KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Having reviewed tech for more than a decade and been a gadget freak for longer, I keep getting asked the question: “What laptop should I get?”
More and more, I end up asking back, “Are you sure you wouldn’t be better off with an iPad instead?”
I don’t like the term “laptop replacement” because the simple reality is that if you need a laptop, you just do. Spreadsheet crunching is something still better done on a laptop but for everything else? I’d argue you could live with an iPad.
The smartest thing Apple did with its tablets was accept that one iPad model wasn’t enough for everyone.
For people to whom Samsung’s Note series and Amazon’s Kindle appealed, there’s the iPad mini.
For those looking for a portable media consumption device, there’s the standard iPad. Need more power but don’t want to pay too much for it? iPad Air.
The iPad Pro is an interesting proposition. Like why this instead of a MacBook Pro? Like Microsoft’s Surface you only really tap its potential with additional, pricey accessories such as the Pencil and proprietary keyboard covers.
Still there is no question that the iPad is still the tablet to beat, which makes the iPad Pro the best tablet in the world right now.
Now, whether it’s the best tablet for you is another story.
What makes the iPad Pro so powerful is the processor: the A12Z Bionic processor makes basic laptops feel like dinosaurs in comparison.
Apple gives you four storage options ranging from 128GB to a full 1TB of space and a choice of sizes between the 11-inch model or the 12.9-inch.
Personally the 12.9-inch model is overkill for anyone who isn’t a serious artist, architect or photographer. While I preferred the older 10.5-inch form factor, the 11-inch one I’m reviewing is a lot more portable and I don’t need that much screen real estate.
You’ll also need to do without a headphone jack as there’s only one port on this tablet, which is the USB-C charging port.
Life with the iPad Pro
The times I needed to travel, I found the convenience of the iPad Pro outweighed whatever other benefits a laptop provided.
Previous models managed to last 8-10 hours depending on what I was doing with them at the time; this model is also a reliable bet for at least 10 hours, maybe a little more if you tweak brightness settings.
It’s hard not to appreciate the pretty 264 pixels per inch display, with the much-touted P3 colour gamut offering better, vibrant colour reproduction.
With the ProMotion tech that means super fast refresh rates, it’s a device that you can enjoy video with though it doesn’t support 4K resolution. The funny thing is you can shoot and edit 4K video on the iPad Pro but it’s not built to render on the machine thanks to codec issues.
The second-gen Pencil is what it is: great if you need it. With the new upcoming iPadOS with Scribble, that lets you, well, scribble in Apple’s search boxes and use handwriting more often so it becomes more useful for a wider range of users.
Now the highlight really is the new, fancy Apple Smart Keyboard Folio that comes with a USB-C port on the side so you can charge the keyboard and tablet at the same time, leaving the iPad’s one USB-C port free.
It’s a sturdy accessory that lets you adjust the display to better suit your preferred viewing angle and the keyboard is an improvement over previous Apple keyboard cases. There’s a satisfying clack that made other people comment that it really feels like a “proper” keyboard.
Another highlight has to be the included trackpad. It adds to that laptop feeling and a bonus is that your sticky fingers will make less contact with the touchscreen display.
With the existence of Files and split-screen multitasking, it’s a lot easier to do other basic tasks on the iPad Pro. The workflow on a tablet is going to be different from a laptop so the learning curve takes some getting used to.
Having a functioning trackpad does make a difference, making the transition from a laptop a tablet easier and the workflow a bit less tedious.
I’ve always found the camera on the iPad a bit perplexing. What use was it created for? Do people really take photos with an iPad?
Photos-wise they’re at most decent; there’s both a 12MP wide angle as well as a 10MP ultra wide with 2x optical zoom. You even get to shoot in panorama mode and there’s the aforementioned 4k video recording.
I wouldn’t suggest making people behind you wish you murder by blocking views by holding up an iPad. Instead it would be better off propped up on a stand—there are specialty iPad holders on the market after all as it would be too easy to drop it and smash its glass back.
Still, since you have a larger screen, it does hold the possibility for interesting panorama shots and the ease of being able to edit them directly on the iPad Pro itself.
You also get nice speakers and Apple claims “studio quality” mics. Is Apple looking to market itself to content creators such as vloggers or podcast makers? That would be an interesting niche.
Apple also touts its LIDAR tech for the camera. What is LIDAR? Short for Light Detection and Ranging, the technology uses a pulsed laser to more accurately measure ranges.
LIDAR doesn’t really add much to photo-taking; instead its application lies more in augmented reality (AR). That means the Measure app, Apple’s own little virtual ruler, will be able to quickly sense and measure objects with a higher degree of precision.
It will also allow AR apps to operate more smoothly; this means richer AR experiences.
Now what is currently lacking are more AR apps to get people excited. While IKEA and its virtual furniture placement app as well as the growing crop of education apps have managed to showcase AR’s potential there hasn’t been a killer “I must download this” AR app since, well, Pokémon GO.
Buy or no?
All things considered, there really is no reason not to recommend the iPad Pro if you need a very powerful tablet. One that can handle graphics, illustration, basic video editing, gaming and also be a top-end multimedia content machine.
Yet it’s only a true perfect setup with the (expensive!) Smart Keyboard Folio and (also expensive!) Pencil.
If power and portability are your primary concerns, the iPad Pro is a pretty great device. I’d argue there isn’t anything competing that quite measures up to its capabilities but the question you need to ask yourself is this: will it match your workflow or are you able to tinker it to fit the iPad?
The final decision should really be made by trying it out in person at your nearest Apple reseller and only then should you decide to order it online or buy one on the spot.
You can get one now in Malaysia online or at retail with prices (without accessories) starting from RM3,499.