Every time a new iPad Pro is released, reviewers tend to ask the question: can it replace a laptop? That’s a valid question as Apple pitches the iPad Pro as the future of computing, even boldly creating the commercial last year that asks What’s a computer? I’ve spent 48 hours writing with iPad Pro and here’s what I think…
First and foremost, what am I using to replace my 2016 MacBook Pro? The 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil. The last iPad I owned for an extensive period of time was the iPad mini 2. My 15-inch MBP was the top of the line model at the time, with 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, 2.9GHz Core i7 with the dedicated AMD GPU. But, for the most part, none of that matters for me.
See, the thing with the iPad Pro hardware is that it’s gotten so powerful over the years, seeing massive gains in performance every generation. However, the software has unfortunately not caught up yet. Despite this, I believe iPad Pro can be a great contender for replacing a computer for many people.
Within the last 48 hours I’ve been using iPad Pro as my main work machine. So far it’s been a pretty good experience.
The initial 48 hours
On a typical work day, I have our Slack chat running on the left side of my screen, and the 9to5Mac web portal running in Safari, split 50/50 evenly. In addition, I often have Tweetbot as a window over Safari to make sure I’m not missing any breaking news. I also have work email enabled and with notifications on all incoming mail through Edison (current mail client of choice). If I need to, I’ll swipe up a little from the bottom, drag Edison into the Safari slot and read/reply to email there if need be.
If I need to reference an email while typing out a post, I have Edison as a window and Safari on the right of the 50/50 split.
If it’s a news piece, I return back to Safari and start writing there. Over the last few days I’ve noticed some small issues such as the cursor not appearing, but for the most part it works just fine. For longer pieces (like this one) I use Ulysses to write. Other than updating its app to support the new iPad screen sizes, it works as expected with any other iPad.
I think the hardest transition is going from mouse/trackpad and keyboard to touch and keyboard. Most first-party apps and some iPad Pro specific third-party apps support keyboard shortcuts that are similar to what you’d find on a Mac. For example, pressing ⌘ + L on Safari for iPad gets you into the URL/search bar without moving your hand all the way to the top.
Adjusting to iOS
Admittedly, I haven’t spent too much time in Shortcuts or Siri Shortcuts. But from what I’ve seen and heard, this could be a potential game changer for getting work done on iPad.
Oh, and the new iPad Pro has USB-C now, which is great. However, for now it basically has the limitations of what Lightning did.
Sure, if you have a 4K USB-C monitor, you can plug it in and have it mirror the screen and charge your iPad at the same time, as well as use it as a hub for other accessories. But you could do that with Lightning as well, albeit not through a single cable (HDMI adapter with one USB-A and Lightning for charging, anyone?). While I’d love to have my monitor mirror my screen, I’d rather it extend it and maybe have more apps running at any given time. I also have the LG UltraFine 5K, which is Thunderbolt 3. So I can’t test that functionality.
The real benefit of USB-C is having one cable to rule them all. The iPad is now free of just “iOS accessories” and the door is open to other vendors building in support.
Lack of external hard drive support is weird to say the least. Plugging in a camera automatically launches the Photos app, naturally. So, one would assume plugging in an external hard drive or flash drive would automatically open up the Files app. Nope. Hopefully this changes in the future.
Obviously, it’s only been a few days and that isn’t enough time to make a firm decision on whether or not this could fully replace my computer (for work purposes) yet. With that being said, the iPad is starting to grow on me and I’d highly recommend others who primarily write for a living to give it a shot.
I’ll need a bit more time before I can make an informed decision, but the future is looking bright for the new iPad Pro so far!