120 Days With the iPad Pro — Review

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It’s taken me 120 days to put my iPad Air 2 up for sale, which I used maybe two or three times since I acquired my iPad Pro — the former will find its way to a new family soon, while the latter should remain with me for quite some time.

I was at first skeptical of the iPad Pro. It seemed to big to be useful and one-handed use did not appear to be comfortable at all. But then I saw it in person by complete chance at Heathrow and as you will find below, my experience was rather positive:

I boarded my flight half an hour later, found my seat, put my bag away, took out my iPhone, launched the Apple Store app, and placed my order for an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil before we took off.

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Huge Is the New Normal

The screen is absurdly huge, but it is quite shocking how quickly I adapted to it. My wife’s Air 2 now appears to be iPad-Mini-tiny, while I once mistook my friend’s Mini for an iPhone 6S Plus from afar.

There are two fantastic aspects to having a screen this large in the palm of your hand (supported by your thigh when reading, while holding it in one hand). The ability to view full webpages in Safari is staggeringly good. I missed this on the 9,7” iPad and now cannot image living without it1. The second is the on-screen keyboard — it’s fantastic to type on and having so many more characters at your disposal makes the smaller iOS keyboards look archaic. Thumb-typing however is nowhere near as good.

There is one more bonus to having a 12.9” screen (in landscape) — the ability to run two portrait-sized iPad apps side-by-side is helpful at times, especially when writing. Oh, this works well when procrastinating too — Slack and Tweetbot next to each other function as expected.

Ergonomics

Having said all that, I do find the iPad Pro much more unwieldy to use for reading than the iPad Air 2. The latter was the perfect reading and social media tablet for me to use when not at my Mac (I upgraded from an iPad Mini 2). I did not do much writing on it however, despite having an Origami Workstation and dedicated Apple Wireless Keyboard. I simply preferred to use OS X for most tasks which required image manipulation, text entry, and various other chores. Keyboard Maestro also enabled me to automate many of them2, helping me get my work done more efficiently.

Since I started using the iPad Pro, I’m getting many more tasks done on it however, using both the virtual keyboard, and the Smart Keyboard from Apple. I’m not sure why exactly it’s easier for me to work on the bigger screen, but it just is.

I still use the iPad Pro for Twitter and reading, and while the screen really makes these tasks a pleasure, the added weight does not help, especially when trying to use it with one hand. The large iPad is just harder to use comfortably — I find that I rest it on my thigh, the same way that I used to do with the iPad 3. The iPad Air 2’s weight is perfect and I really hope the Pro will join it in this department some day, though it does seems next to impossible in the near future.

By the way, if you’re into comic books, the iPad Pro us a must have — the large screen is perfect for them.

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Sometimes I Wish…

There are times when I wish I had another iPad — an Air 2 or Mini 4, just for reading my RSS feeds, Apple News, and Twitter. The sole reason for this is the weight of the Pro, but I cannot in good conscience convince myself that I really need two iPads. I guess I could justify this if I went iPad only and sold my MacBook Pro… but I can’t, at least not just yet.

The problem with iOS is that Adobe has not yet released a full version of Lightroom, which would be fully compatible with the one for OS X, allowing me to import my RAW files, process them, and then sync everything back to my iMac. A few weeks ago, I took the MacBook on our vacation for just one reason: to download my photos from my camera every evening and edit them after dinner, before bed. Not only did this allow me to post the nicer ones with a short recap of our activities every day, but it also saved me a boatload of time after getting back — my RAW files were finished up a few days after getting back, instead of the usual few months.

A Compromise

The iPad Pro is still a compromise — it’s large, uncomfortable to hold for longer periods of time, and hard to thumb-type on, but at the same time all it takes is one press of a button and its ready to go, always connected, and very portable with a proper sleeve or case.

But so is a Mac! It requires tethering or Wi-Fi, it’s much heavier, thicker, it doesn’t have a touchscreen, and it’s not nearly as good for reading. But it does have better multitasking, much better utilities for image processing and manipulation, and a much more robust operating system for more advanced tasks.


I don’t think I’ll ever go iPad-only — I’m fine using the better tool for whatever it is that I want to accomplish. And that’s why the iPad Pro is here to stay — I find it to be a better compromise than its smaller kin, and it makes it easier for me to get my job done, despite its drawbacks.

  1. I’m exaggerating — considering how quickly I got used to the iPad Pro, I’m sure it works both ways. I have never gone from larger to smaller yet, apart from switching from a 17” MacBook Pro to an 11” Air many years ago.
  2. Workflow for iOS has recently alleviated most of my issues however.

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