It seems as if I was wrong. Yes, it happens to the best of us. My initial feelings about Apple's big iPad being nothing more than a Surface competitor were disolved last night as I started working on my newly adopted iPad Pro. I felt the ground shake. Pigs were flying outside my apartment window. The skies parted...okay, I'll stop. But this is really a slick device.
We arrived home from our outing at the mall- my wife, seven month old twins, and me. The kids were happy to be out of the car and back home playing with their toys, which meant it was a good time for me to check out my new toy. I cracked open my 32GB WiFi iPad Pro in Space Gray. I started to open the package containing the Apple Smart Keyboard but remembered that it does not exist yet. Guess I should open the Logitech Create Keyboard for this thing since it is real and with me.
No, I didn't buy nor am I interested in the Apple Pencil stylus. While I'm curious to see how the mechanics of writing feel on it, $100 is too much for a curiosity and sometimes hobby. Plus, like the keyboard, the pencil seems to be a myth.
Unwrapped, out of the box, and powered on- first thing that comes to mind is "holy shit! This is a big-ass iPad". I had some hands on time with a demo unit earlier in the week, but something about it being in my hands, in my house was different. It was easily the size of one of my daughters. But oh, that screen. The only word that comes to mind is immersive when you start navigating around this super iPad. Browsing the web in Safari, reading the news in Flipboard...even the freakin' App Store looked great. But was anything different? This almost feels like a new device. And then...
The Other Half
We covered the fact that the actual Apple Smart Keyboard is not real, right? Just checking. So here we go, inserting this insanely big tablet into the Logitech Create Keyboard. Wow. Not 'wow' to the keyboard itself, but this big iPad with the keyboard. This feels like a new device. This feels like the future.
Let me remind you that I've long been opposed to tablets taking the place of laptops. If you need a keyboard, buy a computer. If you want to touch the screen, get a tablet. These have been my thoughts since the beginning of the iPad in 2010 and continued until yesterday. And while I'm not going back on my words completely, I have some compelling reasons to the contrary:
- The keyboard is short. Because there is no extra depth for a trackpad, my fingers are close enough to interact with the touch screen without feeling like I'm reaching too much. That's been the problem with all of the touch-screen laptops I've tested.
- iOS 9 makes sense now. I knew a big iPad was on it's way the moment I saw the multitasking capabilities of iOS 9 on the iPad Air 2. But what previously felt like afterthoughts are now fluid and natural gestures that allow for actually working on more than one thing at a time, which has been my biggest gripe with the iPad as a production device.
- Most of the Mac keyboard shortcuts work perfectly. What's the point of having a keyboard or attempting to do the job of a laptop without proper shortcuts? All the familiar Cmd combos are intact. Cmd+Tab cycles through open apps, Cmd+C and Cmd+V copy and paste and Cmd+Tab will add a new tab in Safari. If you navigate your Mac with the keyboard more than the mouse (as I do), you'll feel extremely comfortable with this setup.
There are so many reviews online about the Logitech keyboard vs Apple's mythical one that I'll keep my two cents brief. I picked up the Logitech because the Apple store didn't have the Apple keyboard. While the Apple one keeps the iPad Pro slimmer, the Logitech case has a much better typing experience and total body protection, albeit a tad bulky.
Just because I'm having a terrific experience working on this thing, it's not perfect. Would I be a credible tech blogger if I didn't complain about something? So let's start with the main culprit, iOS
When the iPad Air 2 hit the scene almost a year ago, everyone agreed that the hardware was way overpowered for the software. That thing was (and still is) blazing fast- which is why it's still Apple's flagship mid-size pad. But iPad Pro takes overpowered to a whole new level. Right after you get through the setup process and see the lonely, spaced out apps on the giant home screen, you can see what I mean. When you fire up an app that hasn't been scaled for the Pro, you may vomit on the device. While some apps have been optimized for the new platform, the majority of the software and the OS itself look neglected.
Yes, you can finally work in two apps simultaneously, but that experience has some ways to go. Keyboard shortcuts kind-of work between apps, but falls just short. Bouncing between Safari and Messages, for example, leaves me with a keyboard that doesn't work right in either app after a few Cmd-TABS. And that is assuming the app you're using can take advantage of the split-screen mode. It's up to that app developer to get that running, so wait times may vary.
The biggest problem with Apple products (and tech in general these days) is that people act like professional morons when it comes to choosing them. This is still not a MacBook. The iPad mini still exists. This refrain may be getting old, but folks: if the iPad Pro doesn't appeal to you, do not buy it. That should take care of most of your issues with it.
For those who aren't dumb, you'll have to spend some time with the iPad Pro to make a decision. The battery seems great so far. I connected the SteelSeries Nimbus controller to it and had a great time playing Lego Batman 3. The keyboard should come in the box to get the full experience. These are my thoughts after using an iPad Pro for less than 24 hours.