iPad Pro Review: Bigger Isn't Always Better - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Devices
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11/29/2015
12:06 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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iPad Pro Review: Bigger Isn't Always Better

Apple's professional-grade tablet is a massive slate that may replace a laptop for some -- but definitely not all -- mobile professionals. Here's a look at where the iPad Pro rises to the occasion and where it falls flat.
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(Image: Eric Zeman)

(Image: Eric Zeman)

The iPad Pro is a brand-new tablet from Apple. And it's bigger, faster, and more powerful than any previous iPad. Apple claims this device can handle the workload often reserved for laptops. While it can, to a degree, there are a number of aspects holding it back from productivity nirvana.

I am an iPad fan. I've used an iPad every day since the first-generation iPad arrived in 2010. My current tablet is the iPad Air 2 with LTE, which, as far as I am concerned, is about the most portable and powerful computer available (when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard). I put the tablet to use in many different ways, whether it's catching up on email, browsing the web, watching movies, playing games, or, yes, doing my job.

[See Surface Pro 4 Vs. iPad Pro: High-End Hybrid Showdown.]

The iPad is my preferred computing device, but it's not perfect. There are definitely instances when I require a laptop and, I'm sorry to say, the iPad Pro does not change that equation.

Even so, the hardware is fantastic. Apple designs the most attractive and highest-quality tablets in the market, and the iPad Pro is its piece de resistance.

I delve into several aspects of the slate, including an up-close look at its hardware, software, screen, buttons, controls, app compatibility as well as my biggest complaints.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 1:29:54 PM
Re: There are some good use cases for larger iPad
I've strongly considered that kind of setup. I currently have an iMac, iPad, and iPod touch (to be replaced with an iPhone if Apple ever gets a 4" phone out again!). I could probably do fine with a Macbook Pro and iPad using the iPad as extra screen space and be more mobile overall. That's a touch decision. :)
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 1:26:40 PM
Re: Size and apps
IMO, the iPad Pro is all about the pencil and sketching and such... maybe other certian vertical markets. I don't agree, at all, with Cook that it's a good PC replacement.

I've gone iPad only for a couple of years in the past. Since I don't do much sketching, and don't intend to try and make a tablet be my primary computer, I'd opt for an iPad Air 2 any day over an iPad Pro.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 1:22:08 PM
Re: Bigger is not always better
Yea, I've just been arguing over the 4" iPhone rumors. One wouldn't think we should have to fight so hard to get a phone-sized-phone!

I think there are two drivers for that. First, there is a good use-case for bigger screens just having more screen-real-estate... which is generally a good thing until the trade-off gets too much for the device/use-case. And, in a global market, more people try to get more out of one device (as opposed to multiple complementary devices), so they are willing to put up with sub-optimal sizes for the benefits (ex: phablets).

But, there is also an odd trend of a kind of 'bigger is better' or spec-wars mentality that is just odd. I'm old enough to remember bag phones and rejoiced the day I got my first Motorolo flip-phone I could stick in my shirt-pocket. Now, it seems, we're moving backwards to phones that are no longer phones but small tablets with cellular capabilities. Since I have a tablet/laptop/desktop, I don't (nor want to) try and do all my work on a phone. It IS a support device for me, so I'd prefer smaller sizes.

I don't, in any way, disparage folks who want bigger devices. I'm just fighting this trend that seems to be saying phone-sized-phones are a thing of a past, and I just need to get on board with the 'trend.' No, I don't. There is no reason there can't be 4" phones, as well as 5"+ phones. Both have use cases, and there are substantial markets for each (if the makers just make both as options... hello Apple!).
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 1:14:57 PM
Re: The iPad I've been waiting for
Seems there is a theme there, and it isn't about Apple. :) Google sucks at UX. (That said, they've hired a very top UX person recently, so maybe things will start changing there?)
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 1:12:25 PM
Re: Size and apps
That's my fear too, but in a bit different way. I don't actually want OS X on a mobile device. They are just completely two different UX paradigms. I suppose some kind of modal OS might work where it runs iOS when you're using it as a tablet... and then when you connect a keyboard and trackpad/mouse (it HAS to have that latter!!!) then it goes into OS X mode.

But, iOS is touch-driven. Once you're using it more like a laptop or desktop, this becomes a hinderance. You don't want to have to reach up to touch the screen while working from a keyboard. That's a productivity killer.

At the same time, trying to overlay a touch-interface on a desktop OS is also a kludge-job (that's why Microsoft failed).

But, I AM quite worried Apple IS on a path to ditch OS X eventually (despite what Cook says... his actions don't match) and make iOS the do-it-all OS. That might be good from a base level consumer point of view. iOS is pretty capable and certainly it (and the devices) take a lot of the complexity out of the mix. But, it just simply isn't a replacement, as you rightly point out. The question is whether Apple really cares about the power-users... they aren't nearly as big of piece of the pie-chart.
stevew928
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stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 12:59:24 PM
Re: Size and apps
Yes, the file system (IMO, one of iOSs major weak points), and simply a mobile-touch interface vs the keyboard mouse (laptop/desktop) interface. These are just too fairly different UX paradigms that shouldn't really be mixed unless you're going in realizing you're going for a compromised (prodictivity wise) device for some trade-off that's worth it to you.

I spent about 2 years using an iPad only for mobile (iPad 2 in my case). While a lot has improved since I did that... and my work as changed (forcing me to a laptop), I still think I have a pretty good handle on the reality of the situation. It isn't so much about what can be done, but about which is better for what use case and more productive, etc.

IMO, Microsoft made the mistake of trying to mix the two too much. Apple took the right path in keeping two distinct OSs accessing the same data as much as possible. I am concerned Apple is moving more in Microsofts (so far failed) direction, which has me nervous. (I especially say this in light of OS Xs seeming decline in quality and advancement, and Apple's move out of serving pro markets.) As an Apple evangelist of over 30 years now, this is the first time in Apple's history where I'm starting to get worried about their future.
ArchiveASIU
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ArchiveASIU,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2015 | 11:16:45 AM
iPad Pro is just OK for me
Nice review Eric!

I don't really have hardware loyalty and love to try out new devices.  The iPad Pro is beautiful, but for efficiency and productivity at work it's just OK.  In all honesty it's a Surface 4 wanna-be, just not quite as good.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2015 | 12:43:22 PM
The iPad I've been waiting for
Almost all the negatives here are not directly on the iPad Pro but iPad's in general.  Take these out and you're down to one or two.  The Gmail app doesn't work right, so what, the Apple mail app works just fine to retrieve all my mail, work and personal.  Google docs don't work right, so what, MS Word & MS Excel work just fine.  I'm having a great time using my iPad Pro as a laptop combined with a third party keyboard case (which Best Buy gave me for free).  My Surface Pro 3 is now collecting dust in the corner.  BTW, who uses multi-tasking as a priority for Safari and Twitter?   It must be nice to have your productivity measured by internet surfing and tweeting.  How about a work document and email instead.   
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 7:31:48 PM
Re: There are some good use cases for larger iPad
That is a viable use case, but not worth the cost of the Pro in my opinion.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 7:30:20 PM
Re: Size and apps
Even when using my iPad for media consumption, it is clear that I could never replace my Windows laptop. Unless I'm only traveling for a day or two, I need my laptop to get real work done.
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