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What It's Like To Use the iPad Pro As a Laptop

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I don’t like laptops. There, I said it. I don’t hate them, but for years I’ve felt they can be improved in many different ways. So when Apple made the iPad Pro, I paid attention. Could this be the product I’d been dreaming of all this time? The short answer: No. The long answer: Also no. But it does have a few surprises.


More Laptop Than Ever

The release of iOS 9 was a huge step forward for the iPad. For years, Apple had been proclaiming that the iPad was not only a superb device for consuming content but also for creating it. The reality, though, was not so idealistic. iOS lacked basic features that capped the amount of work you could do.


So iOS 9 fixed that up, partially. You can now have two (or three if you count picture in picture) apps on the screen at the same time. There’s better integration with keyboards and even some shortcuts like Cmd+Tab to quickly switch between apps. But the iPad Pro adds the most important ingredient for our little productivity recipe—a big ass screen.

Laptops are used essentially for work. But defining “work” is tricky. Not everyone has to do the same tasks on a laptop, and not all laptops are good for all those tasks. Architects, graphic designers, doctors, pilots... ask what work on a laptop means to them and each one will answer differently.


In my case, and reduced to its most pure and poetic essence, my job consists of writing. I observe, I think, I write down those thoughts in words that hopefully others find enjoyable or useful and that’s pretty much it. So when I first tried to use the iPad Pro as a replacement for my laptop for a whole week my initial intention was just that: Writing.

I was wrong.

Turns out, again, it’s not if you can do it, it’s how. I actually don’t just “write,” I also edit photos using Pixelmator (which has its own great app for the iPad, too), use Slack for communicating with my workmates, Telegram with my friends, Reeder to check my RSS subscriptions, and Wunderlist to track my daily tasks. It’s something you don’t think about when you preform them with such ease on a laptop, but an iPad makes those involuntary functions painfully obvious.


Just Not Enough

All of those services have their own iPad app and most of them are even compatible with iOS 9 and iPad Pro’s bigger resolution, so that was not the problem. The problem was to get all of that beautiful and useful software and make it work together.


A few examples: I do 95% of my job through a browser, I think this applies to many others where the internet is basically your employer. But I quickly realized that I couldn’t have two Safari tabs open at the same time. I had to find a workaround and use Chrome and Safari in split view if I wanted to do so. I couldn’t drag and drop images from my desktop to my browser like I do on my laptop or quickly control my Sonos speaker using the keyboard.


The vast majority of the problems with the iPad Pro as a replacement of a conventional laptop still reside in iOS 9. Apple’s got a lot of work ahead in order to fine tune iOS into real mobile productivity software.

Also, the official keyboard which I used during my tests costs $170. Not my definition of cheap. You can use third-part Bluetooth keyboards, though.


With the Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro is probably a very good tool for graphic designers, architects, the kind of jobs where you use a Wacom all day. It’s an interesting mix between a graphic tablet and a laptop if you think of it, but that’s all. For the rest of us, where at least three, four, or more apps are required for work, it’s just not enough. Not yet.


What I Liked

That said, the iPad Pro is the closest I’ve been to working autonomously and productively with a tablet. By far. I started this article stating that I don’t really like laptops and that’s the other part of this particular equation: Laptops aren’t perfect either, they’re pretty far from it, actually.


Trackpads are useful, MacBooks come with 3D Touch now even, but they don’t compare remotely to interacting directly with the screen, both UX and UI wise. Also laptops are not tablets, they’re made to be mobile, sure, but at the same time are much more bulky than an iPad. I could both work with the iPad Pro and use it as a conventional tablet both from my couch or a coffee table with no problem whatsoever.


It’s the same thing, at least in theory, that PC makers have tried to achieve for years with convertibles with only moderate success. I haven’t been fond of any of those convertible experiences, not even with the Surface Pro. But with the iPad, probably due to iOS and its apps, it just felt right.

I really want to work with the iPad Pro...

...but for now, it’s just a tool for doing some light work. Writing, sketching, studying. Students will find it useful to take notes during class for example (or even sketch with the Apple Pencil) and the rest of the time they can use it just as an iPad. Writers like me can use it to just write, but when real work needs to be done—those days that you’re behind schedule and you need to almost alter space and time to meet deadlines—those days you’ll miss your laptop.


iPad Pro Specs:

  • OS: iOS 9
  • Dimensions: 12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches
  • Weight: 713 grams
  • Display: 12.9-inch LCD Retina Display (2732x2048)
  • Resolution: 2732 x 2048 (264 PPI)
  • Processor: A9x w/ M9 motion coprocessor
  • Camera: 8MP back and 1.2MP front
  • Battery: 10,307mAh Li-Po
  • RAM: 4GB of RAM
  • Storage: 32GB or 128GB (for $950)
  • Cellular: Available
  • NFC: Yes
  • Fingerprint Sensor: Yes
  • Price: $800-$1080
  • Note: Apple Pencil and Keyboard sold separately

Originally published on Gizmodo Español