It’s been a week since the 12.9″ 2017 iPad Pro arrived at my door. I can best summarize by saying that without any doubt, this is my favorite Apple device ever. I’m not surprised. I expected it would be. And I say that having used it on iOS 10 only. No beta for me. Actually, I should say that it’s not the iPad alone but the pairing of it with the Apple Smart Keyboard and Pencil. I’ve not used the Pencil much but after just few minutes with Procreate and Affinity Photo, I was certain that I will indeed get great use and enjoyment from it. I hope to use it more this week. I did however spend many hours with the keyboard.
I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed using the Smart Keyboard. I’d only used one in a store for about 20 minutes and knew that it felt pretty good to type on. What I wasn’t sure about was the stability of the keyboard or how I would feel about the lack of special, media playback keys.
- Special Keys: I DO miss the lack of media playback keys which are especially helpful when using Apple’s Podcast App in split screen for transcription work. That said, reaching up to the same spot to pause and start isn’t killing me. Same for the volume keys. I’d prefer to have them but will get along without them.
- The Smart Keyboard/case is very stable thus far. I’ve used it in may lap during much of every day for the past week. But I’ve found that it is most stable when used on something and conveniently, almost by accident, I set it on the box it was packaged in as I was setting up the iPad the first day. The first time I picked it up to use it I left it sitting on that box which provides a lightweight and stiff base. It’s perfect. I haven’t even used it in my lap without that box under it. Confusing at first but now that I’ve done it a few times the folding of the case over the top of the iPad is very easy as is opening it and setting up the iPad for typing. The two together are very compact and light. I’m really glad I went with this case.
- Typing has been great. Just as I remembered from the 20 minute test in the store, this keyboard is a real pleasure to type on. When I set-up on Tuesday I was halfway through a 75 minute podcast transcription so of course I finished that transcription using the new set-up and I required no time to get used to the new keyboard. It’s every bit as enjoyable to type on as my to Logitech keyboards. No, actually, it’s more enjoyable with less key travel but with a satisfying movement and light tappy sound.
My main motivation in an iPad Pro was the bigger screen size and it’s been fantastic. Using Coda and Affinity Photo for work over the past week has been an excellent experience on the 12.9″ screen. Over the course of the week I updated a client’s website to a new responsive design all from the iPad using Coda to edit CSS and HTML. I often use Coda in conjunction with Transmit, Safari, Messages, and Spark. It’s so much nicer on the larger screen. I also had to put together a magazine ad for a client and a promotional postcard for another client. Both of those were a pleasure to do with Affinity Photo. At no point did I feel I was using anything less than the full version of the app that I’ve gotten used to using on my Mac. The only downside is that Affinity Photo does not yet support split screen. I can live with that given that its the sort of app that begs for the biggest workspace possible. I just use a slide-over when I need to.
Unlike many I don’t see a huge benefit in the new refresh rate of 120Hz, what Apple is calling Promotion. Sure, scrolling on the new iPad as absolutely smooth. Everything is smooth. But I don’t read text while scrolling. I’ve compared to the iPhone 7+ and I just don’t see a difference. Everything on the iPhone is also buttery smooth. I do notice the TrueTone and the increase in brightness but there again, I rarely use my iPad brighter than 40%! So, yes, it is an absolutely gorgeous screen but to my eyes it is nearly identical to the iPhone 7. I just went back to my Air 2 and scrolled through a full page of text in Safari. First time I’ve done that in a week. I do see a difference but nothing so fantastic as what I’ve been hearing and reading from the Apple Nerdery. Shrug.
As was noted when the previous iPads Pro were released, yes, the speakers are pretty great. Much better than the iPads that had only two speakers.
Speed and Memory
Yes, no doubt, this machine is beast. Blazing fast. I’ve not noticed any lag in anything I’ve done with any app. Also, having 4 gigs of RAM is pretty nice. I go back to apps that I’ve not used in hours and they are ready to use with no delay. Safari holds far more tabs than I ever saw with the Air 2. I keep most of my apps in folders and all apps that aren’t in the dock are on the second page of the home screen. My main strategy for opening apps is either the dock, Command-Tab, or Spotlight. Most often it is the latter two and it is instantaneous. With Spotlight I type the first few letters of the app then return and there it is 1.
Weight, Size and Portability
Yeah, well, this is bigger than the Air 2 but still, very portable. With it’s Smart Keyboard it is lighter to tote than a MacBook Air 13″ or a 2017 MacBook Pro and only slightly heavier than a MacBook. And with at least 10 hours of battery time, yeah, it’s still a great portable machine.
Pro Computer, Pro Apps
Until last spring I’d owned an Apple laptop of one kind or another for 17 years. I sold my last one a year ago because it wasn’t getting used anymore. After over a year of using the iPad Air 2 as a primary, preferred device I have no doubt that my Mac laptop days are over. The real point of this size iPad is that it be a laptop replacement it is fully capable of doing that and even more. As a form factor with flexibility it is better than a fixed hinge laptop. It can be used attached to a keyboard or near a keyboard or with no keyboard at all. Not only that but with the maturity of iOS I have an operating system that I find a delight to use and with iOS 11 it even more so. With the Pro line, iPad is no longer a compromise, no longer a sidestep, it is a step up to something better.
The deal is sealed with “pro” apps. For those that require apps such as InDesign, Final Cut Pro and Xcode this is not YET the device for them. I’m sure there are plenty of other example apps that are not available on iOS and for folks that need those the time for using only an iPad Pro is not yet. But we can see with the release of Affinity Photo that the iPad is fully capable of performing heavy-duty tasks with fully featured apps. There should be no doubt, Affinity Photo represents the long sought after “Photoshop for the iPad”. I’d go further and say it is better because, like it’s desktop equivalent, it does not come with the baggage or subscription pricing that come with Adobe and Photoshop. Going forward it seems a certainty that the iPad Pro, along with iOS 11 and upcoming pro apps by Serif and others, will begin to gain a great deal of traction.
Apple has made it clear that the Mac is not going away which is great news for folks that prefer the Mac. It’s a mature and powerful platform that has it’s place. But it is equally clear now that the iOS platform as an increasingly pervasive and capable mobile ecosystem will continue to expand in power and flexibility to accommodate the needs of power users. I for one am happy to celebrate all of them but it is the iPad that I will look forward to using everyday.
- Of course, it was pretty fast on the Air 2. See, mostly, the Air 2 felt very fast to me. I was not unhappy with it and were it not for an iPad with this screen size I would have likely just kept using the Air 2 which says something about how fast older iPads and iOS are. ↩