Our Tech Guru, Brendon Petersen, spent one week working from the 12.9 Inch iPad Pro. This was his experience…
Tablets were once hailed as the death of traditional computers. No longer were we going to be chained to our desk or even have to carry "bulky" laptops around. Instead there would be these sleek, touchscreen devices which would deliver all the processing power of a PC, but with more portability.That never happened.Apple's iPad made tablets sexy, in fact, it pretty much made tablets go mainstream. But those devices were still media consumption devices instead of media creation devices.Watch our video review of the iPad Pro below:
Enter the iPad Pro
Apple's whopping 12.9-inch screen tablet made its debut in 2015 surrounded by claims that this would be the Microsoft Surface killer.Like the Surface, the iPad Pro could be used with a number of accessories including a stylus - the Apple Pencil - as well as a smart keyboard cover. Unlike the Surface, the iPad Pro was aimed at designers and artists. Clearly following on Apple's heritage of being at the cross section of design and technology, while the Surface was a business device.Has Apple achieved their goal with the iPad Pro? I spent just over one week using it as my primary computer and here's what I think.
The first thing you notice about this tablet is its size. It's anything but small. In fact, it's pretty much the same size as my 13 inch MacBook Air.Unlike the Air, which has a tapered body and a subtle curve across the top, the iPad Pro is flat. This makes it feel awkward when carrying it in your hands.Holding it in one hand is also a bit awkward. Again, this is due to the sheer size and the fact that there is only one part to it. This is unlike a MacBook or laptop which has a display and keyboard that provide a counterbalance to each other.
When it's on, you immediately notice how beautiful the Retina display is. The colours are crisp and vivid and I kind of want to stare at this screen the entire day. But it's also immediately clear that Apple is not used to this much display real estate, because they have tons of wasted space in between each app icon on the home screen. This is even more evident when you turn the device into landscape mode.
Sitting down and using the 12.9 inch iPad Pro is, yet again, awkward. It desperately needs a counterbalance like a base or the smart keyboard cover to help balance it out when on a solid surface. Holding it up with one hand at just the right angle gets tiresome very quickly. Unfortunately, I didn't receive a smart keyboard cover with this review unit. But, from what I've heard, due to the cover needing to be light enough to not add too much weight to the iPad, it ends up being too light to counterbalance the weight of the iPad itself.
The Apple Pencil
I did, however, receive the Apple Pencil with my review unit. The Apple Pencil is not, however, included with the iPad Pro when you purchase it.
Charging the Apple Pencil
Charging the Apple Pencil requires that you remove the cap and plug it into a lightning adaptor in order to charge it. There's no indicator light to tell you that it is charging successfully, nor one to tell you when charging is complete. Both of which are annoying.
Pairing the Apple Pencil
Pairing the Apple Pencil to the iPad Pro isn't any less annoying. It works via Bluetooth, but you need to plug the Apple Pencil into the lightning port of your iPad Pro in order for the tablet to recognise it and then initiate the pairing request. Furthermore, it only works with the iPad Pro, no other device. This all feels very iPod / iTunes music-transfer to me. Clunky and more work than it needs to be.Once the Pencil is paired, you can finally begin using it.
Using the Apple Pencil
It works exactly the way you'd expect a good stylus to work, with the display picking up every stroke. One thing I would've wanted is for the home button to have a capacitive function so that you wouldn't have to physically press it when using the Pencil.The Apple Pencil is at its best when drawing, something that I am not good at. When trying out a few drawing apps on the iPad Pro, however, it was great. I also allowed a few friends - who are either graphic designers or artists - to try it out and they all commented on how smooth the Pencil was and how little latency there was between the stroke they drew and the line that appeared on screen. Clearly they were impressed.
Storing the Apple Pencil
While the Pencil impresses on screen, one thing that everyone asked was why the top of the stylus didn't act as an eraser of some sort. Also, where they store the Pencil when they're not using it. That, unfortunately, is were Apple has made a bit of a misstep. There is no slot or holder for the Pencil which means that you just have to simply toss it in your bag.I also found that while the Apple Pencil is great for drawing, that's pretty much all it can do. Unlike Samsung's S-Pen, the latest version (found in the ill-fated Note 7) of which was the best all-round consumer stylus that I have ever used on any device. It was great for drawing, great for everyday usage and great for business.
The Overall Feeling
Overall, the larger iPad Pro (there is a smaller version available) is just too unwieldy, uncomfortable and too limited in its capabilities to use as a replacement laptop. It's a great idea, but lacks the refinement and ease of use that we've all come to expect from an Apple product.If you really want a laptop replacement then it might be worth waiting for the Lenovo Yoga Book, which was unveiled at IFA 2016 in Berlin and is expected to launch in South Africa in 2017.Who knows, maybe the next generation iPad Pro will be the one that gets it right. But, for now, the 12.9 inch iPad Pro is still more of a media consumption device than the fully-fledged media creation device it claimed to be.