by Jim Lynch

Can the iPad Pro really replace your laptop?

Aug 10, 2016

Apple has promoted the iPad Pro as a PC replacement, but is it really a viable replacement for a laptop computer?

When Apple released the iPad Pro, it made a point of touting it as “more than the next generation iPad.” The company noted that the iPad Pro puts “incredible power that leaps past most portable PCs at your fingertips.”

Apple has really pulled out all the stops in trying to convince folks that the iPad Pro should be their next computer, and you can see that in the tone of this recent iPad Pro ad:

I love my 12.9-inch iPad Pro but it’s not a laptop replacement

I have a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and it’s a fantastic device. I love mine, but after using it since it’s release, I’ve come to realize that it simply couldn’t replace any of my Macs for work. The iPad Pro works great for consuming content, but try as I might I couldn’t warm up to it for work.

When I’m working, I have multiple application windows and many tabs open in Safari. iOS, for all its virtues, just doesn’t allow me to do what I can do in macOS. Lining up two apps, side by side, simply doesn’t cut it for my work needs. I need the ability to have a slew of application windows open at the same time.

If I had to travel for work I’d take my MacBook Pro with me, not my iPad Pro. The MacBook Pro can do so much more for me than my iPad Pro, and I find myself being so much more productive with the MacBook Pro. I think I’d be very frustrated if all I had available to work on was my iPad Pro.

Believe me, I’ve tried to use the iPad Pro for work. But I cannot seem to adjust to using iOS in a way that matches my productivity in macOS. I know that there are some folks out there who can do it, but iOS feels claustrophobic to me. It takes me forever to get things done on my iPad Pro compared to my Macbook Pro.

Is age a deciding factor in using the iPad Pro instead of a laptop?

My own experience with macOS and iOS makes me wonder if perhaps I’m just part of an older generation that has a harder time adjusting to using iOS for productivity purposes. I suspect that younger people, who didn’t grow up on the desktop/laptop paradigm, might have an easier time of it.

So with the iPad Pro, Apple might be laying the groundwork to attract a younger generation of users while the Mac keeps us older folks happy. This is just speculation on my part mind you, but age does play a role sometimes in how people use devices.

I’m in my 40s now, so of course I have been using desktop and laptop computers for work my whole life. Trying to adjust to iOS clashes with all of that experience from the last 20 years or so. It’s not easy to just cast all that previous experience aside, and start using a mobile OS like iOS that can’t do everything that macOS can do.

The iPad Pro is still a great device

Perhaps it’s just as simple as individual preference. Some folks can hop right into using the iPad Pro instead of a laptop, and can be quite productive with the tablet. These people swear by their iPad Pros and couldn’t imagine going back to a Mac.

Others like me find iOS to be too restrictive and limiting in how it can be used. So we stick with macOS, and it works great for our needs. We like the iPad Pro, but we consider it to be an additional device for content consumption and light computing tasks.

It will be very interesting to see if the iPad Pro consumes more of Apple’s laptop sales in the years ahead. It’s still quite early in the development of iOS itself, and additional features could eventually put it on par with macOS.

But for now, I will stick with my MacBook Pro for work and use my iPad Pro for content consumption. That way I get the best of both worlds from macOS and iOS.

What people are saying about the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement

Many people have expressed their thoughts about the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement in various online discussions. The topic came up recently in a thread on Reddit. I’ll leave you with a sampling of some of the comments in the thread from the Apple subreddit:

Note3tmo: “…what would make you consider an iPad Pro a laptop replacement, if anything at all? Better specs? More powerful apps?”

SoccerChimp: “I don’t think it’ll ever really be for those who consider themselves “pro.” For example people who are developers, make music, edit video etc, will usually need access to things like peripherals, accessories, and and a file system. That’s just not who the iPad is geared towards.

Someone like me however could replace a laptop for it. I’m a student and planning to go into academia or med school. I already see fantastic uses for the iPad Pro when it comes to taking notes for example. Even doing research And writing basic papers is doable.

And this area is where more powerful apps could help the iPad cement its position. For example more powerful versions of ms office so I can write a thesis or a more powerful excel to analyze the data from my labs and research.

When Apple says the iPad Pro can replace a laptop I don’t think they’re targeting the actual “pro” people that I first described. I think ultimately what they want is for it to replace the computers of people who spend most of their time on the web, social media, communication, and using apps like ms office. People like students, professionals, in academia, business people, etc.”

Glacier88: “I’d need unfettered access to the file system, windowed apps, mouse cursor support, and apps like Logic Pro X for it to be a complete desktop replacement. Until then there are things that I can do on a Mac that I simply cannot do on an iPad. It’s not up for debate. ”

Trulsemannen: “I love the iPad as a drawing device. I mainly use Procreate which is a fairly powerful app, but it doesn’t really come close to, say, Photoshop on Windows. When I work on my iPad I almost always have it on my desk, right in front of my two desktop monitors. I would never be able to work properly with just the iPad screen. Sure you can throw two windows up on the screen, but everything just feels so claustrophobic. Not just because the screen is small, but because, compared to Windows 10 (in my case), iOS only works well when you’re using one single app at a time. Anything else is just a hassle.

For a lot of people I’m sure iOS works well enough as a daily driver, but I honestly think the lack of a keyboard that can properly stand up on its own makes it a terrible laptop replacement for most people.”

Rokorre: “Sold my MacBook and live in iOS now.

It’s amazing and I’m never looking back I use both an iPhone and iPad everyday for work and it’s made me more productive and happier to do things.

I would have never even considered it before the pro came out.”

Thumperr: “I’ve been away from my iMac on business with my iPad Pro for the last three months. Only thing I needed from my Mac was iBooks Author.”

Macbookvirgin: “Well my Mac hasn’t been touched in 2 weeks so I guess it does replace a laptop for me.”

Telynor: “For me, it’s a laptop replacement with its current apps. I’m in the process of getting ready to sell my MBP and keep only my iPad Pro 12.9″. ”

Sindiewen: “I would love the iPad Pro as a computer. I love the idea of a tablet/hybrid with a detachable keyboard for more productivity like Microsoft Surface tablets.

But as a CS major, I would need a text editor,a compiler for various languages that run locally like C++, Python, Swift, Java… Easy access to the file system for organization and easily moving documents around. But to be honest I’m not complaining really because my Retina MacBook Pro Is perfect for my needs.”

Themightytiny: “Not unless it runs a desktop OS. I can’t work without a file system. I need desktop apps too. I need Photoshop, I need CMYK support and custom tool presets. I need fonts. I need to save my files to a folder on the desktop, or wherever. I need to access my home network.

So no, it’s not just apps, it’s iOS. It’s too limited/restrictive and it cannot replace a desktop OS.”

More at Reddit

As you can tell from the discussion thread, opinions about the iPad Pro replacing a laptop vary considerably, depending on the user. For some it works great, for others it simply isn’t enough.

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