iPad Pro review roundup: a new canvas for productivity and content creation

By , Nov 11, 2015

iPad Pro iMovie editing lifestyle 001

The reviews are in for Apple’s iPad Pro, which went on sale earlier this morning ahead of its retail launch later this week.

So, what’s this device good for? Is it simply a jumbo-sized iPad in the same sense as the iPad was called just an oversized iPhone?

Does the significant screen size increase bring any tangible benefits to your mobile computing beyond just a bigger canvas for your apps?

What about the Apple Pencil and Apple’s pricey keyboard cover, are these optional add-ons or essential accessories? Answers to these questions differ from one reviewer to another. Here’s our roundup of the best iPad Pro reviews on the web.

The Loop

Jim Dalrymple is excited for apps like Adobe Photoshop Fix that take full advantage of the iPad Pro’s 12.9-inch screen. Using an iPad Pro, he wrote, is especially convenient in full-screen multitasking mode.

iPad Pro represents the start of something completely new for Apple and its developers. The power, versatility, and promise of iPad Pro has not been seen since the original iPad.

iPad Pro is going to open up segments of the market that never considered using an iPad before. In my opinion, this device isn’t going to cannibalize existing iPad sales, but rather add to them.

Daring Fireball

John Gruber’s take:

The speakers are surprisingly loud. If you use your iPad as a small TV, the audio improvements might be more meaningful than the bigger display. Battery life is simply outstanding. I didn’t even plug it in once between Monday and Friday, and it still had plenty of charge left. I’ve been using it for eight continuous hours as I type this sentence, and it still has more than 50 percent of a charge remaining.

On apps:

I think even Apple’s own apps are still figuring out how best to arrange layouts on this larger display. For example, in Mail, when the iPad Pro is in portrait, it only shows one column at a time. I think there’s clearly enough room horizontally, even in portrait, for a two-pane (narrow list of messages on left, wide message detail on right) layout.

The iPad Pro in portrait is as wide as the iPad Air in landscape — and the iPad Air in landscape uses two panes for Mail. Third-party developers are going to want to adjust their apps after they get a feel for what it’s like to use the iPad Pro for real.

After using both his iMac and the iPad Pro for the past week Gruber did something he’s never once done before:

I reached up and tried to touch something on the display. Ten minutes later I did it again. I point this out not to argue that I think MacBooks should have touch screens, but simply as an observation that even a lifelong Mac user can quickly get accustomed to the iPad Pro as a laptop.

MacStories

Federico Viticci, probably the biggest proponent of the iPad as a true PC replacement, is adamant that the device represents a slam dunk in terms of being the ultimate canvas for your work.

The device I’ve used every day for a year to get my work done for this site now seems tiny and limited, with small apps, less content shown on screen, and a constrained multitasking interface.

I know that it’s only been a week, and I do believe that the Air 2 is a great device for lots of people, but I feel like all the work I’ve done on the iPad and iOS has led me to this point. I’m ready to take my iPad setup to the next level, and I think my workflow can benefit from improved hardware and a more capable version of iOS.

And in case you had any doubts, Viticci is going to switch to the iPad Pro.

The Verge

Walt Mossberg, reviewing the iPad Pro for The Verge, views the device as the ultimate content consumption tablet, but thinks it’s still not a viable PC replacement due to Apple’s lacking keyboard accessory:

You can get a lot more done with iPad apps than with the paltry selection of tablet / touch-first apps available for the Surface. But, because Apple hasn’t made a great keyboard, the iPad Pro isn’t a complete replacement for a great laptop like the MacBook Air — even for a tablet guy like me.

Mossberg won’t be buying one for himself and advised average users to pass on it as well, but opined that the device will “no doubt make a lot of Apple users happy, especially if they use it for graphics.”

CNET

Setting out to test Apple’s claims that the iPad Pro’s A9X processor is faster than 80 percent of notebooks, writer Scott Stein ran some synthetic Geekbench benchmark that showed the device performing well against ordinary notebooks running Intel Core i3 chips, “but using the Jetstream browser benchmark, a MacBook Pro and Surface Pro 4 came out on top.”

He said that speed can depend on the specialized apps and tools that can take advantage of the iPad Pro’s power, of which there “just aren’t enough optimized iPad Pro apps, yet, to determine what the difference could be.”

I’ll tell you right now who’s going to want an iPad Pro: anyone who draws or works with images. Its killer app doesn’t even come in the box. The Pencil, Apple’s new stylus is sold separately, for $99, £79 or AU$165.

It’s specifically designed to work with the iPad Pro, and it blows away any other stylus I’ve ever used , even Microsoft’s Surface Pen. It’s fast, accurate, pressure-sensitive, comfortable, and for apps that support it, glorious.

Stein called the iPad Pro “a killer creative canvas with laptop-replacement dreams.”

“I want the iPad to eat the Mac, the way the iPhone ate the iPod. But iOS needs to fully change with it,” he wrote. “The iPad Pro feels like the top half of a new futuristic superpowered laptop. I want the bottom half, too.”

ArsTechnica

Andrew Cunningham was impressed by the iPad Pro’s MacBook-like computing speed, with all the virtues and limitations of iOS when it comes to replacing the PC.

It’s best to think of the iPad Pro as a starting point, especially for iOS 9. These multitasking features are still brand-new, and there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit to pick in future iOS 9 revisions and into iOS 10. My biggest gripes with the iPad Pro are with the software rather than the hardware, and that means that most of them can be fixed given enough time and enough feature requests.

It took Microsoft three tries to really nail down the Surface Pro concept, and given a couple of iOS updates the iPad Pro has room to grow into a more versatile laptop replacement without necessarily giving up the things that people like about iOS.

By the way, you might want to block out the next two hours of your time to read Ars’s incredibly detailed iPad Pro review, but then again—that’s what we love about the site.

TechCrunch

For Matthew Panzarino, the iPad Pro is the death of Steve Jobs’s ‘PCs are trucks, tablets are cars’ metaphor in that there’s no longer just the ‘truck’ of the desktop and laptop and the ‘car’ of the phone.

There are gradations of tone in between, and the iPad Pro absolutely, 100% could be the central computing device for a home. Many days, I run TechCrunch from my phone. On those days, the ‘traditional’ computers in my household lie dormant, completely. If you think this is an edge case, you are blinding yourself to the way the world has changed.

It’s going to take some time and experimentation to figure this out. Despite my irritation at the way that the tablet space is analyzed, I am not willing to declare the personal computer (non-Cupertino definition) ‘dead’. I’ll leave that to the bombasts. But there is a certain (sorry) norm-core computing demographic that could very well end up with an iPad Pro as the ’enhanced’ component to their smartphone, which is their real computer.

The Wall Street Journal

Joanna Stern, writing for the Journal:

There’s one thing the iPad has over all other laptops and competing tablets though: incredible apps. The Pro helped me realize that I’ve been living in the past, using legacy desktop programs to accomplish things.

And this on battery life:

Apple has the real edge over Microsoft on battery life, though. With brightness at 75%, the Pro streamed Netflix for eight hours and 15 minutes. The Surface Pro 4 conked out 2.5 hours sooner. (My Web browsing test showed similar results.) The big downside to the Pro’s big battery is that it takes nearly 5 hours to recharge. My MacBook Air reaches 100% in two hours.

Wired

David Pierce on the A9X:

The A9X chip and 4 gigabytes of RAM make everything fantastically fast: even on a huge, high-res screen, I couldn’t find an app or game that would stutter. The best way to make the iPad do more stuff was to give it a processor that can handle the load; Apple did that and then some.

And this on Apple’s optional stylus accessory:

The Pencil is the more important accessory. This long, white, paintbrush-looking stylus is central to the notion that the iPad Pro is for doing anything, any way you want.

In apps that support it, the Pencil is an unbelievably accurate, fine instrument for creation or control. When you write or draw, it feels like ink is coming straight from its tip. You can shade with the side of the Pencil, write in beautiful calligraphy, or sketch with amazing accuracy.

And this:

The Pencil works so well because it gets special access to the Pro’s software. Whenever your iPad detects the Pencil touching the display, it doubles the screen’s read rate so it checks for movement 240 times a second. That, plus pressure sensitivity and real-time measuring of the Pencil’s angle and position, means the Pencil puts out much more data than you’ll get from any other stylus. You can use others, but the Pencil is special.

He wraps up the review by saying that nobody’s going to toss their iMacs and ThinkPads into the garbage tomorrow and instead lay a 12.9-inch tablet on everyone’s desk.

“If there’s a touchscreen revolution underway, it’s going to happen slowly, an app and an accessory at a time. That’s OK. The iPad Pro is a fantastic tablet, not to mention the first iPad in ages that has an obvious value next to our giant smartphones,” he said.

“It starts as a big, powerful, beautiful screen, and with the right accessories and apps can be almost any kind of device you want. So, yeah: size matters.”

Additional reviews: FastCompany, Bloomberg, TechRadar, The Telegraph

The iPad Pro is available for purchase starting at $799 for the 32-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only edition via the Apple online store and brick and mortar Apple retails stores. The 128GB edition with Wi-Fi is $999 and the flagship 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular version is $1,079.

The Apple Pencil is $99 and Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the device is $169.

Will you be ordering an iPad Pro? Why, or why not?

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  • Still don’t know who is this for. Why not just get a MacBook Pro if you’re going to spend $1,000+ on the iPad Pro? Just doesn’t make sense.

    • QP

      if u want a tablet that size an iPad pro would be useless. Plus, if u need to sketch u should take a wacom tablet with you. Plus, an iPad pro has not a touch screen etc etc…im just wondering why they left all that space between icons.

      • George

        Can you imagine how annoying it would be tapping with your finger or an apple pencil to replace a beautiful trackpad? I would toss that thing at a wall from frustration.

    • Eikast

      It’s not suited for me since it’s iOS only (I can’t do software development on it), but I can see who it would be useful for. Doctors, photographers, students, basically anyone who needs a large touch screen device with native touch screen based apps, plus with an accurate stylus and optional keyboard.

  • If these iPads are so powerful, why do they run more like an iPhone than they do an actual pc? Why can’t we control the size of our windows/apps like in OS X? Why is ther still that 4 app per row limit? Why can’t we easily swipe between apps that are opened?

  • Axel Strömberg

    I will be buying one for me mom. She’s a teacher and this will be perfect for her. I’ve found her constantly trying to touch her MacBook’s screen lol and while she loves her MacBook Air to bits, she’s admittedly mentioned that she barely uses it anymore. Her school have since a few years back started given all the teachers and new students the latest iPads to use in class.
    I believe it is easier for her to understand and use the iPad, even a Mac is sometimes too complicated for her, especially the way OS X upgrades are handled through the AppStore. Try asking your mom’s to update to El Capitan and see what their reactions will be 🙂

    • Jamessmooth

      YES! Same with my parents. No way I would give them a mac book and be like, ok go! This device is for them. And for me.

    • iPhoneWINS

      yeah if all computer software is converted to apps that do everything we need the fines but thats not the case now

  • Jamessmooth

    I ultimately got the 32gb version. I really don’t understand why people are saying “I don’t know who this is for.” Has it ever occurred to anyone that some people don’t like using OS X? I’m one of those people. I hate it. an iPad is perfect for me. Doesn’t have OS X, is small and compact, and does what i need it to do: email, consume content, and the occasional work flow of word docs, excel and pdf. If I need heavy lifting, I’ve got the surface pro 4 for that. Yes, I carry it and an iPad Air with me everywhere. Yes, I use both on a daily basis. Yes, I hate OS X. Happy Veterans Day.

    • pawfyd

      Why do you hate destop OS’s? What makes iOS better than OS X or Windows?

  • iPhoneWINS

    pass.. same boring iPad experience just bigger

  • @dongiuj

    I want one, really want one but won’t be ordering one because it’s just too damn expensive for a gadget like this that will, for me, need to be replaced in approx 3-4 years. Just like the apple watch, this is a gadget that I would have it was a free gift but won’t be buying one because it’s not a necessity.

    • iPhoneWINS

      exactly… that laptop money for a device that does half as much