When I told people that I would be spending the rest of 2015 using only an iPad Pro, ditching my trusty notebook (it’s not THAT long a period, really – just about half a dozen days), their first reaction was “why?”. And with good reason. After all, the iPad Pro is not really positioned as a notebook killer, more as a super iPad – in India, you can get a slightly older (and still super) MacBook Pro for less than the price of the beginning model of the iPad Pro. Also, the iPad Pro is an iOS device while notebooks generally run Windows, Mac OS, Linux or Chrome. Apple’s biggest tablet ever actually runs on an OS built initially for a mobile platform. On paper then, it would seem that the notebook and the iPad Pro are two parts of a spectrum destined never to meet. Why on earth then should one compare them?
Well, the answer is twofold: firstly, we were deluged with queries about whether the iPad Pro could replace a notebook (we suspect the query owes a lot to Apple showing off the Smart Keyboard cover, which adds a keyboard to the device, giving it a notebookish feel); and secondly because a little voice in our head insists that in the long run, the iPad Pro is what notebooks could become, something that Microsoft seems to be agreeing with, given the blend of touch and type that are Windows 8 and 10 (no, we are not getting into the debate of who spotted the touch and type UI opportunity first – suffice to say that both players seem to be betting on it, the Redmond giant a trifle more than the Cupertino one). For, make no mistake about it, the iPad Pro is a very converged device – it has the innards of a powerful notebook (the Apple 9X processor we are told is more powerful than those found on eighty per cent of the notebooks in the world), a brilliant display, and add the keyboard and iOS’ amazing app treasury and you have something that does seem capable of giving a notebook some sleepless nights. We have a few colleagues who carry around iPads with keyboards rather than notebooks – those who scoff at them for the absence of memory card slots and USB ports also envy their ease of use and super portability. And yes, there are a number of people who have told me that taking notes and tasks like editing images and even video is easier on an iPad as compared to a notebook, as one does not have to tangle with a trackpad or a mouse. Round that off with Apple’s constant attempts to move the iPad out of the ‘good for viewing content but not generating it‘ category and you get the reason why I am doing this.
A time for a bit of disclosure, though – I might not be the perfect user for the iPad Pro. Those who draw and illustrate are clearly a vital part of the segment Apple is targeting with this massive iPad, and I do not really do enough of either. What I DO do, however, is write a lot, browse the Web a fair bit, tweak images and edit copy, and oh yes, I do read on my notebook. So by dumping my notebook (temporarily, it will be back), what I wanted to see was if the biggest and most powerful iPad of them all could step into the breach.
I would be using the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, and for those moments when I needed a dab of external memory not manageable over the cloud, well, there was SanDisk’s very good Connect Wireless Stick, which transfers content over Wi-Fi (using SanDisk’s Connect Drive app), and Lenovo’s rather handy SHAREit app. On the software front, I would be using Google Drive and Google Docs for most of the work I needed to edit and share, Photoshop Express for my image edits, Pages and the excellent iA Writer app for most of my writing, Kindle and Comixology for reading, News Republic and Flipboard for the news, and the social networking trio of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Just for the record, although I have the 128 GB iPad Pro with 4G connectivity, I have not placed a SIM in it, for the simple reason that I prefer using my SIM cards in devices that can handle calls too (just in case). So, all my online work on the iPad Pro will be over Wi-Fi.
So how did Day One With Only The iPad Pro go? Well, first off, it did take a lot of bulk off my bag – even the lightest 10-11 inch display notebook tends to weigh one’s bag down by about a kilo and a half when accommodated with its charger. The iPad Pro with the keyboard cover was just a hint over a kilo, and when you consider that I was carrying around a close to 13-inch display at that weight, well, that was impressive. And yes, as the smart keyboard is just about 3.2mm thick, so even with it attached (the iPad Pro is an astonishing 6.9mm thin), you have a package that is slimmer than the new Moto G. So yes, full marks for portability. Mind you, it is larger than the 11-inch MacBook Air so if you have a bag that is designed for an iPad or a small netbook, the iPad Pro with its Smart Keyboard is going to be a tight fit – it was for me, alas, and I had to switch bags with much sweating (and the odd swearing too – I do hate fiddling with bags because of a single gadget).
Well, my main work was a lot of editing, which was shared over Google Drive and just a bit of writing. I browsed the Web a fair bit, both for research and for the simple joy of reading. It was a bit overcast and we had to go out in the evening so the photography front was rather quiet.
And the iPad Pro honestly handled everything very well indeed. Writing and editing is surprisingly easy on it – especially the editing, as you can simply tap the portion of text you want to edit instead of dragging a cursor over to the place. And well, while I do have my reservations about the Smart Keyboard’s keyboard (the keys do not go clickety clack enough by my standards – I prefer keys with more travel), the fact is that typing was surprisingly accurate. Methinks this is going to be a matter of habit more than anything else. It is definitely more comfortable than the cramped keyboards one gets on 10-inch netbooks and Chromebooks. That said, it is also very weird why there are no keys for controlling volume, brightness or even just switching off the display on the keyboard itself. And yes, as someone who does tend to fiddle with viewing angles, having just one angle at which to see what I was typing was not really something I appreciated. The other thing about the iPad Pro is its penchant for picking up fingerprints on the display and dust on that Smart Keyboard – dust bits do seem to stick to that fabric. Oh and the Apple Pencil did not get used at all. It was really a display and keyboard day.
The display, mind you, is magnificent. The iPad Pro’s 12.9-inch display has a resolution of 2732 x 2048 and packs in the same pixel density as the iPad Air 2 (264 ppi), and well, it is awesome for reading news and graphic novels (imagine being able to zoom into the Bat logo on the chest of the Batman? Yeah, THAT!) as well as viewing videos (the four speakers actually delivered decent sound for the YouTube videos I viewed today). There is a teensy bit of a problem, though – those accustomed to viewing videos or reading on an iPad or any other tablet prefer doing so by holding the tablet with both their hands. And in the case of the iPad Pro, that meant disconnecting the Smart Keyboard. Yes, the keyboard can be attached and removed easily (it connects using physical connectors – the smart connector- and not Bluetooth so there’s no need for fiddling with passwords and the like), but thanks to its shape, you need to fold it up to keep the dust off, which adds a new step to the whole pull-off-and-watch-and-then-reattach process. I again suspect this is going to be something one will have to get used to. For the record, you CAN use the keyboard with the iPad Pro attached to it in your lap – this article was written in that mode – but just remember not to get too worried by the display wobbling gently as you pound away at the keys: it is not going to come off.
And yes, I transferred over a dozen photographs (the pictures you see in this piece, actually) from my Vibe Shot to the iPad Pro using SHAREit, which works just fine between Android and iOS devices as long as both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network – the pictures were transferred in less than a minute. I was messing up my deadlines so I left the editing to Raju (mine editor here), but yes, I daresay the days that follow will see me doing more photo editing on the device. The SanDisk Wireless Stick did not need to be used even once, and honestly, if Wi-Fi behaves itself, I suspect it might not come into play too often. Oh the joys of the cloud.
After a day which saw me use the iPad Pro pretty heavily in browsing, text writing and editing terms, the battery which had started out at 74 per cent was down to 18 per cent – considering that the iPad Pro was connected to the keyboard cover, connected to Wi-Fi and functioning for the best part of 6-7 hours, that is pretty much in keeping with the 10-12 hours on a charge we have come to expect from the iPad family. I had suspected that attaching the keyboard might drain battery faster (as the keyboard draws power from the iPad Pro) but that does not seem to be the case.
So well, at the end of Day One With Only The iPad Pro, I can say that the iPad Pro has not made me miss my notebook. Not yet anyway. But then, as Scarlett keeps reminding us, tomorrow is another day…