In my previous review of the iPad Pro, I touched on a lot of the awkwardness surrounding the pricing, new peripherals, and overall experience of Apple’s latest tablet. Now that I’ve had the iPad Pro 12.9 for almost a year, a long term review and some analysis of how I use it is certainly in order.
First of all, I use the iPad Pro every day. It’s basically my tablet of choice at home, replacing what I used to use my iPad and iPad Mini’s for. The interesting thing is that I use it entirely with the Smart Keyboard … essentially like a touch enabled laptop. I find that for casual use (which it entirely is at home … if I need to do work, I go sit at my desk) I much prefer the iPad Pro to a regular laptop. It’s simply quicker to pick up and use, doesn’t require lots of battery charging, and doesn’t roast my legs. The screen is also big enough that split screen multitasking is reasonable for doing things like watching Twitch and web surfing at the same time.
I hardly use the Pencil at all, but I do find it useful in the rare cases where I need to sign and return documents. Unfortunately, the process of doing that is a bit clunky, involving saving PDF’s off to iCloud, copying them and annotating them in PDF Expert, and returning them via e-mail, but at least I don’t have to yank out the printer.
The Smart Keyboard is an essential accessory for the iPad Pro, but it still doesn’t feel right. To me, the keys themselves are perfectly typable, but I miss those function and escape keys a lot. Yes, the massive folding contortions required to set up the iPad still feel suboptimal. Oh, and keyboard backlighting is indeed an issue. Overall, I wish Apple would find some industrial design willpower to build a kickstand into the iPad itself. It might enable a much lighter and more straight forward cover design.
On the bright side, however, the keyboard being made completely of waterproof fabric makes it very easy to clean. If there’s one thing I don’t like about any keyboard, it’s the crud that makes its way into the nooks and crannies of the keys that is impossible to properly clean out. I honestly wouldn’t mind some variation of this fabric making it into a new Macbook, but the fashion implications of that might not meet Jony Ive’s sniff test. At any rate, a Rev. 2 Smart Keyboard will be welcome when it comes.
Pricing on the new iPad Pro has dropped tremendously in the past few months, making it a not so great buy for early adopters. I think what this signals is a lot of folks bought it on instinct and decided it just wasn’t for them. It’s not uncommon to see a fully kitted iPad Pro with 128GB and LTE with keyboard and pencil on Craigslist for roughly what the base 32Gb model would cost new. I suspected the sloughing of users would be the case, but I bought anyway … early adopting is fun. 🙂 And besides, I really do use it enough that I felt I had gotten my money’s worth out of it.
iOS 9 and 10 look to be disappointing for the iPad. As I’ve said before, the iPad is largely held back by its software … with multitasking implemented in what feels like a version 1 prototype rather than a polished solution. To make things worse, many major apps still don’t run at the iPad’s native resolution after a whole year!
I believe many consumers thought that the iPad Pro signaled that iOS 10 was going to be a major step forward for iPad’s … as one couldn’t possibly release an entirely new iPad Pro and call it “Pro” without making sure the software justified it … could they? Turns out they can do that. New iPad improvements are nowhere in sight.
One of the most egregious bugs has to be the performance of Safari in iOS 9. For nearly an entire year, the browser has had a bug that prevents it from rendering the page when you scroll on many websites until you stop scrolling completely. It’s a huge bug in probably the most important use case for the iPad … good web browsing. I really can’t stress how disappointing it is that nobody at Apple cared enough to fix this bug until iOS 10. There’s no excuse for it. None.
For errands and the occasional day trip, the iPad Pro is entirely unpleasant to carry around, being much too large in general. The iPad Mini is still my goto tablet for day to day back and forth travel, since it fits in my jacket pocket and doesn’t need any babysitting or man purses to hold it. But if I do know I’m going to be sitting down for a long while … perhaps waiting at someone’s house or letting the GF do some shopping while I sit at a cafe … the iPad Pro gets thrown in a bag once in a while.
Performance of the hardware itself has been impeccable. 4GB of RAM is so far above the other iOS devices that I know this tablet will be good for a few years to come, unlike the iPad Pro 9.7. And I’ve never had a complaint about the speed of the A9X processor … everything is lightning quick.
One of the most important follow up’s is going to be about using the iPad Pro for work. I have enough to say about that that I’m going to save that for a separate post.
To sum things up, the iPad Pro 12.9 fills a pretty specific niche … one somewhere between a full blown laptop and the traditional definition of iPad. I don’t personally think the iPad Pro 12.9 is worthwhile without the Smart Keyboard … it’s just an awkwardly large tablet at that point. With it, however, it’s a much more pleasant to use version of a laptop and an iPad in one … as long as your needs are reasonably casual and basic. It turns out that this is good enough for me to use it all the time. So while the iPad Pro 12.9 wouldn’t be my first iPad purchase (that honor goes to the Mini 4), I definitely feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth so far.