11/19/2015

IPAD PRO REVIEW


A lot of people didn’t understand the first iPad way back when. You’d hear things like “what a dumb idea — It’s too big!” or jokes about it just being a big iPhone. Then the iPad went on to kick off an entirely new era in tablets, phones, laptops, and other gadgets. It’s gotten thinner, sexier, and smarter each year, but not even Apple’s magic has managed to save the iPad from slumping sales.
As our phones have gotten bigger, our need for smaller tablets has all but disappeared. Our real computer is in our pockets, and we don’t need to carry around a slightly bigger version of the iPhone any more. We need something different that changes the game again.

It’s big, but you’ll love every inch of it

There’s nothing mysterious about the iPad Pro. It looks exactly like the iPad Air and iPad Mini have for a couple of years now. The only difference is that it’s ginormous. With a 12.9-inch screen, the first time you hold it, you’re in awe. It’s almost like you angrily ripped off the screen of a laptop and decided to pretend it’s totally normal to carry it around. That feeling of absurdity fades away as soon as you start to use it.

Here’s a good way to visualize its size: If you have a regular 9.7-inch iPad Air, set it down and picture another iPad Air sitting next to it. Combine them and you have an iPad Pro. It’s about as thin as other iPads, and for its size, is downright lean at 1.6 pounds. Just a few years ago, nearly every small tablet weighed that much, and spread across this size, it doesn’t feel heavier than it should. With two hands, it’s comfortable to hold, even while reading for a few hours.
Naturally, it’s impossible to hold one-handed, so you’re not going to be able to hold the subway pole in one hand and the iPad Pro in the other during your commute. It’s not ideal to carry around with you if you’re used to a 7- or 8-inch tablet, but it’s a fair sight lighter than a laptop, and I’d argue that most people don’t actually bring their iPad Air around with them everyday either. The iPad usually lives at home — so why not make it larger?
It could be a laptop replacement for millennials who really don’t need or want a PC.
Many people will argue that 13 inches is insane, simply too big for a tablet. We cannot disagree. For a lot of people, this iPad would be a preposterous purchase. With the accessories and a decent amount of memory, it’s going to cost you $1,000 or more. It’s more of a Surface Pro or laptop alternative than a tablet as we know them today.
There have been a bunch of large, 13-inch tablets, and most have failed. The difference here is that Apple does have some unique ideas that are more useful with the larger screen. And if you like eye candy, the screen really pops with 2,732 × 2,048 pixels — that’s more than any other iOS device to date. And, because of its loyal fanbase, Apple seems to regularly succeed at making successful products that other companies couldn’t seem to sell.

Why you’ll want the bigger screen

It’s a joy to read on the iPad Pro’s larger screen, whether you’re consuming comic books on Scribd, articles in the News app, or content on Safari. It’s more or less the size of a glossy magazine, and I felt like I’d picked up the latest issue of Vogue or The New Yorker when I grabbed the iPad Pro. I’ve always liked the iPad Mini for reading because of its compact size and light weight, but there are advantages to the big screen when it comes to consuming certain kinds of content.
Reading magazines, comics, or visual news stories on the big screen is preferable, because you can really enjoy the graphics. Comics show a two-page view when you turn the Pro to landscape mode, which makes it feel even more natural. However, ebooks or text-heavy articles are still best on smaller devices.

When it comes to watching movies and TV shows, the iPad Pro really shines. The pixel-dense screen is large enough to satisfy your craving for Netflix in bed, but not so big as to crush your chest halfway through a Game of Thrones marathon. Samsung’s Galaxy View tablet — although intriguing in its own way — is far too massive and heavy to bring into bed with you; it has to live on your bedside table. The iPad Pro is more comfortable, and compared to the View it’s downright tiny!
We found it the ideal size to bring on a road trip or plane ride. This one will fit in your carry-on and rest on your tray table without attracting too much attention.

The larger screen is also a boon to artists who have long loved the iPad for its excellent drawing apps and crisp screen. While a 9.7-inch screen may be big enough for most people, it’s not enough room for artists. The bigger the canvas, the happier the painter. The iPad Pro is a real game changer for digital artists. Even though I’m still waiting for the Apple Pencil to arrive in the mail, I’ve done some early testing with my favorite Bluetooth styli from Adonit and FiftyThree. Procreate, Adobe’s app suite, and FiftyThree’s Paper look splendid on the big screen.

On the iPad Mini and even on the Air, space feels tight when you’re drawing — not so with the Pro. Since the screen area is larger than your standard sketchbook, you have room to let your ideas flow. Also, the toolbars, which often get in your way while you’re drawing on smaller screens, don’t seem as pesky on the 12.9-inch screen. I can’t wait to try out Apple’s Pencil on the Pro.

Is it a laptop replacement? The jury’s still out

Finally, there’s the question of whether the iPad Pro can be a laptop replacement. Tim Cook says he only takes the Pro and his iPhone with him to work, but others are more skeptical. We’ve yet to try it out with the Smart Keyboard, so we’re reserving judgment on that front. Regardless, iOS is much more productive than it was a few years ago.

Tim Cook may have criticized Windows 8 when it debuted, but iOS 9 on an iPad Pro does borrow some of Microsoft’s better ideas. The best of them is split-screen multitasking. This works on the iPad Air 2 too, but it’s best on the Pro. Simply start an app and swipe in from the right side of the screen to bring in a list of other apps you can open. The OS very naturally lets you choose an even split screen between two apps, or a compact side screen, such as a list of tweets.
A swipe down from the upper-right lets you replace apps on the right side, and a handy keyboard shortcut that all PC users should know — Command + Tab — lets you speedily switch between open apps. A few other small features, like the ability to have a video hover around the screen are nice as well, even if Samsung may have gotten here first.
The iPad Pro is doing a pretty bang up job of imitating laptop-level performance.
The multitasking menu is quick to pop up — it’s very natural to multitask on the Pro — and the big screen does wonders in this regard. Essentially, it lets you have two full iPad apps running side-by-side. Now that Microsoft’s Office app suite is optimized for iOS, you can really get things done with the iPad.
The Pro felt a lot like a full PC when we used it, thanks in large part to a very Surface-like keyboard cover. In fact, we suspect that unless you’re a power user or need a ton of ports, the iPad Pro might just fit all your needs once you hook it up with a keyboard.
Does this mean journalists, videographers, and PC lovers have to chuck their expensive, high-powered systems? No, you’ll still need those. Apple’s iOS is great for mobile applications, but it’s still not quite strong enough or productive enough to take on OS X or Windows 10. That’s the benefit of the Surface Pro 4 over the iPad Pro – Windows 10 is a fully-fledged computing operating system. iOS is not.
One could argue that most people really don’t need all the power of a desktop these days. Your average college student writing term papers, browsing the Web, and checking Facebook will be just fine with the iPad Pro. Add to that the lightweight portability of the Pro and it seems entirely possible that it could be a laptop replacement for millennials and post-millennials who really don’t want a PC.

We’ll test it out as a laptop and compare it fully to the Surface Pro 4 in due course, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are some preliminary benchmark results to sate your curiosity. On Geekbench 3, the iPad Pro racked up 3,243 for its single-core score and 5,500 for its multi-core score. The Surface Pro 4 performed slightly worse than the Pro with a single-core score of 3,023, but slightly better with a multi-core score of 6,304. To put both in perspective, the very powerful MacBook Pro 13 with Retina got 3,007 on the single-core score and 6,596 on the multi-core score.

In other words, the iPad Pro’s A9X processor and 4GB of RAM are doing a bang-up job imitating laptop-level performance. The tablet also pulled off an impressive 63,542 on AnTuTu’s benchmark and 33,122 on 3D Mark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test, which puts it in laptop territory for both. Benchmarks aren’t everything, but they are a strong indication of just how much power themail iPad Pro is packing.

Long battery life

Apple promises 10 hours of battery life from the iPad Pro, and based on what we’ve seen so far, that seems like a very reasonable estimate. After reading news, drawing, running benchmarks, watching a handful of TV shows, and watching a Disney movie, the Pro still had juice to spare. Of course, given how large it is, it should pack a honking-big battery. We’ll let you know how it fares during a full workday when we use it as our main device in the coming weeks.

Warranty

Every iPad comes with a limited warranty that covers one year of hardware repair and up to 90 days of support. You can also always bring your iPad Pro into the Apple Store Genius Bar if you run into problems, AppleCare+ ($100) for iPad extends your coverage to two years after you buy it and adds coverage for two incidents of accidental damage.

Conclusion

Apple now has an iPad for everyone: The iPad Air 2 is the one for most people; the iPad Mini 4 is for the readers out there who don’t want a Kindle; and the Pro is for anyone who likes the Air but just needs more space to roam. It’s for the person who wants to sketch and manipulate images on a touchscreen, the person who loves watching Netflix in bed, or the person who wants to take work with them on the go without carting around a heavy laptop.
The tablet is still in trouble, but the iPad Pro offer some hope. Our phones are already the size of small tablets, so it’s time for the tablet to grow and change. The Pro is closer to a laptop in terms of power, size, and its potential for productivity, but there are still two degrees of separation between the two: iOS and the lack of a keyboard in the box.
The DT Accessory Pack
Up your game and the get the most out of your gear with the following extras, hand-picked by our editors:
Apple Pencil ($99)
Smart Keyboard ($169)
Logitech Create Backlit Keyboard with Smart Connector ($150)
Verus Layered Dandy Leather iPad Pro case ($55)
With multitasking in iOS 9, the iPad moves closer to being truly productive, but it’s not there yet. The fact that you’ll have to shell out $170 for the keyboard cover to make it more like a laptop also stops it from being a true computing device. Of course, there will be third-party keyboards, so don’t fret – that price tag will get lower. For now, though, it’s high.
If you’re going to buy an iPad Pro, you’re willing to shell out a lot of money. With that in mind, we recommend shelling out a bit more. Choose the $950 128GB version if you download a lot of apps, movies, and games. It’s only $150 more than the base 32GB model, which costs $800, and you’ll run out of that little storage in no time at all.
The Pencil will appeal to artists and designers the most, and it’s $100, so it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum for a stylus. But from our short time trying it at Apple’s launch event, it might be the most accurate, best stylus on the market.
Since we’ve only used it for a few days, and we’ve yet to get our hands on the keyboard or Pencil for testing outside of our initial hands-on time in September, we’ll reserve judgment on the performance of the accessories and the determination of whether the iPad Pro can take on the Surface Pro 4 or your laptop.

As a tablet, we can confidently recommend the iPad Pro as the best big slate on the market. It blows away Samsung’s aging Galaxy Note 12.2 tablet and any of the larger devices in Lenovo’s Yoga tablet line. In comparison with the iPad Air 2, it may be bigger, but unless you actually take your iPad Air with you everywhere, the Pro is the better choice. You’ll want the extra screen real estate. When it comes to the iPad Pro, bigger really is better.

Highs


  • Videos and games look gorgeous on the big screen
  • Excellent canvas for drawing
  • Magazine size screen is a joy for reading
  • It weighs just 1.6lbs
  • Great splitscreen multitasking in iOS 9
  • Solid 10-hour battery life

Lows


  • As expensive as a pricey laptop
  • Too heavy and large to hold one-handed