I'm as giddy as a kid in a candy store on his birthday. The long wait for the iPad Pro is finally over. But don't mistake this little write up as some kind of review. It is not. It might be some time before I can actually give it a proper review.
Truth be told, I'm not even certain I am going to keep this thing. It might well go back to the store for a full refund. The jury is still out. In fact, the jury hasn't even been called in for duty. Just think if this as a first impression.
A big iPad
In some ways, the critics are correct: It is just a big iPad. I, for one, never saw that as a bad thing, and still don't. An art canvas is just a big piece of paper. Yet we don't tend to see that as drawback for artists. By the simple expedient of increasing the size of the canvas, an artist can do more than is possible on a standard sheet of paper.
The iPad Pro is indeed a giant iPad. What that means, I have yet to fully determine. But in my brief time with it, I already know is something more than a bigger version of what has come before it. How much more we will just have to wait and see. And that is the first of many things we will have to wait for.
You're going to need some accessories
I have been using it just as it came out of the box: no cover, no keyboard, no stylus, no nothing. Let me just tell you: that is no way to use the iPad Pro. If you are going to get the most, or indeed, much of anything at all out of the iPad Pro, you are going to need to pick up some accessories.
This device is simply too big to hold for any extended period of time. For something this size, you are going to need some sort of stand just so you don't have to hold it all the time, or try to use it on its back. An Apple Smart Cover would probably be sufficient. That is not to say that you can't hold it for short sessions. It is surprisingly light for its size. But that is a little like saying that a gorilla is surprisingly light for its size.
There is also the matter of typing. How well do you touch type on glass? Whatever your skill level, it will dramatically improve on the iPad Pro. The. Onscreen keyboard is the best yet. That said, as an old school writer, I can't manage 3,000 words a day without a tactile keyboard. I could do it in a pinch, as I'm doing now. But professional touch typists will probably need a real keyboard if they are using this device for work.
Just as an example, I kept hitting the emoji key and accidentally inserting smiley faces. Since I don't use emoji when I'm working, I turned off the emoji option. Depending on your skill level, none of this will be w problem for you. Also, your accuracy greatly improves if you just slow down a little. You can make it work. But a keyboard is better.
Speaking of keyboards...
I tried the Smart Keyboard at the Apple Store. I didn't spend nearly as much time with it as I would have liked. However, I did get the gist of what it was all about. It's a good keyboard, but only that. There will be plenty of keyboards for the iPad Pro in the coming months. There is already one you can order from Logitech right now. Reviewers seem to like that one even better than the one Apple made.
The problem is that this new generation of keyboards suffer from the same problems as the previous generations: When using an external keyboard on an iOS device, autocorrect is disabled. You are stuck with nothing more than your typing and spelling skills to get you through. If Apple expects professionals to use a keyboard with a professional device, they have to stop crippling external keyboards at the OS level. This is a lesson they have yet to learn.
That said, I started typing this section on my Magic Keyboard. I don't make that many errors. And my typing speed increases by almost double. That may be worth a typo here and there. If I keep the iPad Pro, I will definitely be purchasing one of the keyboards to go along with it.
The pencil is mightier than the stylus
I have tried plenty of styluses. I have never used anything that comes close to the Apple Pencil in combination with the iPad Pro. All the points this device loses with the keyboard, it gains with the Pencil. I'm no artist. And my handwriting would put my second-grade teacher to shame. But I would buy the Apple Pencil in a heartbeat. And I would recommend it to just about anyone.
The size and weight of it is spot on for something intended to mimic an analog pencil. The tip is about as thick as a dull pencil tip. But it writes like a freshly sharpened #2. When jotting some thoughts down in the Notes app, I found the experience to be indistinguishable from using an analog pencil or pen on paper.
My workflow includes a lot of thinking about what I want to write. Organizing those thoughts in the form of notes is a big help when I bother to do it. I have tried taking handwritten notes on the iPad before. But the experience was always subpar.
There are many situations where hammering away on a keyboard is impractical, like when I am riding public transportation. But note-taking in those situations with the Apple Pencil would keep me productive. If you happen to use a stylus in your workflow, the iPad Pro combined with the Apple Pencil will change your life.
Cracks in the illusion
The iPad Pro really feels like something special. But there are many parts of the experience of using it that temper my enthusiasm. One of the first places the illusion of greatness starts to break down is the onscreen keyboard. Oh, I'm happy enough with it for the most part. But it is not the same in every app. If an app has not been updated for the iPad Pro, it will use the old keyboard that is not optimized for this device. It is giant and wide and wrong.
You might say that what I have described is less a keyboard problem and more an app developer problem. It is both. Apple knows that it will be a while for many apps to be updated. They might have done something to try and make the typing experience more consistent across the board. They didn't.
Apps are yet another place where the illusion breaks down. If you are living in one of Apple's built-in apps, the iPad Pro feels like the new kind of computing device that it is. But unoptimized apps just feel out of place. Beyond the keyboard problem, they also don't work in split-screen mode. When you are using the iPad Pro, you want every app to work in split-screen mode. That is far from the present reality.
Then, there is Safari. Here is the unpleasant truth: Not everything on a mobile browser will work the same as it does on the desktop. The mobile web and desktop web are not the same. The mobile web is riddled with limitations.
You can easily forgive those limitations on a mobile device like a smartphone or even tablet. But the iPad Pro is indistinguishable from a laptop when you are using it with a keyboard. You expect it to work like a laptop. It doesn't. And no keyboard is going to change that fact. That's when mobile Safari shows its limitations.
Final thoughts after one day of use
I like it a lot. But I can't judge it yet for good or ill. Because of some very specific things, I don't foresee this becoming a laptop replacement for me. Nor can I justify having both this and a laptop. Part of the problem is that I don't have a cover that can be used as a stand. I didn't buy one because it would be redundant once I buy the keyboard. Unfortunately, the keyboard was not available for purchase. My workflow demands a keyboard.
It is important to note that everyprofessional reviewer that got a review unit from Apple, also got a Smart Keyboard and an Apple Pencil. Their reviews would have been very different had they not been provided those peripherals.
After a day or two, I will give some thoughts on the iPad Pro when the work day is done, and playtime begins. Stay tuned...