Aluminum Godzilla: The iPad Pro 12.9 inch Review
Gigantic, But Not a Big Deal
Other than “wow, a big iPad”, there’s not a lot to say about the iPad Pro. For a few years now, iPads have been iPads: thin, light, pretty, fast, and so on. The iPad Pro is a lot like every other iPad, except it’s so big it feels like using two, smaller iPads at once. What I really want to talk about, and what I suspect is more interesting to hear about, is what it’s like to use a Pro. Or rather, what it’s like to live the big life.
The steady beep is just out of reach, but I stretch and swipe until my iPad is convinced I’m awake. With the shake of a newborn calf, I convince the Pro to join me in bed. I check to see if I’ve got any important messages when twack, the Pro falls flat on my face. I grumble to myself and ask Siri to set another alarm to wake me up for real this time I promise in a few minutes.
This time I sit up, legs crossed, and read tech articles for a few minutes. I am a total addict? It’s hard to break away and start my day: every picture and paragraph seems tangible on the huge screen until I almost forget that there’s anything to do but ensure every unread link turns purple.
It’s time to shower, and I wish I could use the Pro’s speakers to play music for me, but I’m worried that humidity will damage it, so I don’t. It’s 2016, and it’s about time that tech without moving parts should be waterproofed. A rich, steaming cup of unsweetened Folgers coffee keeps me company in the living room, but I’m back on my smartphone for now. The smaller iPad’s are good in this kind of scenario, but the Pro is too big and too valuable to risk.
The greatest luxury of being a grad student is that no one expects you to do anything before noon. I take the opportunity to work on my karaoke game, one Taylor Swift song at a time. Here, the iPad Pro makes for a great lyric and sheet music display, but not a better one than a reasonably-sized tablet. However, I imagine an actual pianist (and not someone plucking out a melody) would appreciate the extra screen size.
The third-greatest luxury of grad life is that I have a lot of daily reading. I download a PDF onto the Pro and can see it at life-size without any zooming out; it’s a trick the 9.7-inch iPads can’t pull off. The third-worst part of being a grad student is that I’m expected to actually understand what I’ve read, and I find that being able to annotate as a I go is extremely helpful. I whip out the Apple Pencil and go to town on a humanities essay. I use Microsoft’s OneNote, which lets me use pen/marker/highlighters to mark up a PDF without much trouble. Reading and marking up documents on a laptop is a frustrating experience, and using real paper seems wasteful for my type of work. Here, as an (expensive) reading experience, I think the iPad Pro is without peer.
I need to make a quick mockup for class, and Adobe Comp CC has swiftly become a minor lifesaver. It’s just so easy to use throw rectangles and fake text together for a quick wireframe. If I need something less official-looking, Adobe Draw has the right mix of free sketching and pre-made components. Confession: I’ve never learned how to use the full version of Adobe Illustrator, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on very much.
I haven’t used my iPad for a while today, because programming is more or less a no-go unless one is working remotely. Still, it’s about to get a workout during a three hour long class. Why did I sign up for this again? I pull out my annotated essay and try to follow along with the classroom discussion, but I won’t lie and say my attention is completely undivided. I doodle a lot (I’d like to think I could out-doodle most fifth graders). As such, I’ve not had much success ever revisiting notes in a real notebook, and taking notes on a laptop never really worked for me. But with OneNote, I can keep everything organized just the way I like it and keep all the flexibility of pen and paper. I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, but OneNote is my favorite iPad app since YouTube.
The war is over, and school has won. I slump into a couch and browse through YouTube videos on my Pro. It’s screen looks much nicer than my TV’s, and the sound is rich enough that I don’t feel as though I’m missing out. The big size is great for keeping YouTube and Facebook Messenger open at the same time, but I can’t help but wonder if the experience is drastically better than on a new MacBook with Retina Display.
If I’m feeling especially creative, I’ll do an (awful) sketch with the Apple Pencil, or I’ll wax poetic about a piece of technology. Typing on the Pro ranks ahead of many laptops (and the Microsoft Surface), but a little bit behind a MacBook. The keys on the Apple Smart Keyboard have a delightful sense of feedback to them, and I love the fabric-y texture. I do have to make sure that my palms have something to rest on when I type, or else my wrist get sore from supporting the weight of my hands on their own. I’ve also become an expert is navigating through text with only a keyboard to help me. Option, CMD, and CTRL are my new best friends for editing word documents without a trackpad.
Actually, it’s in my living room that the iPad Pro feels just right. In bed it’s just too big, and on a desk it can’t compete with a real-deal iMac. But it’s about perfect in this middle ground. iOS is downright pleasant to use, in part because every time I log into an OS X computer there’s a half-dozen things that need to be updated. The iPad cannot do everything a laptop can do, but that’s it’s greatest feature. The old it just works cliche feels true, like a how A Christmas Story becomes magical every 25th of December.
I plug in my iPad Pro for the night, not because it’s particularly low on battery (it ends most days with 30% left), but because it takes forever (5 hours) to fully charge. This time, as I clamber into bed, I make sure my smartphone is with me for the
Using an iPad Pro is just like using an iPad: it’s a blank slate to read, write, and watch. I haven’t magically liberated myself from Mac OS X, but then again I don’t want to be liberated. Macs are really, really great for programming (and Photoshopping and so on). The iPad Pro is just really, really great at everything else I do.
3 “wow, that is a really big iPad”s out of 4 (3/4)