Why I ditched the iPad Pro 12.9 for the iPad Pro 9.7

The iPad Pro 12,9 vs. the iPad Pro 9.7, a look at each and why I chose the 9.7.

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Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Flashback.

I grabbed an iPad Pro 12.9 the day it hit stores. I was super excited about the device because I am a heavy tablet user; I have been using a tablet since the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 days. As a Linux user, I resisted iOS and Mac OS till 2013. I gave in because none of the other tablets were good enough for me. In 2014, I bought my first iOS device. I started off with the iPad Mini 3, and moved to the iPad AIR and then graduated to the iPad Pro.

Why I didn’t like the 12.9 iPad Pro

As much as I wanted to like the iPad Pro 12.9, I couldn’t. The screen was amazing for watching videos. But that was it. I don’t use iOS, I use apps and a majority of apps were not optimized for that screen size. So you get this abysmal experience on a $1,100 device.

ipad pro comp Swapnil Bhartiya

iPad Pro 12.9 was way too big and heavy to be held in your hands for an extended period of time for things like reading ebooks or watching movies. Actually, it’s not at all portable. I had  to shove it in the same compartment where I keep my laptop when travelling. Literally I was carrying ‘two’ laptops.

That was not the end, there was no decent keyboard for the iPad Pro 12.9 that would let me at least write my stories. Logi Create was a good keyboard but it was way too clumsy and heavy and it made my iPad as bulky and heavy as my MacBook. I looked at alternatives and bought the super expensive Apple Smart Keyboard. But it was not at all that smart. It’s actually a dumb keyboard, compared to what Google offers with Pixel C. Apple’s Smart Keyboard needs physical ports for connectivity and charging. And then you have to put it on the slit for it to work otherwise even if it is physically connected to the iPad Pro, you can’t type. Then you can’t change the angle and it’s flimsy so you can’t use it on your lap.

That’s not smart.

I tried to use the $1,400 device as a laptop. But despite Tim Cook’s claims, iPad Pro was not a laptop replacement. It seems to me that the only people who would find the iPad Pro 12.9 useful are graphic artists. With Pencil it’s a great tool for an artist, but there are limitations. Unlike Microsoft Surface Pro, iPad Pro doesn’t have access to full-fledged apps like Photoshop or Lightroom. As a result iPad Pro 12.9, despite great hardware, turned out to be a mediocre device due to software.

When I looked the 12.9 iPad Pro, I failed to see the target audience. As a writer, who needs a good keyboard and true multitasking for research, it failed me. At a $1,100 price point it’s a much too expensive ebook reader and movie player.

Bottom line it can’t offer a desktop grade experience so it’s not suitable for the average PC user. This iPad is simply a very good secondary, media consumption device with portability and price as its strengths. However, for the iPad Pro 12.9 those were weaknesses.

I believe iPad Pro 12.9 would have been a game changer if it ran Mac OS X. It would have destroyed the Surface Pro market.

The best things come in small packages

The day Apple announced the 9.7 iPad Pro, I knew that was the one I wanted. From the beginning I was not confident about such a huge device, I had purchased the iPad under T-Mobile’s Jump on Demand program so that I could upgrade to the next version. I called them up and after some trouble I was able to pre-order the iPad Pro 9.7.

I initially felt disappointment at first sight. My heart sank to see how small it was compared to the 12.9 version. I almost regretted my decision, the iPad Pro 12.9 offered an immersive movie experience, but everything was smaller on the iPad Pro 9.7.

Portability

After using it for a week though I realized the benefits of the 9.7. Finally, I was able to carry my tablet with me. Due to its size and lack of good keyboard, the 12.9 never left my desk. Never. I never brought it to meetings due to lack of true multitasking and good keyboard. I would rather bring the MacBook that’s as big and heavy as the iPad Pro 12.9.

However, you will find the iPad Pro 9.7 with me all the time. I carry it everywhere. Despite my disliking the smart keyboard, I bought one for the 9.7.

I love the iPad Pro 9.7 even more because it has even better hardware than the 12.9.

More for less

iPad Pro 9.7 has everything that the 12.9 has. It’s powered by the 64-bit A9X processor with M9 co-processor. It’s not as overclocked at the bigger iPad, but since it has to drive a smaller screen that doesn’t affect performance.

The 9.7 has less resolution at 2048x1536 compared to 2732x2048 of the 12.9. Don’t worry, it’s apt resolution given the smaller screen size. What matters is that both displays have the same ppi.

The iPad Pro 9.7 comes with some newer technologies such as True Tone that’s not found on the original iPad Pro. The 9.7 has a better main camera and it can record 4k video.

I get the same battery life on the 9.7 as I got on the 12.9. Yes, the 9.7 has a smaller battery, but it has a smaller screen to power so you get the same battery life from smaller battery.

The four speaker setup on the iPad Pro has changed everything. Whether you are playing music or watching movies, the speakers are super impressive and they have incredible base. I have even used it for small home parties.

And the icing on the cake is support for Pencil so I am able to use pencil with iPad Pro 9.7 for casual drawing!

Soft corner for 9.7 screen

One of the biggest gripes I had with the iPad Pro 12.9 was unoptimized apps. But since 9.7 is a popular size, a majority of apps are optimized for it. I get the same experience that I got on the iPad AIR before upgrading to the iPad Pro.

I loved it.

The split screen is great for working between two files. However, you can’t have split screens of the same app. So I can’t read a press release on MS Word, in one screen and compose a news item on the second screen. But now I can use Siri on the iPad Pro without having to plug it to the power source.

Is the iPad Pro 9.7 right for you?

It depends on what are you going to use it for. And don’t listen to Tim Cook; iPad is not a laptop replacement, thanks to numerous limitations of iOS. I can’t connect a mouse for better navigation. I can’t get full access to the file system as I do on a Mac so that I can save files wherever I want. I can’t plug in USB devices for data transfer. I don’t get the same level of multitasking that I get on a MacBook. I don’t get full fledge version of apps like Photoshop.

Why would I accept all these limitations for a 128GB $1,028 iPad Pro with the keyboard. You can get a full fledged MacBook for that money.

If you are not looking to use Pencil. If you want an ultra portable iOS device that you can use to watch movies, read eBooks, do basic work and communicate with friends, then I think iPad AIR with 64GB of storage is a much better deal for $500 than the iPad Pro.

Conclusion

Being a tech enthusiast I love technology, I love new gadgets. I am keeping the iPad Pro 9.7. I know it’s way too much money for what an iPad can do, but I will keep it. This is the best tablet that I have ever used, and that’s coming from someone who also owns the Pixel C and Chromebook Flip.

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