Review Roundup: Can the iPad Pro Replace Your Laptop?

Reviews of the new iPad Pro are popping up all over the web, and generally they're quite positive. They tend to mention the speed and power of the new tablet, the impressive display, the great battery life, and the excellent stereo speakers. And they appreciate this new iPad as a powerful tool for artists and designers. Opinions are mixed regarding issues such as whether the iPad Pro can be a laptop replacement and the utility of the new Smart Keyboard. Overall, the consensus seems to be that it's a best-in-class niche product. Let's look at some of the more telling reviews.

The Verge

Well-known tech journalist Wall Mossberg sums up his opinion in the subtitle of his article on The Verge: "Graphics folks will love it, but I’m sticking with my iPad Air." A real iPad enthusiast who uses his iPad Air and iPad mini both for productivity and consuming media, Mossberg feels that the iPad Pro comes up short both as an iPad and as a laptop replacement. He isn't fond of the Smart Keyboard, and he finds the iPad Pro a bit too big and bulky to be useful as a tablet.

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However, he raves about the Apple Pencil and says that he's "blown away" by it. He writes, "Coupled with the large, highly sensitive iPad Pro screen, it’s an excellent stylus. In my tests, it had no discernible latency and drew on the screen like your favorite pen on paper. It easily sensed pressure and darkened or thickened lines, and it even could be held almost parallel to the screen, like a real pencil, for creating shading with the side of the point." Like other reviewers though, he laments the fact that the iPad Pro doesn't have a place to store the Pencil. Bottom line: he recommends it for graphics professionals but not for average users.

Wired

No words minced here. Wired simply says the iPad Pro is the "best tablet ... anyone's ever made." Reviewer David Pierce talks about the iPad Pro as a new category that's more than just a big iPad. And praises the greater utility of the large display. But, again, it's as a drawing instrument that the iPad Pro shines. Of the Apple Pencil, he writes, "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."

However, Pierce also finds that the iPad Pro isn't adequate as a laptop replacement: no function keys and difficulty getting used to touch the display with a finger in order to do things. But even though it doesn't suit him as a laptop, he doesn't mind, because he feels it's a fantastic tablet, not to mention the first iPad in ages that has an obvious value next to our giant smartphones. 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."

Ars Technica

Andrew Cunningham's mammoth review on Ars Technica is likely the most thorough review you'll find. The title sums it up nicely: "Mac-like speed with all the virtues and restrictions of iOS." Again, like other reviewers, he disagrees with Apple CEO Tim Cook that the iPad Pro is a PC replacement. Yes, it's powerful. Yes, it has a lot of functionality. But in the end, the "Pad Pro is not quite a traditional computer and iOS is not quite OS X." Like other reviewers, he mentions the limited multitasking and the fact that touching the display isn't a replacement for the functionality of a trackpad.

Still, he likes facets of the keyboard, though he agrees with other reviewers that its being limited to a single angle is a problem. He's confident that third-party keyboards will effectively overcome the limitations of the Smart Keyboard. 

Daring Fireball

John Gruber, whose opinions typically command a lot of attention, differs from other reviewers in that he feels that iPad Pro could in fact replace a notebook or desktop computer, depending on what you use your computer for. In an article on his Daring Fireball blog, he writes, "At a fundamental level—CPU speed, GPU speed, quality of the display, quality of the sound output, and overall responsiveness of interface—the iPad Pro is a better computer than a MacBook or MacBook Air, and a worthy rival to the far more expensive MacBook Pros." But he certainly finds that it's not optimal in a number of ways. For example, he points out that when you're doing a lot of reading on the screen, you have to keep holding your arm up to touch the display, instead of letting it rest on a trackpad or mouse and controlling the action from there. Overall, this is a very detailed review that goes deeply into his experience of using the iPad Pro as a laptop.

Wall Street Journal

While a number of reviews say the Smart Keyboard is lacking, partly because it's limited to a single angle, Joanna Stern, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says she likes the feel of it. And she also likes the fact that her spilled latte wiped right off the fabric. She spends a good bit of her review simply trying to figure out where the iPad Pro fits in the scheme of things. Laptop? Sketch pad? Mini TV? And concludes that it's a really big iPad. But she sees it as the wave of the future: "The Pro may seem wedged between iPads and MacBooks, but it will be your main computer in the future. As our phablets push smaller tablets into retirement, the big tablet and its accessories will do the same for our traditional computers. For now, however, it may be easiest to step back and see the Pro as a… really good, really big iPad."

FastCompany

Harry McCracken, writing on the FastCompany website, is unusual in that he's been using an iPad as his primary computer for the past four years. The question of whether the iPad Pro can replace a laptop isn't an issue for him. He writes, "The iPad Pro comes as close to checking off all the items on my personal wish list as any gadget I can remember, and I intuitively get what Apple is trying to do with it." In short, the iPad Pro meets his needs. He's especially impressed with the Apple Pencil: " On-screen tools such as pens and paintbrushes reacted beautifully as I adjusted the pressure I applied, and I could rest my palm on the display without interfering with whatever I was writing or drawing. Rubbing the edge of the tip along the screen even produces the sort of broad stroke you’d get if you were drawing with, well, a pencil." And he says he thinks artists "will go gaga for this accessory and the expansive canvas that the iPad Pro provides." Like other reviewers, he wrestles with how to categorize the iPad Pro and concludes that it remains very much an iPad.

Horace Dediu

Apple has often given us new categories of products that we didn't know we needed until we used them. That may be the case with the iPad Pro, as reviewers try to place it on the spectrum of gadgets. In this video, Horace Dediu focuses on this question, comparing the iPad Pro to all of Apple's other devices, casually (and literally) tossing each aside after he's done with his comparison. In the end, he determines that the iPad Pro is a "desktop tablet" — that is, a tablet meant to be used on a desktop.

 

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.