Have you ever had those days when you leave a device on charge but forget to switch on the power outlet? I did yesterday. So I got a bit of shock when I checked up the battery on the iPad pro as I was getting ready to set out for work on the last day of 2015 and saw about 25 per cent charge. Some frantic charging (another forty five to fifty odd minutes) saw it go up to about 50 per cent – which incidentally brings me to another pain point of the iPad Pro: the amount of time it takes to charge which is generally in the vicinity of three to three and a half hours. Anyway, I entered the final day of the iPad Pro Only Diaries with a half charged iPad Pro.
And it was a day of extensive meetings and note-taking as we all worked on stories summing up 2015 and looking ahead to 2016. In the middle of it all, I and Raju also decided to put out heads together to do a hits and misses in tech of 2015. Right through this, I was moving from place to place, and would you believe it, none of the places I visited had a free charging outlet – it seemed that the world around me was as short of electricity for an iPad Pro as 2015 was short of days. So it was a day of write story, make notes, research, write some more and repeat the entire sequence again. When I finally called it a day at about four hours to midnight, I still had about 12 per cent battery on the iPad Pro – it had been on for about nine hours, and worked for a few of them. Yes, I was careful to keep brightness levels in check and I did not view videos unless absolutely necessary and that too at a relatively low volume, but I am not sure too many notebooks could have pulled this off.
Which of course brings me to the question I need to answer at the end of this five day experiment: can the iPad Pro replace a notebook? I have been reading some of the comments about its not being a “notebook killer” with some amusement, I must confess. For honestly, I don’t think Apple set out to kill notebooks with this device – it would be suicidal if it had, considering that Apple itself has a very popular series of notebooks. No, I think – as I said before – that the Pro is more of a convergence device, something that blends in the best of both notebook and tablet worlds, and it is what notebooks might well become some day. And make no mistake about it, it is a super niche device – its 128 GB model costs more than a 13-inch MacBook Pro. Add the Smart Keyboard (which costs more than a Moto G (3rd gen)) and you have a device that costs more than the ultra light and smart MacBook. Top it off with the Apple Pencil and you have a device that costs as much as a high-end notebook from most brands.
And there the matter seems to end for many people. Why would they purchase a tablet and a keyboard (and perhaps stylus) for a price for which they can get a high-end notebook? Well, I am not sure I am the target audience for this sort of device (hey, I am a writer on the move, the so more a candidate for the MacBook Air kind of device or the iPad Air – anything that is light and fast) and yet, I must confess that as time passed, I found myself warming to the iPad Pro. Yes, I would have preferred a keyboard case that allowed more viewing angles, a device with a SD card or USB port, and an easier to carry stylus, but five days into using the iPad Pro, I discovered that I actually had no major complaints as far as its performance in terms of a notebook replacement went. The SanDisk Wireless Stick and the SHAREIT app allowed me to share data to and from it without too much fuss. And on the flip side, I had a device that was pretty much on par with a high-end notebook for the things I do.
Note the words: high-end. For while I had worked with an iPad and a keyboard before (Microsoft’s Wedge Keyboard – oh the irony), I always had the feeling that I was using something that was stepping in for a ‘real’ notebook. There would be days when I would simply postpone some tasks, such as detailed image or text editing, to the evening when I would have the larger 13-inch display and more powerful processor of the Dell XPS 13 (2013 edition) to fall back on. I never had that feeling on the iPad Pro. No, it is not perfect but then that accusation can be levelled at just about any device – I still have nightmares about how slow Photoshop Express ran on the Surface 3 and well, adjusting between apps that respond better to touch and those that feel more at home with a keyboard can be a bit of a task. What is important to note in the iPad Pro is that its performance is somewhere in the higher echelons of mobile computing. And I don’t make that statement based on benchmark scores but real day to day experience – the device hardly ever lags, does image and video editing at a very good speed, handles high definition games very well, runs videos superbly, and has great sound and very good battery life. Round that off with very good multi-tasking and a very light form factor and well, if the iPad Air 2 with a keyboard was a netbook, then the iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard is an ultrabook. All this without factoring in the Apple Pencil, which for all its foibles, we suspect is going to be a hit among the sketchy crowd.
No, the iPad Pro is not going to kill notebooks. It is not meant to. But cast your mind back to the main criticisms of the iPad in the past by the notebook toting crowd, which is why it was labelled a device to “view content, not generate it” – no keyboard, not enough processing muscle, not the greatest sound, and well, a display that was small by notebook standards. The iPad Pro pretty much addresses all these “shortcomings” and fixes them very thoroughly. Yes, I know the standard Windows/PC crowd will shout out the advantages of its platform but on the flip side, I have a set of professionals who felt that the iPad Pro was the perfect device for “anyone working on multimedia on the move.”
And I think that is the biggest difference between the iPad Pro and its predecessors. Unlike previous iPads, it is made for work. You could coax previous iPads to step in for a notebook. The iPad Pro needs no coaxing – it very much belongs there. No, it does not run Windows or Mac OS, but it is easily the most powerful and easy to use touch-friendly device I have used. It does everything I wanted from a notebook and while I do miss the convenience of a USB port, I also get the joy of being able to play around with images and videos much faster than I would on conventional notebooks, with very good battery life as a bonus (oh, and Temple Run and Angry Birds on a big screen that seems made for them). All at a weight that suddenly makes carrying a DSLR along seem easier.
So here’s the answer: yes, the iPad Pro can replace your notebook. Yes, it costs a bomb, and so do the accessories that make it more like a notebook or a canvas. But then so would a notebook that can do as much as smoothly. And most would be more of a pain to carry around.
I am not giving up my Dell XPS 13. Or my aged MacBook Air. Not yet. There are too many apps, files and functions there to which I have got used and addicted.
But know something? I think I will be using the iPad Pro as much – if not more – than them. It deserves a place alongside them.
Here endeth this edition of the iPad Pro Only Diaries. Thank you for your patience.
Rather surprisingly, it’s been fun. I expected it to be tougher. Much tougher. It seems that after five years of being all about viewing, there’s a Pro in iPad Town…