Tech Review: iPad Pro

We started using the iPad Pro last year, shortly after it was released. We wanted to use this new device the moment it was available, but had to wait one (long, agonizing) week until we could get our hands on it, and then another four (longer, more agonizing) weeks until a Pencil found its way to us. Since then, we’ve used the iPad Pro almost daily. Clients and friends ask the same question in one way or another: What is the iPad Pro good for? Or for our English-degreed counterparts: For what is the iPad Pro good?

First and foremost, the iPad Pro is good for looking at things. It’s big. Very big. With a 12.9” (diagonal) screen, the screen real estate feels as endless as the lingering snow after Boulder’s last snowstorm. The graphics are sharp, photos and videos look clean and precise due to the retina display, and gaming apps seem more fun to play on the expanded screen size.

Better movies and gaming might not be enough to compel purchase, but we think the larger screen size offers benefits to two audiences in particular: the creative community and business users. For creatives, the additional real estate provides the opportunity to express ideas more fully on a larger canvas. For business users, the screen size closely replicates that of an Apple laptop screen, so productivity apps (e.g. iWork apps) feel comfortable and familiar. The screen is also close in size to a standard sheet of paper. Business users who have accumulated a large library of forms in that 8.5”x11” size may be able to represent those forms on an iPad with very few layout changes. Similarly, we have built many iPad apps to enable field data collection, and can see how the increased size could be a win there as well.

With the iPad Pro, Apple also introduced the Pencil. We think the combination of the iPad Pro and the Pencil makes the iPad Pro good for something else – going completely paperless. For real. Prior to the Pencil, we would still use a regular pencil and paper for things like app interface designs and sketches, as well as to scribble quick notes. It wasn’t that we hadn’t tried other styluses in the past, including the impressive pencil from Fiftythree. But with every prior stylus/tablet combination, there was a slight but noticeable delay between tapping the screen and a mark being recorded.

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With the Pencil, the tapping and the marking are instantaneous. In addition, the Pencil has pressure sensitivity built in and it can detect the angle at which it’s being held. The Pencil truly feels more like pen and paper than any digital solution we’ve used before. Enhancing this experience further is the updated Apple Notes app – you can integrate typed notes with handwritten notes, sketches and images, all in the same Notes document.

2016 Feb SmartKeyboard

The other accessory that Apple introduced with the iPad Pro is the Smart Keyboard. While some say there’s no point in buying an iPad Pro without the keyboard, we disagree. The internal keyboard that slides up on the screen works for the typing we need to complete on the device. However, if you are looking for the iPad Pro to replace your laptop or you will do a lot of typing on the device, you may appreciate the Smart Keyboard.

So, what it is the iPad Pro good for? We’d say creating, sketching, drawing, and letting your creative juices flow on all that screen space. We’d also give it top marks for reducing the paper in your life through the combination of the tablet and the Pencil. Likewise for digital data collection in the field or other business settings. And hey, if you can squeeze in a little game play and movie watching, it’s good for that too.

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