The iPad Pro is nearing the end of it’s first year in service, and a successor is expected at WWDC 2017 in July. With the aging comes price cuts, and you can find decent deals on the iPad Pro at Best Buy now, as low as $499. At these lower prices, is the iPad Pro worth the money, and more importantly, does it function as a computer replacement? I’ll be reviewing the iPad Pro regarding design, performance, features, and use as a laptop.
The iPad is reminiscent of every other iPad predating it. However, it’s especially thin, and obviously, the 12.9-inch version is a behemoth next to the puny 9.7” display of the rest of the iPads. The 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro has a better camera, but also includes a camera bump, making it unstable on a flat surface, and prone to scuffing. Both iPads come in Space Grey, Silver, Gold, and the 9.7-inch version also comes in rose gold. One thing setting these iPads apart from other iPads and tablets is the fact that it houses four speakers. These speakers take up a considerable amount of space on the inside of the iPad, almost as much space as the battery in the 9.7-inch version. Apart from that, there isn’t much special regarding design compared to other iPads, but rest assured it’s the most beautiful tablet you can buy today.
Both iPads feature an A9X chip, apple’s second fastest iOS chip to date. Still, it’s quicker than the already quick iPhone 6s, and can perform any task you throw at it with ease, 3d games, photo editing, the lot. There isn’t much to fault the iPad Pro with regarding performance on iOS 10, but future updates may cause slowdown on the older chip. Now is where things change. The larger 12.9 inch iPad Pro has a faster processor clock speed than its 9.7-inch brother, but only marginally so. However, the RAM difference is huge and may have a significant impact on multitasking. The 12-inch version has a good 4GB of RAM. The 9.7-inch version has a mere 2GB of RAM, the same as the iPhone 6s. In real life testing, the speeds of both the iPads are roughly the same, with the 12 inch iPad Pro being slightly faster.
The 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro was released much earlier than it’s 9.7-inch counterpart, so while it’s marginally faster, a few hardware specs are lower, notably in the camera. While the 12.9-inch version houses an 8MP shooter, capable of shooting 1080p video, the 9.7-inch version can shoot 12MP photos and can shoot video at 4k resolution. The 9.7 inch iPad Pro also has a rear-facing flash. Either way, taking pictures with your iPad looks weird, and plain wrong, even if the 9.7 inch iPad Pro has the same camera as the iPhone 6s. The camera spec bump on the 9.7 inch also means that there’s a physical bump around the camera, like the iPhone 6s. As mentioned before, both iPads have four speakers. On both models, the speakers are stellar and provide much better performance than what you could reasonably expect from a tablet.
Can you use it as a laptop? – Hardware
If you want to use the iPad Pro as a laptop, you’ll have to purchase apple’s smart keyboard cover, it’s not cheap but you can get a pretty good deal for it by clicking here for the discounted prices on Amazon.com. However, it’s beautifully crafted, and the fabric keys provide okay feedback for day to day use and typing. As a writer, the keyboard cover is a must. However, the keyboard isn’t as clicky or as tactile as apple’s new butterfly mechanism found on the Macbook Pro’s. Because of this, I found I was typing at around 75 words per minute, as opposed to my usual 100WPM. If you want to use it as a graphics tablet, you’ll also want to buy the apple pencil, $99. Now, with all the hardware, the iPad Pro begins to look more like a laptop, except that there is no mouse input. This can be a problem if you plan to connect your iPad Pro to a monitor to make a desktop workstation – you’ll have to reach over to your iPad to interact with the screen.
Can you use it as a laptop? – Software
The software is the iPad Pro’s biggest weakness. It’s large screen, and physical keyboard means that with Windows or MacOS, it could function as a laptop, no questions asked. In fact, I probably would have bought one by now. It’s got most of the hardware you need for a desktop operating system, save for the fact that the A9X chip isn’t suited for it. This could have been easily overcome by slapping an Intel M3 chip in there, something that takes up the same amount of space. With iOS on it, the iPad Pro doesn’t fare well as a full-fledged laptop replacement. If you’re a light user, and you just want to type out documents and browse Facebook, the iPad Pro is perfect. However, there is a glaring lack of “Pro” apps for iOS. Take for example photoshop. On Mac and Windows, the full thing is available, albeit obscenely expensive. On iOS, you can buy Photoshop for $14.99, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as the desktop apps. For this reason, the iPad Pro isn’t really suited to its name. It’d fare much better as an iPad Plus. For light users, students, and maybe small shop owners, the iPad Pro is perfect, and it’s a relatively low-cost alternative to the Macbook. Also, multitasking is doable, but really only practical on the 12.9 inch iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro 9.7 at $499 plus the keyboard cover totals at $649, which isn’t that bad. I am deep in the Apple ecosystem, so bear that in mind, but give me $649, and I’d take that iPad Pro over most other $649 laptops running windows. At the low end, the iPad Pro has the edge over the windows laptops, as being the best of the mobile devices guarantees future proofing for many years, whereas being the low end of the laptops means it could be obsolete within a year or two. Things change when you take the top of the line iPad Pro 12.9 inch with 256GB of storage and the keyboard. The price of this combo is near the price of the far more capable 12-inch Macbook, and slightly less expensive than the two base models of the Surface Pro 4, all three of which can run the full versions of the pro apps which you might need. Also, both the Surface Pro 4 and MacBook work with mice, so you can connect them to an external display with no hassles. For this reason, I can’t recommend the 256GB 12.9 inch iPad Pro.
Discount Update: I would recommend checking out all the current iPad Pro Deals at Amazon.com here before pulling the trigger.
The iPad Pro is stuck in an awkward corner in the Apple ecosystem. It isn’t quite an iPad Air, but it isn’t quite a Macbook either. It’s got a similar size and similar internals to the 12 inch MacBook, but has touch, and runs iOS like an iPad Air. With price drops, the iPad is a beautiful and sensible option for light users and small business owners. However, if you’re planning to use it as a pro system, look elsewhere.