Is it a laptop or a tablet? Apple’s newly announced iPad Pro seems to bring a bit of both. It’s got a fabric keyboard and glorified stylus (both sold separately), and a whopping 12.9 inch screen. It will run you at least $800—on par with some computers. Can it replace your laptop? Here’s what the internet has to say.
Apple’s solution? Going all in on iPad, showing off a souped-up version of iPad today called iPad Pro. If you’ve been reading the rumors leading up to the event, you’re not remotely surprised by this.
What I was surprised by, when I got some hands-on time with the tab today, is just how large it is. It has a 12.9-inch diagonal display. This is not your iPad mini, or any other 7-inch tab. This is not a cross between a tablet and a phablet. It doesn’t even feel comparable to your standard 10-inch variety. It feels...big.
The real question with the iPad Pro isn’t going to be whether or not it’s great. I can tell you, even after only a few minutes with the device, that it’s almost certainly great. It’s big, bright, surprisingly wieldable, and with the Pencil and the keyboard case, it’s easily multipurpose. The question will be, is it great for you? The iPad is still a tablet, and running iOS means it’s still going to be a little clunky—using Word, I found myself wishing I had all my keyboard and mouse shortcuts handy and didn’t have to keep picking up the Pencil or tapping the screen.
Apple was never supposed to produce its own tablet peripherals, beyond iPad covers and a couple of plug-in doodads like an SD Card reader. Yet, here they are and here I am touching them all. Crazier yet, it’s all kind of cool and actually makes perfect sense, especially when you consider the iPad Pro’s nearest competition is the Microsoft Surface Pro, another big tablet with an optional, magnetically-attached keyboard and pen accessories.
The $99 Apple Pencil will appeal to those who want more precision, those who like to handwrite their notes, or artists and illustrators. The accessory is made primarily of white plastic that actually looks more like an Apple accessory from a decade ago during the company’s “white plastic” phase. The pen is light and easy to hold but a bit glossy and slippery and it doesn’t fit in particularly well with the rest of the iPad’s design.
That aside, while we were scribbling with it the pen seemed to work more or less as Apple described. It responded to light and firm presses, and as we tilted the pen the lines we were drawing changed.
At $799, the device at greatest threat by the iPad Pro is probably Apple’s own MacBook Air. In the notebook’s favor, it has a “proper” keyboard and a trackpad; however, the iPad Pro’s display is markedly better, it has touch, and with multitasking and iOS 9’s various improvements, all of a sudden many of the things we’d traditionally reach for OS X for can be done happily on Apple’s “mobile” platform instead.
That’s no small achievement for Apple’s largest ever iOS device. I’ll have to live with it to figure out if the daily experience is as impressive.
And what of that keyboard? It’s really too soon to put down a firm verdict, but tentatively, I like it. The cloth-covered keys feel nice beneath the fingers, and help give the illusion of control, despite the fact that these are otherwise some fairly flat buttons. As a bonus, too, the cloth covering helps make the keyboard splash-resistant, though an Apple representative here at the event wouldn’t go so far as to call it water-resistant, much less waterproof. In addition to the textured feel, I appreciated that the buttons offered at least a modicum of travel — not unlike the new Macbook, actually, which also has some deceptively flat keys. It would be disingenuous to say it’s as comfortable as the MacBook Air’s keyboard, but it should do in a pinch, especially if you’re using the iPad Pro as a travel machine; a stand-in for your primary computer.
Apple talked about how much faster the iPad Pro’s A9X chip is than the A8X in the iPad Air 2, but remained characteristically mum about details like how much RAM it has. Apple has teamed up with IBM to create iPad apps to be used for all kinds of work, since anything a clipboard can do, an iPad can do so much better, and having a laptop-quality iPad Pro on the high end of the line can open up more possibilities for people who need big power in a package that’s half a pound lighter than the MacBook. My demo running splitscreen Microsoft Office apps was impressive, but when developers put the pedal to the iPad Pro’s Metal, it’s going to be fun to see what happens.
With price not taken into consideration, the iPad Pro would be a fun device to have. The screen size makes it great for reading, watching videos, and drawing, and its accessories add a lot of potentially useful functionality. If thinking about the monetary commitment, it may be a harder to convince yourself that you really must have one. With a keyboard, the entry level iPad Pro will cost about $970—more than the entry-level MacBook Air or the entry-level Windows-powered Surface Pro 3 with its keyboard attachment.