The problem with iPad reviews is that they’re written by professional reviewers: tech journalists and bloggers. Those people usually have a very specific workflow — centered around doing research, writing, and publishing.
This is why you hear so much about iPad potentially replacing your PC a.k.a. #iPadOnly. Sure, for that kind of work, iPad will be great. The screen may be a little cramped at times, but for the most part you’ll be fine.
But chances are, you are a different kind of professional.
Side note: this review entirely skips hardware features, build quality, iOS 11 overview, and all that basic stuff. You’ve probably seen that a million times already. Let me just sum it up for you and move on to more interesting stuff. Hardware is best in class, iOS 11 is buggier than usual, but the ecosystem as a whole is still nicer to work with compared to Windows/Android (especially for the tablet form factor.)
I’ve been using the 10.5” iPad Pro since it’s release in June. While it has pretty much conquered my personal computing life, it’s not a device I can use for my work in a serious capacity.
Here’s why. If your work requires you having multiple windows of the same app open, or even just switching between windows quickly and repeatedly, iPad just wont’t cut it. If your profession asks for using some specialized software (for me that’s a statistics program), you’re also out of luck.
I work in the market research industry and I often have multiple Excel spreadsheets open along with multiple Word docs. Plus some email and/or notes on the side for reference. And sometimes I’m also running statistical analyses in SPSS. Obviously, I work using two monitors all the time.
iPad just doesn’t fit this kind of workflow. I still need a desktop PC for that and that’s my rig at the office.
When I leave the office, though, that’s a whole other story.
My personal computing use cases include:
- Task and project management
- Light email (like in tens per day, as compared to hundreds at work)
- Learning to code
- Calendar and time management
- Small-scale (single-sheet) Excel and calculations
- Photo editing
- Writing and publishing
Leisure and entertainment:
- Social media
- Movies / Netflix / YouTube
And it performs perfectly at those. It’s the device I enjoy using the most, easily on the top of my list (along with the AirPods). It’s a mobile, capable computer I can carry with me at all times. Unparalleled convenience. This alone makes it a game-changer.
Planning my days and projects in Things 3 for iPad is a joy. Putting items on my calendar is easy with Fantastical 2 for iPad and its natural language processing. Learning to code in Swift Playgrounds is fun (but what’s next? I can’t code apps on the iPad!) Doing simple on-the-fly calculations is a breeze with Soulver. Keeping track of my personal budget is the one thing mobile Microsoft Excel *cough* excels at *cough*. My notes live in Drafts (briefly) or in Evernote (permanently). Managing multiple email accounts is okay with Spark (I miss Microsoft Outlook’s rules for automatic email processing, though). Adobe Lightroom CC for iPad is more than enough for editing my travel photos. I feel comfortable with my writing workflow: starting as a mind map in MindNode 5, then becoming a draft in iA Writer, and eventually getting published on Medium or WordPress (or remain as an unpublished txt file on iCloud/Dropbox forever).
And the content consumption part — I bet you already know iPad is perfect for that.
I still use iPad at work, but to a very limited extent. Can take meeting notes (way better than on a laptop) and sync them immediately with my PC workstation via Microsoft OneNote. Can also check my work email and calendar on the go. Even make some quick tweaks to my Excel sheets or apply quick fixes to survey design.
I could probably do some task/project management on the iPad as well — if only my work machine was a Mac. With Windows, I don’t have a good task management app to sync my iPad entries to.
But that’s about it. Notes and quick fixes. Not real work.
A naked iPad will only get you so far. You can access its full potential only with the Pencil and a keyboard.
Smart Cover. Basic screen protection. I don’t need to protect the back — got some stickers over there.
Apple Pencil. Indispensable. I’m no artist, so I use the Pencil mostly for interacting with the interface and occasionally for taking handwritten notes.
Microsoft Foldable Keyboard. This is the most important accessory of all. Firstly, it’s a keyboard, and a keyboard is a necessity with an iPad. Secondly, it’s super-mobile.
It may seem awkward at first, but it’s a great solution for writing on the go (I use it at home as well — kind of to force myself to learn the key layout faster). The design may be weird but I still find it less awkward than Apple’s Smart Keyboard (with all the gymnastics required to set it up and fold it back again).
Super light, doesn’t take much space when folded. Writing experience is okay — once you get used to the layout. But you’ll probably still be slower than when using your standard keyboard. A fair trade-off for this kind of mobility.
Another great thing — it can switch between two devices at a key press. So I can switch between my iPad and my iPhone seamlessly, effectively creating a mobile two-screen workspace.
It also helps that it’s not permanently attached to the iPad. This lets me create a comfortable workspace for myself. Very convenient. But obviously, that makes it useless on a lap. You’ll need a hard surface to set it up.
Recommendations and conclusions
I’m far from #iPadOnly. Most likely will never get there. But for my personal use, I’m definitely “iPad primarily”. Since I’ve got this tablet I use my laptop maybe once a week, if not less frequently.
It’s hard to be 100% efficient with an iPad. You’ll still need to use elaborate workarounds for things that seem trivial on the desktop. You’ll see limitations and problems that you’d think should have been solved long ago.
This still is a device for people willing to make sacrifices and live with its limitations. For some, iPad might be perfect as a form of a self-imposed limitation: without the full power of desktop multitasking it’s harder to get distracted. Smaller screen almost forces you to work with one app at a time and makes you focus. ADD people rejoice (remember to keep your iPad in do-not-disturb mode at all times, though!)
What’s more, limitations spark creativity. When I encounter any obstacles, I find it fun to look for workarounds and test them. But I know that’s a niche kind of enjoyment.
So if you’re considering an iPad (Pro) and feel comfortable with the aforementioned caveats, then you’ll be fine. If your workflow consists of mostly writing, then even better. But if you’re looking for a full power of a desktop, then look elsewhere.