by Jim Lynch

iPad Pro reviews: Is it worth buying?

Nov 11, 2015

Is the iPad Pro worth buying? Find out by reading reviews from MacStories, Daring Fireball, Recode, The Verge, Ars Technica, Wired, TechCrunch, Fast Company and Forbes.

Apple’s new iPad Pro tablet is finally on sale, and a ton of reviews have just hit the web. Is the iPad Pro worth buying? Find out what the critics think of Apple’s big tablet in the reviews I’ve included below from top sites.

The MacStories review of the iPad Pro

Federico Viticci at MacStories has an extremely long and detailed review of the iPad Pro, with many screenshots. Federico liked the iPad Pro so much he’s decided to switch to it.

If you don’t read any other review of the iPad Pro, be sure to read Federico’s:

I’m going to switch to the iPad Pro.

The week I’ve spent using the iPad Pro more than 15 hours a day has been enough to show me how I can work better on this device than any other iPad model. Those who have been reading MacStories for the past few years know that I take my iPads very seriously, and that I’ve gone through an interesting evolution in terms of preferences, projects, and responsibilities. The iPad Pro sacrifices some of the portability of the Air 2 without being a deal-breaker for me, and in return it offers a canvas of opportunities for my favorite apps.

If you use your iPad primarily for watching movies, playing games, and casual web browsing, then size, better speakers, and price – not efficiency and speed – become the key differentiators between the Air 2 and the iPad Pro. Consider the trade-offs you’re willing to accept in this case; all I can say is that watching videos feels great on a 12.9-inch tablet on your lap, and that games look and sound amazing on the bigger display.

The iPad Pro is positioned as a more productive take on the iPad for those who need to get work done on it. My recommendation couldn’t be more straightforward: if iOS is your main computing platform, or if you plan to turn an iPad into your primary computer, you’ll want an iPad Pro. Its powerful hardware, multitasking interface, and extensible nature are superior to every other iPad. I don’t see myself using a Mac as my primary computer ever again.

By letting me see more and do more while still being portable, the iPad Pro offers a new way to work from iOS. With the heart of a computer, and the body of a tablet. More powerful, and still liberating. And obviously, this review has been entirely produced on it.

The iPad Pro is the iPad I didn’t know I was waiting for.

More at MacStories

The Daring Fireball review of the iPad Pro

John Gruber at Daring Fireball notes that the future of portable computing might not involve x86 processors after using the iPad Pro:

From a hardware perspective, the iPad Pro strikes me as a seminal device. It runs faster than the Intel x86-based MacBooks, gets better battery life, and costs significantly less. And it has a better display with significantly more pixels than even a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Software-wise, support for the Smart Keyboard needs to get even smarter — but I’d be shocked if it doesn’t. For me, the iPad Pro marks the turning point where iPads are no longer merely lightweight (both physically and conceptually) alternatives to MacBooks for use in simple scenarios, to where MacBooks will now start being seen as heavyweight alternatives to iPads for complex scenarios.

Is it a MacBook replacement for me, personally? No. For you? Maybe. For many people? Yes.

It brings me no joy to observe this, but the future of mass market portable computing involves neither a mouse pointer nor an x86 processor.

More at Daring Fireball

Recode’s review of the iPad Pro

Walt Mossberg at Recode doesn’t think that the iPad Pro can replace his laptop:

Apple CEO Tim Cook suggests that this is the iPad that can finally replace the laptop in your life. Another very senior Apple exec I spoke with last week said that he, personally, has stopped using his MacBook in favor of the iPad Pro, though for the occasional heavy task, he still turns to his desktop iMac.

But, for me — a person already using his laptop a lot less in favor of the iPad — the Pro is just not likely to eliminate my laptop use entirely. And I say that knowing that, for instance, there will be better keyboard covers and cases. There already is one: I prefer the the Logitech Create I used to write part of this column. But it still doesn’t work nearly as well in my lap as a MacBook Air, partly because, like Apple’s keyboard, it only has one angle.

…because Apple hasn’t made a great keyboard, the iPad Pro isn’t a complete replacement for a great laptop like the MacBook Air — even for a tablet guy like me.

The iPad Pro will no doubt make a lot of Apple users happy, especially if they use it for graphics. But I won’t be buying one, and I don’t recommend that average users do so either.

More at Recode

The Verge review of the iPad Pro

Lauren Googe at The Verge wondered if the iPad Pro could replace her MacBook:

…after a few days of using the iPad Pro, I started to look at iPad differently. The large tablet pretty much demanded it. I’ve always been a bit of an iPad skeptic, never understanding how people can use them all the time for productivity, even with a Bluetooth accessory keyboard attached. By day three with the iPad Pro, I had started to wonder, Could this replace my MacBook?

The display on the iPad Pro is stunning. With a resolution of 2732 x 2048 at 264 pixels per inch, it’s actually the highest-resolution display on any iOS device, but all that means nothing until you see it. Photos, videos, even text look big and crisp and real.

The tablet’s processing power is even more notable than the display. Apple has rigged the iPad Pro with its latest chip, the A9X, which it claims has twice the CPU and twice the graphics performance of the previous processor. (Apple points out it also “rivals most portable PCs” in terms of power.)

But I would still consider this a worthy runner-up to a laptop, or the one (non-smartphone) device I would take with me next time I travel — something I’ve never felt confident about before when it came to the iPad. This new iPad is powerful, it’s fast, it has a large display, and it never lagged when I was multitasking or switching between apps. It’s not better than my laptop, but makes far fewer sacrifices than I expected.

More at The Verge

Wired’s review of the iPad Pro

David Pierce at Wired didn’t find the iPad Pro to be a serious machine for serious work:

…Apple is betting you don’t need all the things your laptop does, that you’re only holding onto them because they somehow feel comfortable. You don’t need hard drives when you have iCloud (or something better than iCloud), you don’t need crazy trackpad gestures and complicated keyboard macros when you have a touchscreen. You don’t need to have seven apps open at once, when you can only pay attention to one or two anyway.

Apple’s hoping that people who have never bought a laptop never will. It’ll just be the iPad. For the billions of people around the world for whom A Computer looks more like a smartphone than a laptop, who don’t have the muscle memory and anachronistic love of hardware keyboards, that’s not such a crazy idea.

For those of us who still cling to laptops and desktops, the iPad Pro just doesn’t feel like a serious machine for serious work. We need our keyboard shortcuts and our mice, our apps that work just how we like them. We need our accessories. A touch-first interface just doesn’t feel right, and the iPad Pro can’t overthrow our existing workflows and tools. Maybe we’ll catch up to Tim Cook’s vision of work someday. Maybe. But for right now, we have work to do, and no time to reinvent how we do it.

Nobody’s going to toss their iMacs and ThinkPads into the garbage tomorrow and instead lay a 12.9-inch tablet on everyone’s desk. If there’s a touchscreen revolution underway, it’s going to happen slowly, an app and an accessory at a time. That’s OK. The iPad Pro is a fantastic tablet, not to mention the first iPad in ages that has an obvious value next to our giant smartphones. It starts as a big, powerful, beautiful screen, and with the right accessories and apps can be almost any kind of device you want. So, yeah: size matters.

More at Wired

TechCrunch’s review of the iPad Pro

Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch wondered if the iPad Pro’s powerful A9X chip was a dry run for Macs powered by A-series processors:

…the A9X chip provides a performance curve that is so brutally efficient that if this isn’t an audition for a fully A-series-powered lineup of Macs I will eat my hat.

As far as it being a replacement for a desktop or laptop — the technorati may hitch their pants and stomp around in a haze of jargon arguing that Microsoft couldn’t figure it out so how will Apple. But out there in the real world people are using tablets and phones exclusively. My wife hasn’t had a ‘home personal computer’ outside of a phone and tablet in years. She’s used my desktop and/or laptop perhaps once or twice a month, at most, and usually only because they’re handy. Since the iPad Pro has been around the house, that’s gone down even further. The screen real-estate, along with the precision of the Pencil, has made the Pro more than enough computer for her needs, especially with the handy keyboard.

I am absolutely fed up with tech bloggers and technical writers assuming that all people use computers the way they do. There is no longer just the ‘truck’ of the desktop and laptop and the ‘car’ of the phone. There are gradations of tone in between, and the iPad Pro absolutely, 100% could be the central computing device for a home. Many days, I run TechCrunch from my phone. On those days, the ‘traditional’ computers in my household lie dormant, completely. If you think this is an edge case, you are blinding yourself to the way the world has changed.

It’s going to take some time and experimentation to figure this out. Despite my irritation at the way that the tablet space is analyzed, I am not willing to declare the personal computer (non-Cupertino definition) ‘dead’. I’ll leave that to the bombasts. But there is a certain (sorry) norm-core computing demographic that could very well end up with an iPad Pro as the ’enhanced’ component to their smartphone, which is their real computer. Somewhere on the same level as other use-case-based devices like wearables and an interconnected home.

More at TechCrunch

Ars Technica’s review of the iPad Pro

Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica notes that the iPad Pro provides Mac-like speed but with the restrictions of iOS:

Even with a bigger screen and new accessories, the iPad still feels like a “sometimes computer.” I can take it with me on vacation instead of a MacBook and do pretty much everything I want, and I can even get quite a bit of work done on one (the majority of this review was written on an iPad Pro, usually while also chatting in Slack or Messages or firing off e-mails). But what really does it in for me are the many small ways in which the iPad Pro is not quite a traditional computer and iOS is not quite OS X.

It’s best to think of the iPad Pro as a starting point, especially for iOS 9. These multitasking features are still brand-new, and there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit to pick in future iOS 9 revisions and into iOS 10. My biggest gripes with the iPad Pro are with the software rather than the hardware, and that means that most of them can be fixed given enough time and enough feature requests. It took Microsoft three tries to really nail down the Surface Pro concept, and given a couple of iOS updates the iPad Pro has room to grow into a more versatile laptop replacement without necessarily giving up the things that people like about iOS.

The good

Excellent performance—the A9X is Apple’s fastest chip by a big margin and the iPad Pro has double the RAM of any other iDevice.

Hardware is well-built and fairly light for its size.

Smart Keyboard creates a surprisingly flat, stable typing surface for your lap.

Nice speakers, especially in such a small, thin device.

TouchID and in-app Apple Pay support.

Smart Keyboard’s keys provide a decent typing experience and happen to be waterproof.

Smart Keyboard is also surprisingly good to use on your lap.

Apple Pencil feels good to hold and to use, and it’s useful for more than just drawing.

Pricing is mostly competitive with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, though MS will give you higher specs if you’re willing to pay for them.

Third-party accessory makers like Logitech will help close some functionality gaps for things like the Smart Keyboard.

Good showcase for iOS 9’s multitasking features, especially Split View.

The bad

Expensive, especially for a tablet, and especially if you’re adding $250 worth of accessories to it.

iOS 9 has been out for two months, and we’re still waiting for many apps to add support for the multitasking features (and, by extension, the iPad Pro’s bigger screen).

Larger size makes it awkward for some iOS apps, particularly games.

Smart Keyboard can only hold the screen at one angle.

Needs a safe place to put the Apple Pencil and its lid while you’re not using it.

Takes a long time to charge.

Missing a few nice features from the iPhone 6S, most notably 3D Touch and always-on Hey Siri.

The ugly

iOS 9’s multitasking is still limited and occasionally frustrating.

More at Ars Technica

Forbes’ review of the iPad Pro

Patrick Moorhead at Forbes notes that the iPad Pro’s purpose is to extend the capabilities of the iPad not to replace a PC or Mac:

One thing is for certain… every time I tried to answer the “is it better than a PC or Mac”, I always swung back to “that’s not the point”. If Apple were intending to replace PCs or a Mac, they would have made different decisions, like enabling all of your iCloud storage to be on the iPad…. or to enable every app to multitask regardless of the experience….. or to download all attachments in Mail. But Apple didn’t.

The point of the iPad Pro is to extend the capabilities of the iPad by adding a much larger and higher resolution display surface, multitasking, a much higher performance engine, and two new ways of inputting content with the Smart Keyboard and Pencil. It’s a new and more expanded experience, yet feels familiar. If you feel really comfortable using an iPhone or iPad, odds are you will be able to easily use the iPad Pro.

Given buyers don’t have an unlimited source of income or investments as a business, choices will have to be made. The first users I could see gravitating to the iPad Pro are those creative professionals or prosumers who already operate in the Apple software and hardware ecosystem. I can also see those vertical commercial plays like buildings, restaurants and retail outlets who already successfully use the iPad to gravitate toward the new capabilities the iPad Pro brings with it. Consumers who love their iPads and just want to do more with it will be attracted, too.

The hardest case to think though is the working professional doing general office productivity. I think people comfortable with their current office productivity workflow are less likely to move from a PC or Mac to the iPad Pro in its current state, but I can’t help to think about many of those millennials who grew up with smartphones. But then again, I’m not thinking IT will be too thrilled in supporting a second office productivity platform. I need to do a lot more research on this before I say anything conclusive on this topic.

More at Forbes

Fast Company’s review of the iPad Pro

Harry McCracken at Fast Company notes that developers will have to adjust their apps to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s screen size:

First, a disclaimer. For the past four years, I’ve used an iPad—equipped with a third-party keyboard and stylus—as my primary computer. I’ve written magazine cover stories, blogged, wrangled spreadsheets, edited photos and videos, marked up PDFs, recorded podcasts, drawn and painted, and pretty much done all the other things I was once most likely to do on a conventional computer. I started back when a fair number of people confidently maintained that iPads were useful only for consumption, not creation, and have never stopped.

So this is not going to be one of those dispassionate reviews in which a product tester does nothing but calmly dispense buying advice for various types of consumers. The iPad Pro comes as close to checking off all the items on my personal wish list as any gadget I can remember, and I intuitively get what Apple is trying to do with it.

The iPad Pro won’t live up to its full potential until every major app that would benefit from being customized for it has undergone that process. Some already do: Slack, for instance, uses the additional on-screen elbow room to display more features at all times rather than hiding them behind menus. It’s the best version of the app I’ve used on any platform.

The early signs leave me guardedly optimistic that developers will quickly rise to the challenge presented by the iPad Pro, as they usually have with past iOS sea changes. When I started writing this review last week, for instance, Evernote didn’t work well at all on the iPad Pro. A few days later, it auto-updated itself with a version with Split View and Pencil support.

More at Fast Company

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