First review of iPad Pro

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The new Apple iPad Pro started shipping today – Nov 11th. We have yet to see one but there are a number of early reviews:

Here is one from Canada:

I’ve had the iPad 2 for years now. It was great for surfing the Web, watching Netflix and writing emails at home and on-the-go — until I got a smartphone with a bigger screen.

My tablet has been collecting dust and goes weeks without charging. I haven’t felt an urge to buy a new one — and I’m not alone. According to market research firm IDC, global tablet shipments fell 12.6 per cent year-over-year in the third quarter, its fourth straight quarter of declines.

But the iPad Pro may just help change that.

Apple Inc. is hoping to make iPads interesting again with its new 12.9-inch tablet beast, which is designed with an optional Apple Pencil and snap-in Smart Keyboard. It’s the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s most productive and sophisticated iPad yet — but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.


With the added functionality of a stylus, the iPad Pro offers graphic designers, artists and the like an essential tool that no other iPad has offered before.

The Apple Pencil nearly works right out of the box, and is easily paired by plugging it into the Lightning port at the bottom of iPad Pro. Unplug it, and you’re ready to draw. The Microsoft Surface’s pen, by comparison, requires a few extra steps, including going into settings and selecting the stylus from a list of Bluetooth devices.

Using Apple Pencil is pretty close to replicating the experience of illustrating or writing on paper. The iPad Pro palm-rejection technology feels perfect, meaning that when you’re using the pencil, your resting hand won’t interfere with drawing on-screen. A great example of how the iPad Pro can differentiate touch is in Apple Notes, where you can create a ruler by pressing two fingers onto the screen, and then use the pencil to draw a straight line at the same time.
The pencil is also pressure-sensitive, enabling you to embolden handwriting or darken colours as you draw. You can create larger strokes and shade drawings by tilting the pencil’s tip on an angle. Apple says the iPad Pro scans for the Pencil at 240 times per second, and when I drew a few sketches in apps like Adobe Sketch and Apple Notes, I was delightfully surprised at how intuitive it was and how well it detected even the subtlest changes in stroke pressure.

That may suit an amateur artist like me (and that’s being generous), but I’m doubtful that the iPad Pro will replace professional artists’ PCs, or even paper and physical tools. Much will depend on whether apps become sophisticated enough for iPad Pro and its pencil, but there are also a few things that digital artists might not like.

Unlike some other styli, Apple Pencil doesn’t have a built-in “eraser” that you can just flip around on the screen, like a real pencil. Artists may feel slowed down by having to first select an eraser function on-screen, then using either their finger or pencil’s tip to erase.

Also, some digital artists like to use their keyboard for shortcut commands with one hand, and illustrating with the stylus in the other. You can’t do that with Apple’s new Smart Keyboard, which only works when it’s attached to iPad Pro, and in effect becomes an iPad stand. Unless you like to draw on an upright iPad rather than laid flat, this could get annoying.

For now, the Pro seems to be more of an additional tool in artists’ arsenal than a replacement device, perhaps for on-the-go mock-ups or enhancing artists’ works.

But what benefit does the pencil bring to consumers who don’t need to draw?

There are a few. If a contractor sent me a PDF blueprint drawing of proposed home renovations, I can draw directly on the PDF with my own suggestions and email it back. While I was planning a story for work, I used the iPad Pro to not only type notes, but also intersperse my written ideas with sketches of brainstorm bubbles (yep, I still use those).


There’s also a lot to love about the iPad Pro’s Retina display. With its 2,732-by-2,048 resolution and 5.6 million pixels, it has the highest-resolution among all of Apple’s mobile devices. Images and video look crisp and colours are lifelike, providing a rich media experience.

The screen size is about the same as most magazines, and I loved how beautiful some articles looked on iPad Pro. This is where news and magazine apps designers can indulge in big photography, large text and multimedia.

One of the biggest pains I’ve had with previous iPads is volume. It’s especially evident when my family gets together and we FaceTime my cousin, and I can’t hear what she’s saying through the iPad because we’re all competing to talk to her.

With the iPad Pro, it wasn’t a problem because Apple has packed four speakers onto each corner of this tablet. The sound quality was great, and we didn’t struggle to hear my cousin on our most recent call — despite everyone talking at once and even the sound of the dishwasher running in the background.
Laura Pedersen/National PostThe iPad Pro in “split view” with the Notes app on the left, and the Safari web browser next to it. The iPad Air 2’s height (on the right) is nearly the same as iPad Pro’s width.
The device has stereo-like sound, and adjusts the orientation of bass and high frequencies depending on whether you hold it in portrait or landscape mode — great for TV shows and movies. Obviously, it doesn’t provide the same output as my TV’s soundbar, but it worked for watching a show on iPad Pro placed on a TV stand while I sat a few feet away on my couch.

But back to the work stuff. I found the iPad Pro especially useful with iOS 9’s multitasking features. While the screen is as wide as the iPad Air is tall, in landscape mode the display is expansive enough to open two full-size iPad apps, side by side, in split view.

This allowed me to write in one app, while reading a relevant Web article in the Safari browser next to it. Someone who wants to draw might be able to sketch in one app, while looking at a reference photo.

Sounds a lot like how you can change programs’ window sizes on a PC, or work on two different monitors at work, right? In fact, the iPad Pro made me feel like I was using my 13-inch laptop so much that I found myself wanting to grab for a mouse or trackpad at times.

Like the pencil, the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard works right out of the box, which is its biggest advantage over third-party iPad keyboards. You don’t have to fumble with switches, charging or Bluetooth pairing. Built into a smart cover, the iPad Pro keyboard attaches to a three-contact metal-strip on the side of iPad Pro, allowing for power and data transfer. Since the keyboard is basically a thicker Smart Cover, it added little bulk to the slim and elegant 0.27-inch, nearly 1.6-pound device.


The new iPad Pro — which is available to order online today and will arrive in stores later this week — starts at $1,049 in Canada for the 32GB with WiFI model, or $1,429 for the 128GB with WiFi and cellular model. But that’s not where the cost ends. For the accessories that differentiate the iPad Pro and add functions to it, you’ll need to shell out another $129 for the pencil and $229 for the keyboard.

That brings your bill to more than $1,400 if you get the 32GB iPad Pro, pencil and keyboard.

If storage is a concern, compare that to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, which ranges between 128GB up to 256GB, and its models start at $1,179. Oh, and did I mention that the pen is included?

Cost isn’t the only reason not to buy the iPad Pro, though. If you’re looking for a tablet to watch Netflix, write simple emails and Internet-browsing, this probably isn’t for you. Want to read an e-book on the subway or in bed? Get an iPad Mini, or a Kobo e-reader.

This is a big device with a powerful 64-bit A9X chip designed for work — and will likely live or die depending on the enterprise and design apps coming down the iPad pipeline. So, you also might want to wait for developers to maximize apps for iPad XL.

Another kink that Apple may need to work out? The pencil is designed with much thought on its connection with the tablet device right down to the pixel, but the plastic accessory has a huge problem: There’s just nowhere to put it.

For a hardware leader like Apple, why didn’t they think of where you’ll store your $129 pencil? I frequently worried about losing it. Samsung designed a slot in the Galaxy Note for its stylus, while app developer Fifty Three offers its own iPad pencil that’s flat and magnetizes to the Smart Cover.

What some tablet users will like about the iPad Pro is the possibility of working more effectively on a big device that’s more portable than most laptops. More importantly, I found it provided an extra layer of tablet functions — like drawing, writing more quickly on a physical keyboard vs. a touchscreen one — that also encouraged me to indulge in my creative side.

Is the iPad Pro a slick, powerful and cool tablet that adds a little more fun to your work? Yes. But will this $1,400 device become a game-changing essential in your daily work? There’s no guarantee there.

And that’s what tablet shoppers will have to figure out.

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