I Wasn’t Going to Buy the iPad Pro, But I Did—First Impressions

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I wasn’t supposed to get an iPad Pro. When it came out I convinced myself that it was going to be too big and too cumbersome to use on a daily basis. I already have a “big Mac”, a Retina MacBook Pro, and an iPad Air 2. How stupid was I?

My iPad Air 2 & MacBook Pro

Many years ago, I used my iPad 2 and iPad 3 for creation—I did a lot of writing on it. I had a few perfected workflows which worked quite well for me, but I had issues when editing images. iOS still doesn’t have anything similar to ImageOptim for Mac, which I use to make my high resolution images usable for my readers on cellular. Anyway, soon after I got my iPad 2, I acquired a spare Apple Wireless Keyboard along with Origami’s Workstation—I had the perfect combo for writing when on the run.

For various reasons, I acquired an 11“ MacBook Air a year or two later, and I basically stopped using my iPad for writing—it was relegated to consumption and editing my work with the on-screen keyboard. This was mainly due to Keyboard Maestro, which totally changed how I worked. I created workflows for many mundane tasks, shaving of seconds every hour, which later turned into minutes. Today, Keyboard Maestro reports that I have saved over 70 days thanks to my macros. Even if that’s not true, even if I halve that number, it’s still extremely impressive. At this time I sold my iPad 3 and switched to an iPad mini, which I upgraded to the mini 2 a year later. My wife got the iPad Air at the same time—I noticed soon thereafter that I was envious of the larger screen. Yet another year later, we both upgraded to the iPad Air 2. Since I started travelling a lot more over the past year, I exchanged my MacBook Air for a 13” MacBook Pro—I needed the extra vertical space, which was available thanks to the screen’s different proportions, and I also wanted to finally go Retina. I also started using a lot more InDesign and various other professional apps, which just didn’t really work well on the Air’s smaller screen.

When I moved from the 11“ Air to the 13” Pro, I never changed my workflow. I stopped writing on the iPad mini because of it’s smaller size. This never changed when I went back to the larger iPad Air 2, simply because I was comfortable with my Keyboard Maestro macros.

Until today—I am typing this on an Apple Wireless Keyboard fitted into my Origami Workstation, with my new iPad Pro in landscape mode1.

iPad Pro

No iPad Pro For Me!

When Apple presented the iPad Pro a few months ago, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to buy it. I was doing fine with my Mac for writing and my iPad Air 2 was perfect for everything else. I was also aware that I could go back to writing on it at any time—I just didn’t want to, or felt like setting everything up from scratch. This changed yesterday, when I finally got my hands on the 12.9″ iPad at London Heathrow’s Apple Store.

Many years have passed since I was last at Heathrow—all my flights going through England usually ended me transiting through Luton or Gatwick for some reason—and I wasn’t aware Apple had a small store on the second floor of Terminal 2. I saw the iPad Pro from afar, and a guy was already playing with it. I walked up to him, my wife following me slowly, curious what had transfixed me so. And I just stared over his shoulder, in shock how large the screen was. He politely asked me if I wanted to play around with it. I nodded, still staring at the screen. An Apple employee was standing at the end of the table, waiting for the correct moment to ask if he can help. The other customer left, I took his place and firmly gripped the iPad Pro in both hands. I must have subconsciously expected it to weigh close to what a laptop of that size should weigh, so I put my back into it. The result was that I almost threw it over my head.

I’m exaggerating. But not by much.

The Apple employee chuckled out loud when he saw my face painted with shock and surprise at how light it was. It wasn’t iPad-Air–2-light naturally, but it’s a 12.9″ device for heaven’s sake! I put it down and picked it up with one hand. It felt like the first generation iPad. Heavy, but not too heavy. And for its size, it really is damned light!

I spent the next few minutes playing around with Safari and the few other apps that were preinstalled. After loading up a few webpages I was completely smitten—the screen was simply gorgeous! I asked if they had the 128 GB LTE model in stock. ‘Sorry, just the 32’, said the Apple employee.

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.

I woke up this morning and came to the conclusion that waiting 4 to 8 days is totally unacceptable. I cancelled my order, called a few resellers in town, and sourced a 128 GB iPad Pro in white, with the cellular option of course. I picked it up two hours later. Unfortunately, the Apple Pencil will take 4–5 weeks to arrive from Apple. The Smart Keyboard is not available at all, which is strange to say the least.

Restore Process

I used my Mac to backup and restore my iPad Air 2 to the iPad Pro. While iCloud is generally fine, I find iTunes to be faster to use, and more stable too. It helps that I use Apple Music and iCloud Photo Library, since I don’t have to wait for those two things to sync over. The whole thing, from start to finish, took about 15 minutes. Tops. A pleasantly surprising experience to tell the truth—not what I was expecting.

First Impressions

I’ve been using the iPad Pro for less than 8 hours—hardly long enough to form any strong opinions, but I do have a few thoughts that I would like to share. If you have any questions, feel free to use the comments below.

On-screen Keyboard

I’m 36 years old, which means I grew up playing Doom with just the keyboard. I then switched to a mouse & keyboard combo when Quake came out a few years later—this was not an easy process. I have since then given up on trying to master first-person shooters with a gamepad on consoles such as the Playstation. Likewise, I have never fully adopted typing on a touchscreen. I’m fine in portrait on an iPhone, but I don’t fancy it on an iPad in landscape mode. If I do do any typing, I prefer to thumb-type in portrait, which is much harder on the iPad Pro for three reasons. First of all, it’s heavier and tricker to hold. Secondly, they keyboard layout is different, and I have yet to get used to it. Thirdly, the Pro is wider, hence hitting the keys nearer to the middle of the screen is harder. This would obviously be easier if I had larger hands.

There are two more issues with it however, which are particularly irritating. The top row of the keyboard, with the numbers, backspace key and whatnot, is half-height. This makes hitting the backspace key incredibly hard for me. I would gladly sacrifice some more vertical space for a full-sized backspace key. The second issue is with the layout itself. I live in Poland—we use the UK International layout over here, which is different from the US layout. We have a vertical Return key and backspace is just above it, with nothing in between. Despite having set the keyboard up to be UK English in iOS, I still get the US layout. I wish Apple would address this issue—I want to be able to select the layout independently of the keyboard’s language.

Weight & Size

While the iPad Pro is suspiciously light for a device of this size, it is also much heavier than the iPad Air 2. I can use it with one hand, especially when walking around the house (from the couch to my chair for example, with a pit stop in the kitchen for an espresso), but I naturally rest it on my leg when reading after a minute or so. It weighs in at 723 grams, according to Apple. That’s less than half the weight of my MacBook Pro, but close to double that of the iPad Air 2.

iOS 9 & External Keyboard

While iOS 9 and its new multitasking features are wonderful, Apple still needs to add many features to make it much more friendly for people using an external keyboard. I can press Command+Space to open Spotlight, but I can’t use the keys to scroll down the list, nor can I press Return to launch an app. This is but one example of many—I’ll try to get to them in my full review.

Animation Stutter

If you used an iPhone 6 Plus or 6S Plus, you most probably noticed the animation stutter when launching the multitasking card menu by double clicking on the Home button. The iPad Pro, despite its A9X, also exhibits this issue, although to a much lesser extent. It’s barely visible, but I notice it every single time—not the full 60 fps I expected. Since this is a fresh install of iOS and my data has been on it for just a few hours, it could potentially be caused by the operating system indexing everything, making everything a fraction slower. I’ll make sure to see how it fares in a few days time.

To Summarise

I completely fell in love with the huge 12.9“ canvas when I saw it at the airport, and while it’s heavier than I expected after getting over my first shock, I just decided to travel with it instead of my MacBook Pro tomorrow. At this point in time, I don’t see it completely replacing my laptop, despite it being more expensive than my 2014 13” MacBook Pro, but I can see the latter getting less use because of it.

Feel free to ask me questions, should you have any. I’ll try to get back to all of them in the full review in a few weeks time.

  1. It also works in portrait, but I’m afraid I’ll tip it over—it’s not as stable due to its substantial height.

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16 Comments

  1. It always amazes me how quickly you change your mind when it comes to buying Apple products ;) but hey, that is what makes you happy and more productive (hopefully) so enjoy :)

  2. True, he amazes me too, but I love to read about his first and last impressions about the product, so I hope he won’t stop buying these :) I am also techno-geek, but I barely could find a use case scenario for just an enlarged iPad.

  3. For me is perfect… I don’t care about size. What about you ? Too big ? ;D

  4. It is a bit too big at times, but the screen is amazing.

  5. For me it’s nothing than bigger Air 2, but screen is biggest advantage. I’m wonderig about Apple Pencil. I was in Berlin’s Apple Store today and they said to come on Monday

  6. Are you going to sell your Air 2 or will you use two devices? I wonder because I am reading a lot on my Air 2. I think that having two devices is too much ;) What are your plans?

  7. It must be truly Apple product. Even you don’t plan to buy it, once you get it in your hands you could even live with one kidney:) I am already scared before putting my hands on it…

  8. I’ll sell it next week I think.

  9. That’s what got me hooked – picking it up.

  10. I had the same… But now I see benefits of “bigger”

  11. May I ask what price you are going to put on it?

  12. Seems as it lacks at multitasking and keyboard navigation to truly call it “Pro”. Has it been frustrating so far? Do you sometimes want to throw it and just pick up the MacBook again?

  13. Not yet. Everything is more than enough for my needs.

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