I’ve gotten more than a few requests to review the new iPad pro, you all have spoken and have been heard. This review is because of you the readers of TLR Technology, thanks for your support.
A few weeks ago I wrote about why I felt the new iPad pro (despite me really liking the hardware) was a fail. Now that I’ve gone hands-on has my opinion changed? Well, the answer is yes, and no. Let me explain.
If you want the TLDR; version read the real world use section below.
So this is going to literally be the 3rd time that I’ve started this review. Reviewing the 2018 iPad Pro is literally the hardest review that I’ve ever had to do. I love the tech and the hardware, and as someone that doesn’t use iOS, its cool too. I still prefer android but iOS isn’t that bad really… Well sort of, all the negatives that exist with the new iPad Pro are caused by iOS. If the new iPad Pro ran Chrome OS I’d say it would just about be perfect. Read on and I’ll try to explain what I mean.
Let’s talk about the hardware first. The iPad Pro is a beautiful piece of tech, the screen is fantastic and bright. It’s thinner than my Google Pixel which is a flagship smartphone. The only port that you’ll find on the 5.9mm bezel is a single USB C port (more on this later).
You’ll notice there is no home button or fingerprint reader. Apple included face unlock using the true depth camera/ sensor that’s found on the iPhone X line of phones. It works quickly to unlock the device no matter the orientation of the iPad. If you have the camera blocked a message will appear along with an arrow pointing at the camera so that you can move your hand or whatever object is blocking its view of your face. Face unlock is brilliant and goes a long way to make the new iPad pros feel premium.
Internally the 2018 iPad Pro is a beast and that’s putting it lightly. Apple stated the iPad Pro was faster than 92% of ultrabooks and laptops on the market… And guess what it is. Benchmarks put the 2018 iPad Pro faster than last years 2017 i9 MacBook Pro, faster than the 2018 13in MacBook Pro and just slightly lower than the 2018 15in top of the line MacBook Pro. I don’t think I need to point out just how nuts that fact is. Even more impressive still is Apples claim of Xbox one S level graphics and again it appears that Apple may be telling the truth. I will say though I don’t expect any games will ever truly take full advantage of the 7 core GPU or 8 core processor.
Apple carries 2 main accessories that you may want to get more out of the new iPad Pro. The first is the Type Cover, it either cost $179 for the 11in or $199 for the 12.9 in model. This cover protects both the front and back of the iPad and unfolds to reveal a soft touch keyboard with some, but not much tactile feedback. The Type Cover also gives you 2 possible angles to view the screen when typing. I’ve used the type cover but decided not to buy it. It doesn’t seem worth the cost to me.
I decided to 3d print a tablet holder that gives me 16 possible viewing angles instead of the measly 2 the Type Cover provides. It also folds flat and can be easily kept in my backpack or out of the way when not in use. I tried multiple keyboards of various prices and sizes before deciding on the Logitech k380 keyboard. It provides more tactile feedback and easier to type on compared to the Type Cover and Logitech Key To Go keyboards that I tried. Another advantage of the k380 over the tried and true, well known Logitech 480 is its much lighter, smaller and easier to carry but you do lose the slot that would hold the tablet, thus the reason for 3d printed stand.
*** As a side note the 3d printed stand and k380 keyboard only cost me about $35 versus the $179 Apple Type Cover. It also offers a better typing experience, more viewing angles with the stand, and the keyboard stays in my bag and out of the way when I want to use the iPad as …well an iPad. The type cover disables the keyboard when its folded out of the way, but your hands will touch the keyboard which is why I’m not a fan of using 2 in 1’s as tablets. Do note that my solution isn’t lap-able, though I suspect that most people wouldn’t want to type with the iPad in their lap even with Apples Type Cover.
The next accessory that you might want and it’s fantastic is the new Apple Pencil. Its great, and it’s worlds better than the Surface and Google Pixel pen. It feels more natural to hold in the hand because its about the same size as a number 2 pencil. Apple pulled this feat off by making the pencil rechargeable vs needing a battery which would require the pencil to be larger similar to the surface and pixel pens. While I’m on the subject of battery the Apple pencil chargers wireless when its connected via magnets to the side of the iPad Pro… GENIUS!! Another brilliant feature is one side of the pencil is flat and features a touch area that can be used to swap tools or access other features depending on the app with a simple double-tap of your finger. The new Apple pencil cost $129. If you’re an artist then its a no brainer, if you need a more precise method of touch for scrolling thru music or video timelines etc… then again it’s a no-brainer.
So I guess you’re wondering if it’s so good why did I say this review was so hard, well let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the review as they say.
Real World Use
Ok, let me just jump into it. I love the hardware but iOS completely neuteres the user experience, especially on a “Pro” device.
Problem number one! The first problem is that USB C port. Apple wisely chose the port of the future but decided to not let it connect with most of the things that you’d want to. On a pro level device, you cannot plug up a hard drive or USB stick and access the files system. On what planet is this ok on a device compared to laptops that start at $800. You cannot connect to a printer, a gamepad, and any number of other things that you’d expect. You can, however, connect A drive and access pictures or video. So if your a creative professional that only needs access to pictures or video then the iPad Pro is certainly for you. The rest of us not so much, at least right now, unless you’re happy working around the lack of a proper file system/ browser.
Problem number two! The next major letdown is the complete lack of mouse or trackpad support. You can plug a mouse into the USB C or try to connect with Bluetooth and the results are the same. iOS does not have mouse or trackpad support… again WHAT THA!!!! Apple on a pro device. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have to reach up and try to move the cursor through a paragraph or highlight text when typing. Is this what Apple really considers a pro machine in 2018. Windows and Googles Chrome OS support touch AND trackpad/mouse support on their devices. I do want to also say that for the record, both Chrome OS and Windows devices can be had hundreds of dollars less and despite being less powerful devices are ultimately more functional for professionals and casual users alike with file browsers and mouse support.
Problem number three!What might be the largest problem for most people especially “professional users” is the complete lack of a full web browser. The iPad Pro comes with Apples Safari web browser which is a mobile browser. I even installed the Google Chrome web browser that’s available in the App Store, but Apple saw fit to nerf it as well. When you click on go to desktop version of a website in chrome it does nothing on most pages or goes to the mobile app in the case of YouTube. I cannot express just how big of a deal this is. Not having a full web browser means that you can’t run many web apps. Let’s take something that a professional user might want to do if your a user of G suite or Googles productivity suite you’d likely go to docs.google.com, or sheets.google.com or slides.google.com etc… Well that it doesn’t work, at all… It brings you to the website that suggest that you download the app. That is absolutely crazy. What if you want the power of the new iPad Pro and can’t or don’t want to spend more than the base 64gb model, why take up valuable storage space on apps that you should be able to access in the browser. Dive.google.com will take you to your google drive but its a mobile version.
While its impossible to test every web app out there I can tell you that the mobile browser will hold you back on way too many websites to be on a “Pro device”. YouTube is another example of a website that a creative professional might use. Again the experience is sub-par an won’t allow access to the YouTube studio or analytics.
If you’re like me you’ll be missing browser extensions. Yep, that’s not available here either. No price comparison with the Amazon extension. No grammatical help with Grammarly, no shortcut to save pages or pictures to Google drive or Pocket, No extension to use Tunnel Bear VPN and the list goes on. Even Microsoft announced this week that it was ditching its Edge browser to build one based on chromium. Again Microsoft and Google Chrome OS tablet devices seem better suited to professional use and cost less.
SUMMING IT UP
I heard this example from one of the Podcast on the TWIT network. They said the iPad Pro is a Porsche in Canada in the Winter and that’s a great way to word it.
I’m not telling you to NOT buy the new iPad Pro, I’m loving mine for what it is. The new 2018 iPad Pro is a Sexy, stylish, high tech, powerful beast. It’s a Ferrari, it’s a luxury item that turns heads, it gets looks and people that know what it admires it. BUT… It’s still like owning a supercar in the north where it snows. There are some days you can take it out and it shines, but most of the time it will just be parked in a garage looking good, bringing smiles to your face when you look at it. It’s not practical, you’d likely drive a more appropriate truck with the appropriate tires ( windows device) to get around in your daily life. If you wanted something more practical you’d probably buy an SUV ( Google Chrome OS device) something that gives you more flexibility.
I hope I didn’t lose you guys. Simply put the iPad is a beautiful luxury device that can do amazing things when the condition is right, but it’s not the most practical device for most people even professionals. A Windows device is a more practical and useful device on a daily bases, and if you wanted a device that blends the functionality of windows with the light weight of a mobile os, then a Chrome OS device like the new Pixel Slate are better choices that start at cheaper prices.
What the iPad does well like sketching with the Apple Pencil no one else can touch. Editing 4K video with LumaFusion or Adobe Rush is a breeze and can be done lounging on the beach with the iPad. The suite of available apps for music production are top notch. It so hard and so easy to hate the new iPad. That’s why I started off saying this is the hardest review that I’ve done to date. Everything emotionally says that if you can, you should own one of the 2018 iPad Pro, but everything logical in me says that you should at least wait until iOS 13 comes out next year.
The rumors are strong and have even been stated by the higher-ups in Apple that iOS 12 was supposed to contain many features that would have made the new iPad more functional. Those updates were pushed back to ensure that iOS 12 was polished and stable, the iPad features such as a full file browser and the ability to split screen multiple instances of the same app will arrive with iOS 13. If Apple follows its normal timeline that will be in September 2019 or 10 months after release.
I’ll close with this, if you produce music or are an artist the new iPad Pro is a no-brainer, stop what you’re doing right now and go get one. You won’t look back. If you just need something to surf the web and watch Netflix etc, get the 2018 regular NON PRO iPad. It’s normally $359 and is actually on sale for around $250 right (12-9-2018) now from various place. If you can afford it and just want one, buy it… again if you have the income and just want it buy it. It should only get better with time. If your a Professional, need a device soon and you don’t fit into the music or graphic design creator bubble skip it. Get something else, A Surface Pro 6 or the Pixel Slate i5 version. You’ll be happier and more efficient with your workload. The last group that should buy one is a person that has the older larger last gen Pro, if you have one and are used to working around the ios limitations go get one, it is way more powerful and though you won’t likely notice it now, the new iPad Pro with the A12 X bionic will be much more future proof than the older pro model. So sell the older pro model while it has some value and get a new Pro.
I know this review is releasing later than I intended, and later than you readers deserved, but you guys and girls are the reason for it. I hope It can help you make a reasonable purchasing decision. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I’ll respond the best that I can.