Apple’s latest iPad Pro could be a replacement for your old laptop
With an updated iOS, faster processing speed, and a larger, enhanced touchscreen, this tablet might be the closest tablet to a laptop beater yet
Last year I reviewed Apple’s new iPad Pro and found that it was not quite the laptop replacement that I had hoped for. But with the new tablet that Apple announced earlier this month at the Worldwide Developers Conference, a laptop-beating tablet seems closer than ever, especially once iOS 11 is made available in the autumn.
I tested the device for several days, on the road and at home. Apple lent me a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which is the newest size – up from 9.7 inches, which has been the basic screen size for the iPad since it was introduced. There is also a refreshed 12.9-inch iPad Pro. But the smaller iPad Pro, the company said, has become a customer favourite.
The bulk of the iPad’s upgrade comes from the improvements to the screen. The increase in size is noticeable, particularly when watching video, but it hasn’t really added much to the device’s weight.
The larger screen makes typing easier, though for serious work you will still want to use the keyboard cover or an external keyboard. In fact, as with the previous generation of the iPad Pro, the tablet is best when you use its accessories such as Apple’s US$160 smart keyboard case and the US$99 Pencil, if you’re looking to sketch.
The screen is the key component of the tablet, of course. Apple has introduced something it calls ProMotion, which optimises your iPad’s screen to display whatever you’re looking at. Text is sharper and video playback is smoother. Scrolling through a page feels less floaty, with a less noticeable blur in text as you race by and a more immediate clarity when you stop.
With the addition of an Apple Pencil, the improvements are a little more noticeable. As a person who still takes a lot of notes with paper and ink, I’m always interested when companies claim their tech can replace my ever-growing pile of notebooks. With this iPad Pro, Apple comes closer than ever to simulating that experience. It’s more than adequate for jotting down notes during a meeting, or for writing down a reminder.
The new size is certainly a plus if you’re considering using the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. For creative work and taking notes, you’ll notice less latency than before, which is saying something.
But reviewing the iPad Pro as a device for real work would only be telling half the story. The real changes to the iPad Pro will come with the release of iOS 11 in the autumn.
Based on Apple’s demonstrations, the software update will make the iPad much more like a laptop, using Apple’s familiar file structure plus a number of multitasking features that will make it seem more robust.
With iOS 11 it will be possible to run up to four apps on the screen at a time – two side-by-side, one floating, and picture-in-picture.
This may make the proposition more confusing if you’ve been considering something light like an MacBook Air (which hasn’t been updated in years) against the tablet. If you’re looking for something portable that you can watch videos on or use to write documents and emails, then it comes down to whether you want to be able to use a touchscreen or not.
Overall, if you have a first-generation iPad Pro and are happy with it, you may not find a compelling reason to upgrade to a new one. But if you’re looking for a light device to replace your laptop, the iPad Pro will soon be able to fill that gap.