In late October, Apple introduced the new 2018 iPad Pro line. And after the 2016 MacBook Pro disaster, I was still looking for a powerful mobile computing device for both content consumption as well as creation. Let’s see if this new iPad Pro fits my needs.
I won’t bore you with the full technical mumbo-jumbo. There are plenty of sources discussing those in detail. You can also find the full list of technical specifications on Apple’s website.
Just know that the new iPad Pro is a beast! The Geekbench tests clearly show that the A12X Bionic chip packs quite a punch. Its performance is on par with – and in several cases exceeds – those of many modern laptop and notebook computers. In fact, Apple’s own 2018 MacBook Pros are only about 8 to 15% more powerful than these new tablets. Very impressive.
Caveat emptor, though! Because Apple pulled another one of their stunts. All new iPad Pros come with 4 GB of RAM – except for the 1 TB model which has 6 GB of RAM. Why? No one knows. But if you want the most performant iPad Pro, you have to buy 1 TB of storage, which is – unsurprisingly – also the most expensive option.
The Touch ID home button of previous iPads has been removed in favour of the buttonless Face ID authentication feature. Raise your iPad Pro, look at the camera and your device will unlock. And it works both in landscape and portrait mode. In other words, your face is now your password. Of course it is still possible to use a normal password to protect your device.
iPads already had a stellar reputation for providing premium quality screens, and the new iPad Pros do not disappoint. The screen is gorgeous, with vivid colors and a crystal clear, ultra-sharp resolution. It also features True Tone display as well as ProMotion technology. The latter allows a 120 Hz refresh rate, resulting in a very smooth screen. Scrolling feels more fluid, while animations are sharper and snappier. It’s just great.
The 2018 iPad Pro also has significantly decreased bezels – making it a very slick tablet with a near edge-to-edge screen experience. Combined with the beautiful redesign and incredible performance, I believe that Apple has truly redefined the standard for tablets.
The new iPad Pros feature a USB-C port instead of the Lightning port. As such, you can connect your iPad to external 4K screens, cameras and you can even use it to charge your iPhone. After adopting USB-C on their MacBook Pros, this is further proof of Apple’s intent to push USB-C forward as the new standard port on computing devices.
So you can now connect a variety of devices – except for the one type of peripheral everyone is asking for: external storage media. Apple still does not allows you to use your USB thumb drive or hard drive on your tablet. So you can forget about making any physical backups of your data. You’re stuck with the internal capacity of your device. This is without question a major bottleneck preventing iPads to be truly considered as a professional device. And it is certainly part of Apple’s strategy to force you towards their (paid) iCloud service.
The older iPad Pros were already well-known of having an amazing battery life. This has not changed with the new models. You will easily get 10 hours of normal use throughout the day.
A Pencil Just for Notes & Drawing…
With the new iPad Pro, Apple also released updated accessories in the form of the new Pencil 2 and the Smart Keyboard Folio.
I never had a specific need for the Pencil on an iPad. After all, Apple predominantly markets its Pencils for artists and graphic design professionals – a category I do not belong to. However, I decided to give the Pencil 2 a go after reading many favorable reviews. And I now understand why.
The Pencil is incredible, and I use it way more than I expected.
For instance, I now take all my notes on the iPad. Gone are the handwritten scraps of paper scattered around my house or at work. My notes are now digitally stored and organized on my iPad. And writing with the Pencil on the iPad Pro is quite amazing. There is no observable latency at all. It will however take a couple of days to adapt from writing on paper to writing on a glass surface. I also make annotations in PDF documents with the Pencil as well as use it as a highlighter while reading books.
…Or for More?
The Pencil 2 is now also my primary navigation device for iOS – instead of my fingers. It just feels so natural to use the Pencil to scroll and navigate through apps and documents while taking notes here and there. It’s as if I’m more connected to the content on my iPad. I am more focussed on my work as a result because this iPad Pro is such a joy to use.
Compared to the first Apple Pencil, the Pencil 2 came with some fundamental changes. For instance, pairing, storing and charging the device is now as easy as magnetically attaching it to the side of the 2018 iPad Pro. This was a long requested feature, which should have been implemented way earlier – instead of the much despised and ridiculed charging method of the first Pencil.
But there is still room for improvement. I regularly flip the Pencil 2 around and try to use the end as an eraser – like a normal pencil. It’s just such a natural and intuitive thing do. Apple missed a great opportunity with this. Especially since Microsoft Surface Pens do provide this functionality.
Smart Keyboard Folio
I also bought the Smart Keyboard Folio, which is a protective cover for your iPad with an integrated keyboard. Like the Pencil 2, it magnetically attaches to your iPad Pro and protects the front and back of your device. The keyboard is also covered with a resistant fabric. Any spills or debris are therefore easily wiped off. And it works great! The Smart Keyboard Folio provides a much more comfortable typing experience than the hated keyboard of my 2016 MacBook Pro. Even the standard macOS shortcuts work. The keys also have increased travel and pressing them rewards you with a satisfying tactile feedback. In fact, this excellent keyboard case is one of the main reasons why this new iPad Pro will likely replace my MacBook Pro as my main computing device.
Replacing a Laptop?
So can the iPad replace a traditional laptop? This question has been the subject of many forum discussions – especially on MacRumors. It’s a completely asinine discussion.
The answer is very simple.
Yes, for many people the iPad Pro can replace a laptop. And for many others, it won’t. It all depends on your own individual requirements as both a consumer and business professional. Only you can make that consideration. Don’t let anyone else dissuade you; their requirements and opinions do not have to be yours.
I have been using this 2018 iPad Pro as my primary computing device for several weeks. I even wrote this entire article on it. And I only use my MacBook Pro for the occassional tasks which are – for the time being – still a tad more comfortable on a laptop, for example:
- Image editing on Pixelmator.
- Editing and creating large spreadsheets. Having bigger screen real estate is still a bonus in such instances.
- Python coding course on Udemy.
You might have to adapt your work flow on the iPad before it can replace your traditional computer. Luckily, several third-party applications exist to assist you and even provide extra functionalities to your device.
In the end, the iPad Pro’s compact size makes it much easier and faster to use on the go when compared to the cumbersome 15-inch MacBook Pro. I actually became more productive during my train commute. And the extra space in my bag is also a nice bonus. Combined with its great performance and the unique functionality provided by the Apple Pencil, the 2018 iPad Pro effectively replaced my laptop. In fact, it also replaced my scanner as the iPad can easily scan documents and convert them into PDFs in iOS.
Pros: Incredible performance in ultra-portable chassis; amazing screen; great accessories
Cons: Constrained by its own operating system; exuberant price.
The 2018 iPad Pro is an incredibly powerful computer in a highly mobile and compact package. The benchmark results are clear; this device is a performance beast which also provides great battery life. But as is the trend with Apple lately, you will pay dearly for this tablet.
Will this iPad Pro replace my MacBook Pro as my primary computing device? Yes – for about 90%. It can be done and the potential is certainly there. But allow some time to adapt your workflow. The accessories also provide added value for me – in particular the Pencil 2 and the Smart Keyboard Folio.
There are however still issues. Although each new iPad update comes with significant advancements, Apple just isn’t quite there yet. Missing or deliberately blocked features currently prevent their iPad line of becoming an true laptop replacement and professional devices. Their own imposed iOS software restrictions severely prevent iPads of reaching their full potential. It’s high time that Apple realizes this and finally give the customers what they want.