IPad Pro 12.9 review. So much power, to undermine the world of notebooks. But still some limitations in usability that keep it confined – even in the high end – in the tablet world. But it is probably only the anticipation of a great change of paradigm.
“Everyone today uses a smartphone and a laptop. The question is: is there room in the middle for a new category of devices? Something between the laptop and the smartphone? To create a new category of products, this must be far better in performing some key tasks, better than a laptop and better than a smartphone. What kind of homework? Surf the web, manage e-mail, share photos, and watch videos, listen to music, play games and read e-books. If there must be a third category of devices, it must be better at doing these things than a laptop and a smartphone, otherwise there is no reason.
Some people think that they are netbooks, but the problem is that netbooks are not better at all; they are slow, have low-quality displays and we run poorer PC software. They are just cheap laptops. We do not think they are the third category. But we have something that we think it is and we would like to show it to you today for the first time, and we called it iPad. ”
With these words on January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs presents the iPad to the world. Almost 9 years have passed, which technologically speaking is a geological era. Today we have frightening computational powers in very small chips. Sensors of all kinds. The ubiquitous connectivity may not yet be fully realized, but the times when a Wi-Fi network was begging for modern diviners. It is natural that the technological evolution goes to suggest new applicative possibilities for a device, the iPad in fact, which originally was born as a means to consume content with very limited creative possibilities.
It is for this reason that Apple presented, in 2016, the iPad Proline: tablet with which it was possible not only to enjoy but also to produce. Not only to consume but also to create. A will that is carried out more vigorously by the new generation of iPad Pro, presented last October at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the Howard Gillman Opera House in New York. Tim Cook’s words are eloquent:
“We announce a completely new iPad pro, which will push even further what can be done on the iPad or on any computer. These are the most exciting iPads we’ve ever created, and they do not just change the way you think of the iPad, but also the way you think of computers.”
In short, ambition is clear: to bring iPad Pro to become a substitute for a portable PC. Or maybe the substitute for the laptop PC.
Apple tries to do this by proposing this year two models, 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro – the latter the subject of the review -, which have the same hardware characteristics and differentiate only for the size of the screen and, consequently, due to the overall dimensions and weight.
From the point of view of design and aesthetics, the new iPad pro is based, obviously, on the previous generation model. The new tablet, however, goes to make a synthesis of aesthetic choices seen here and there in other products of Apple. In particular, the profiles of the device, with an aluminum edge and regular thickness, recall the stylistic features of the iPhone 4, while on the back the protruding camera recalls what is seen in the most recent examples of the iPhone family.
For this new model Apple, however, chooses to use narrower frames: on the one hand they help to make the device more compact (in fact, even with the use of a 12.9-inch screen, the overall dimensions are reduced by 25% compared to the previous 12.9-inch iPad Pro) but on the other hand they slightly change the user experience. Although, in fact, Apple has done a job all in all good in the management of touch commands, and particularly in detecting accidental touches along the edge, the narrower frame sometimes goes to cause unwanted contacts that are not always recognized as such. Previously the wider frames, although aesthetically less pleasant, allowed to hold the tablet in a more comfortable way, without covering the screen.
For the first time in the iPad family, the Home button disappears: as already happened on iPhone with the introduction of iPhone X, now everything is governed by a gesture on the screen. For the rest, the “physical” commands remain the ones we have always been used to the volume control on the side and screen lock on the “upper” side.
We put the quotes because in reality the new iPad Pro – unlike what happened previously – can be used in any orientation since there is, in fact, a High-Low Right-Left. For simplicity and habit, however, we will tend to consider the “bass” the one in which the connector is located and “high” the one with the lock screen button and with the True Depth camera placed in the frame.
True Depth camera which translates into the implementation of the FaceID unlocking system, already used on the iPhone, and which in this declination can operate with the device oriented in any way. If during the unlocking phase the user is inadvertently covering the camera with his hands, an arrow will appear on the screen indicating where the sensor is located.
Another important revolution is the introduction of the USB-C connector instead of the Lightning connector. It is a great novelty for the iPad world, since for the first time since Apple brought its tablets to the market; it is finally possible to have a standard and non-proprietary connector. This choice paves the way for numerous possibilities, such as being able to directly connect various peripherals directly to the tablet, including cameras, external monitors, musical instruments, storage units, and even expansion docks.
Backhand of the coin? Who is a user of old iPad models and intends to switch to the new iPad Pro will be able to safely throw away the various Lightning adapters (or dock, if you come from a really dated model) purchased over the years and possibly get new ones? Moreover, given the presence of a single physical connector, the user will be forced to choose what to connect to their tablet: even a simple pair of headphones will have to play with other devices… or with the power supply for charging. A limitation that can be overcome with the purchase of (other) multi-port adapters, including Apple and third-party proposals.
Together with the new iPad Pro Apple also offers a new version of the Apple Pencil, which overcomes some of the small practical problems that arose with the previous generation device. First of all, the stylus is now equipped with a magnetic coupling system to the edge of the iPad, so that it is less difficult to lose it. Even the charging system is magnetic (previously the pen had a Lightning connector on the back, protected by a cap that could be easily lost too) so that ensuring the Pencil all’iPad this is always automatically loaded, so you can always ready to use.
The shape of Apple Pencil is slightly different: previously the section was perfectly round, an aspect that facilitated a little too much the role of the stylus on surfaces even slightly inclined and consequent falls from the work surface. The new Apple Pencil instead has a flattened part that facilitates the grip, limits the rolling, and to facilitate the hooking to the iPad. But there’s more: the side of the stylus has been made sensitive to touch, so that with a double tap of the finger you can change tool (from pencil to rubber, for example), in a way that can be customized according to the application you are currently using.
It does not change the ability to record pressure and inclination with respect to the screen, characteristics that together with the low latency decree the high precision and response of use that has characterized Apple Pencil since its debut. Important: the new Apple Pencil (which is sold separately) is only compatible with the new iPad Pro and, conversely, the previous generation Apple Pencil is not compatible with the new iPad Pro.
Another accessory (accessory, in fact: also sold separately) that helps iPad Pro to take the place of a laptop is the Smart Keyboard Folio which, as the name suggests, is a cover with physical keyboard. The cover adheres perfectly to iPad thanks to a system of numerous magnets placed all around the edge of the tablet and the cover itself, so that they can always guarantee a precise alignment.
The cover, in the part of the keyboard, is provided with two slots that allow you to orient the tablet with two different angles, so you can better adapt to different work surfaces (there is indeed a certain difference to use the tablet on your legs or on a table of an airplane, compared to a normal desk). Also, in this case, iPad Pro is bound to one of the two grooves very strongly by magnets.
The keyboard is very convincing, of regular size (it covers the same area of the keyboard of a 13-inch MacBook Air and includes the keys shift, command, option, control and all the accented and special characters) and with keys from the reduced run but from the excellent response to use. Undoubtedly a much easier way to write texts than is possible with the virtual keyboard, as improved in the last iterations of the operating system.
Apple calls it Liquid Retina Display and it is a screen in 4: 3 format, with a resolution of 2732×2048 pixels and a density of 264 pixels per inch. The display has rounded corners, thus drawing inspiration from the latest models of the iPhone family: being an LCD panel the processing to round the edges is the same applied to the display of the iPhone XR. The measurements to the colorimeter show an excellent yield, adherent (in fact, it goes even further) to the P3 color profile which has now become the norm on Apple devices.
The display supports True Tone, which allows you to adjust the color temperature to that of ambient light, for a viewing experience as homogeneous as possible (this is a characteristic to be read in particular in key Augmented Reality: we will be able to see virtual objects on screen with exactly the same light as if they were real in the environment in which we find ourselves). Recall also that the display is able to operate at a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, but the ProMotion technology takes care of managing the refresh rate depending on the content on the screen: in the case of a static image, such as the screen home with its icons, the screen will operate at 30Hz, pushing at 120Hz only in the case of video, animations or scrolling the contents on the screen to avoid, or reduce as much as possible, the ghosting effect.
Under the body of the new iPad pro, we find the Apple A12X Bionic SoC. The name clearly suggests that it is a “steroid” version of A12 Bionic that we have already met within the iPhone Xs, Xs Max and Xr. In this declination, we always have a 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture, but it has eight total cores instead of the six on the “for iPhone” version of A12 Bionic. Four cores, called Vortex, are intended for high-performance tasks, while the four cores called Tempest are high-efficiency cores for “every day” operations. Apple A12X Bionic also integrates a seven-core GPU and the M12 coprocessor dedicated to the management and processing of data from motion sensors. Directly from the little brother A12 comes the “Next-generation Neural Engine”
The performance of this iPad Pro is undoubtedly remarkable for such a device. From this point of view the paradigm shift is remarkable, since we are dealing with a tablet device able to express a computational power comparable without embarrassment to that of a portable system (in tests a 15-inch MacBook Pro in mid-2017, with Intel Core i7-7820HQ processor and AMD Radeon Pro 560 GPU), reflecting the excellent work done by Apple but also the incredible progress that technological evolution has made in recent years. The operating autonomy tests, on the other hand, recorded around 10 hours of operation, in line with what was declared by Apple. The full recharge, carried out with the supplied power supply, requires more than 3 hours.
Obviously, the most pressing question to try to give an answer in the analysis of this new iPad pro is: can it really replace a notebook? Because, just as obviously, the computing power alone is not enough if then usability, versatility, and practicality betray expectations. Let’s start by saying that Apple has really tried not to neglect anything and to put the user in the conditions to make the best possible use not only offered by the hardware of iPad Pro, but also by iOS 12. And yet it is the operating system Apple’s mobile, despite the improvements introduced in recent years, which still represents the bottleneck of this new alternative to the desktop/notebook.
What improvements do we talk about? Summary for those who disinterested in the latest iterations of iOS in its declination for the iPad. First of all the split view and floating view modes, which also allow iPad Pro to use two side-by-side apps and to have a small overlay screen of a third app, thus partially recovering a “multi-window” usage model. Another useful implementation is the drag & drop function that allows you, when operating in split view, to drag elements (photos, text, documents) from one app to another, as well as the ploy that allows the virtual keyboard, with a pressure of two fingers, to become an extremely precise trackpad in case there is to be a selection of text.
Not least the file management: it is not a file system in all respects, but it allows you to access, copy and transfer files and documents on iPad and iPad more easily than the first versions of the device when the file transfer was heavily limited and limited to some apps and their operating environment. From this point of view, we feel to affirm that iOS is substantially well matured compared to the beginning, expanding its flexibility.
The biggest “but” to its use in “desktop” sauce is the management mode of the app in multitasking: it is necessary to always switch from the dock or the task manager to switch from one application to another, or scroll with 4 fingers on the screen (to look for the app that we are interested in using at the moment). It’s a not particularly comfortable way to operate, especially for those who are used to working with a traditional desktop operating system where (whether it is Windows with its application bar or Mac with its dock) with a glance you can see active applications and easily switch from one to another with a simple click. Even the transition from the mouse to the touch interactions alone may not be so immediate, or in any case not necessarily more functional in the use of certain applications.
In this regard, the pointing operations are however facilitated by the use of Apple Pencil that is quite convenient and practical for simple tasks such as the launch of the app, the opening of links, drag, and drop, etc. But there are some operations, such as gestures with the dock for the opening of the task manager, which can not be performed with the pencil and the old finger must be used. Clearly, it would be ungrateful to entrust Apple Pencil only to pointing operations since its real strength is precisely the ability to return a truly immediate response, which allows you to create an extremely precise and modular trait when you use it as a tool graphic production. In this, the new Apple Pencil is really excellent,
Even the cover / keyboard helps to bring iPad Pro closer to an operating model more similar to that of notebook systems, since the cover itself serves as a support and allows you to physically set the tablet as if it were a normal convertible system, so you can support it on a plane or on the legs and making it easier to type the text.
In short, this iPad Pro can have the ability to replace a notebook in many uses, from the most basic to the most sophisticated. But in the current state of things we believe that it is not yet able to replace it in its entirety and remain at least for now and as effective, only an additional tool to traditional ones.
|iPad Pro 11 “||€ 899.00||€ 1.069,00||€ 1.289.00||€ 1,729.00|
|iPad Pro 12.9 “||€ 1,199.00||€ 1.289.00||€ 1,509.00||€ 1,949.00|
|Cellular version: + € 170.00 for all models|
It is clear that much will also be influenced by the panorama of the apps that will be available in the immediate future: in this sense, the Photoshop demo that Adobe showed at the presentation event suggests that the margins to create apps much more suitable for ‘use on a tool like iPad pro are really wide. But it will be necessary, for a more reliable response, to wait for the availability on the market of the app and the opinions of professionals. It should also be noted that the operations of sharing files and documents between different devices and this iPad Pro can be a bit ‘cumbersome species when you move outside the Apple ecosystem:
So many potentials, then, but still some limitation: we have already written before, between the operating system and the only physical connector (unless you rely on a completely wireless and particularly cloud-centric ecosystem, but someone will inevitably find themselves dealing with a set of pre-existing / legacy devices), which actually still harness the possibilities for using this device.
And one can not overlook the fact that a use in the sauce desktop/notebook cannot be separated from the cover/keyboard and also from Apple Pencil, which is sold separately, for a device, iPad Pro, which certainly has a negligible cost: the entry price, for the 12.9-inch version and only 64GB of storage space, it is 1119 euros that reach 1949 euros for the 1TB model (probably required for some categories of professionals) that grow up to 2119 euros for the version with cellular connectivity. Together with pen and cover/keyboard, you can get to spend, in the “full optional” arrangement 2,473.00 Euro. More approachable – at least in the entry version – the 11-inch model, which, however, discounts a smaller screen size.
And in front of an outlay on these orders of magnitude, a professional cannot fail to deal with an entrepreneurial logic. Purchasing a device such as iPad Pro is an investment, and as such it must allow the professional to work at his best and if possible better than accomplished with what has been used previously.
In this phase, however, we believe that iPad Pro can only represent a passing element, and only for the bravest ones a turning point: it is undeniable that the new generations are much more accustomed to an operating environment made of app and touch interactions than the traditional environment in which previous generations have moved and that the future of work and professional activities will have to move on this new path, but we are still at the dawn of a change of paradigm that Apple tries, as it usually does, to anticipate, perhaps even with some force. Habits, however, are hard to die, and the boundary between investment and bet is very thin.
Probably only some types of professionals, such as illustrators and graphic designers, will find it very practical and more productive to work in mobility with iPad Pro (which in fact can be considered a tablet that integrates a complete operating system) than any other tool offered today from the market. But for others, it could be difficult and complex to rely exclusively on an instrument of this type, especially if you have to deal with a pre-existing endowment (both hardware and software) set on the traditional model of use of desktops and notebooks. In short, iPad Pro, as far as we are concerned, remains a tablet, certainly peculiar and light years away from other proposals on the market. But the path to undermining the land of notebooks still needs some steps.