple Pencil is the closest I have come to a pen-on-paper experience on a touchscreen using a stylus.
Apple has also increased the pressure sensitivity that means your strokes would get thicker or thinner depending on the pressure you exert on the display. The Pencil does a good job of shading too if you tilt it, as the display is able to gauge the angle at which it is in contact.
Just like the Smart Keyboard that needs no pairing and connects automatically when it comes in contact with the Smart Connector, to pair the Apple Pencil all you need to do is connect it to the iPad Pro via the Lightning connector. Apple claims that the Pencil would work for almost 12 hours on a single charge. Even if you end up discharging the battery, connecting it to the iPad Pro’s Lightning connector for 15 seconds would give enough charge for 30 minutes of use. Unfortunately, there is no slot within the iPad Pro to stow away the Apple Pencil. Which makes it prone to getting lost.
Out of the two accessories, I believe that the Apple Pencil is optional and useful only for those who intend to draw and sketch on it or if they want to use a specific app that requires the use of a stylus input. The Smart Keyboard Case, on the other hand, is a no brainier and should be bought.
After using the iPad Pro exclusively for a week without as much as touching my laptop, I can convincingly say that it is the best iPad Apple has ever made. I’d go a notch further and reckon this is what the iPad had to become at a time when smartphone display sizes are increasing and are making iPads nearly obsolete. At the same time, I am also convinced that the iPad Pro isn’t going to replace your laptop anytime soon. Yes, it can be a temporary substitute for your laptop but it still has a long way to go.
The iPad Pro is a powerful machine and is in fact, more powerful than my company-issued laptop but iOS limitations force me to go back to the machine I would not touch otherwise. With the capabilities of the iPad Pro, it is disappointing to not have a file manager where you can download and store files offline that are accessible to all apps. While using the Smart Keyboard Case, I missed having a trackpad, which would have come handy to scroll or just click on menu options. Thanks to muscle memory, touching the display while using the keyboard doesn’t happen intuitively.
The biggest hurdle, however, is the pricing. The iPad Pro starts from Rs 67,900 for the 32GB, Wi-Fi only variant, which I would not recommend due to the low storage. Then there is the iPad Pro 128GB, Wi-Fi only version that is priced at Rs 79,900 and the 128GB Wi-Fi+Cellular version at Rs 91,900. Considering the Smart Keyboard Case is a must buy, add another Rs 14,900. The Apple Pencil is priced at Rs 8,600. Even if you go for the base 32GB, Wi-Fi only iPad Pro and the Smart Keyboard Case, it will set you back by Rs 82,800! Add the Apple Pencil and it touches Rs 91,400.
At these prices, it is difficult to recommend the Apple iPad Pro. But if you happen to have that sort of money lying around, it certainly is worth the experience.