Apple iPad Pro review: Is it really the laptop of the future?
Apple pitches the iPad Pro as the next coming of the laptop, but the reality is a hybrid device with appealing features as well as significant drawbacks.
When Apple introduced the original iPad, it was widely derided as being "just a big iPod Touch". But it managed to light up the stagnant tablet market at the time. Apple’s hoping that the same kind of consumer adoption will occur with the iPad Pro, its first tablet that sits squarely in the professional space.
Here are the specifications for the iPad Pro across all three available models:
|Apple||iPad Pro 32GB||iPad Pro 128GB||iPad Pro 128GB Wi-Fi+Cellular|
|Screen size||12.9 inches||12.9 inches||12.9 inches|
|Processor||64-bit A9X||64-bit A9X||64-bit A9X|
|Battery||38.5Wh lithium-ion||38.5Wh lithium-ion||38.5Wh lithium-ion|
Upsides: Why you’d want the iPad Pro
- Good for focused work: Because the iPad Pro can’t multitask beyond two apps at once, it really does make you focus on the task at hand.
- Makes sense of iOS multitasking: Relatively few iOS devices support the full range of iOS multitasking, but the iPad Pro’s larger display makes a lot more sense than, say, the smaller display on the 4th-generation iPad Mini.
- Apple Pencil is excellent: Apple has genuinely managed to make a stylus that lives up to its billing, feeling all but identical to a pencil in the hand. If you’re a graphic artist who traditionally works this way, it could be an ideal match
- Superb battery life: Apple rates the battery in the iPad Pro as good for up to 10 hours of web surfing via Wi-Fi, which would see it match most laptops. You could push it even harder than that; we experimentally ran the Geekbench 3 mobile battery test through the iPad Pro, where it recorded a genuinely excellent runtime of 16:45:40. While that’s a mobile test rather than a laptop test, it does point to its ability to run all day without any power problems.
- Good performance: We didn’t get an update to the iPad Air line this year, so if you want Apple’s most powerful tablet, the iPad Pro is most definitely it. Running off Apple’s A9X processor, the iPad Pro managed to zip through every app task we set it. The comparison isn’t absolute against what are just smartphones, but here’s how the iPad Pro stacks up against a range of premium devices in the Geekbench 3 benchmark:
Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better) Apple iPad Pro 3234 5499 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626 Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597 Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569 Apple iPhone 6S 2540 4410 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391 Sony Xperia Z5 1358 4134 LG G4 1190 3313 Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198
- Excellent speakers: A few years back, the rumour mill was ablaze with the idea that Apple would produce a flat-panel TV. Those rumours never came true, but the iPad Pro is the next best thing thanks to its embedded speakers that deliver solid sound output for video editing work, or even just for watching movies.
- Smart keyboard is genuinely smart: There’s no lack of available tablet keyboards, although few at this stage match the precise size of the iPad Pro. Apple’s take involves a flat keyboard with surprisingly good key travel and a simple folding design that keeps the keyboard bulk to a minimum.
Downsides: Why you might not want the iPad Pro
- Size isn’t everything: Everyone who sees the iPad Pro will comment on how huge it is. It’s like a law. A large screen gives you lots of screen real estate, but it can also feel downright bulky, especially in cases where you might usually rest a tablet on your lap or use it in bed.
- Limited multitasking: The iPad Pro can run multiple apps simultaneously, as long as your definition of multiple never extends beyond two direct apps, or three if you count picture-in-picture as an additional app.
- App ecosystem needs improvement: Apple’s position in the tablet market is quite good compared to the largely Android competition. However, once you pitch an iOS device against either Mac OS or Windows alternatives in the productivity space, it quickly becomes apparent that the selection of productivity apps is limited. You can work on an iPad Pro, but it’s definitely not ideal.
- Keyboard and Pencil are pricey extras: The iPad Pro already commands a premium price, but you really need to include the Pencil and Keyboard to get the most out of it. The problem there is that you’re then looking at an additional $269 for the keyboard and $165 for the Pencil.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
With both Pencil and Smart Keyboard, those who work in artistic fields would be the best productivity match for the iPad Pro. For everyone else, it’s an adequate productivity tool, but one that’s limited when compared to a regular laptop, no matter if you sit on the PC or Mac side of the fence. At the iPad Pro's asking price, you have a lot of choices in the laptop space.
In tablet terms, the closest comparable device is Apple’s own iPad Air 2, although it’s running an older and slower processor than the iPad Pro. In laptop terms, consider the stylish MacBook or Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pro 4.
Where can I get it?
Apple sells the iPad Pro through its own stores, online and through numerous other retailers.
The iPad Pro is also available on contract if you don’t fancy laying down the asking price upfront from both Telstra and Optus.