Apple iPad Pro 2018 review: powerful tablet that offers glimpse at future of computing
- The new Pro is designed to cater to creatives and gadget geeks who want a look at the future of computing
- The 11-inch display is priced at US$799, and may not be favoured by regular desktop users
Although Apple still make laptops, it’s become apparent that the company believes the iPad Pro, with its touch screen and streamlined mobile operating system, is the portable computer of the future.
After using the 2018 iPad Pro for a week as a work machine, I’m sold on Apple’s vision. But not everyone – perhaps most people – will be ready to make the jump yet.
Hardware and design
The 2018 model is the first design overhaul of the iPad since the tablet’s debut eight years ago. To cut to the chase: it is the iPad getting the iPhone X treatment. Gone are most of the bezels and the home button, replaced instead with Apple’s Face ID scanning system.
The slimmer bezels allow the 12.9-inch display to fit into a much smaller form factor than older iPad Pros. There’s an even more compact 11-inch version.
The display is still LCD instead of the superior OLED used in Apple’s top phones, but this screen is about as flawless as an LCD panel can get. And its refresh rate can get up to 120Hz when needed for noticeably smoother visuals.
The entire device loses the curvatures of previous iPads, opting for a more blocky design that resembles the iPhone 4. It feels less like a home gadget than a heavy-duty machine.
Software and features
And a well-oiled machine this is: the 2018 iPad Pro runs on Apple’s A12X Bionic chip, which is even more powerful than the A12 in recently released iPhones. In benchmark scores, the Pro stomps all over mobile handsets and even beats some of Apple’s own MacBook laptops running Intel’s i7 processor.
The new Pro, following in the footsteps of the recent MacBooks, also makes the jump to USB-C for charging and data transfer. This now leaves the iPhone as the only Apple device left using the outdated and underpowered Lightning port.
A 12-megapixel main camera and a 7-megapixel front-facing camera round out the iPad’s hardware package.
But to get full use of the iPad Pro, you really have to invest in a keyboard and Apple’s new Pencil 2, both sold separately. The new Pencil has mostly the same tech as the first one but it now charges wirelessly when placed on top of the iPad Pro’s magnetic strip. It’s a significant design upgrade over the first Pencil which needed to be plugged into the old Pro’s lightning port to charge.
For keyboards, there will be no shortage of third party options, but for now Apple has a Smart Keyboard folio cover, and it works fine. The keys offer solid travel, two angles to prop up the device, and protects its front and back when closed.
The swipe-heavy navigation system introduced with the iPhone X makes its way to the Pro. It’s slightly more confusing to learn, because the “swipe up to go home” action is similar to the action required to bring up the app dock, but after a day most should get the hang of it.
Performance and battery life
Using this iPad Pro to game or watch films is obviously a highly enjoyable experience. The GPU is so powerful it can pump out console-level graphics without frame rate stutters, and the four speakers pump out loud and rich sounds. But using a machine this powerful for just Netflix or Fortnite would be a waste.
As mentioned, I tested this iPad Pro as a work computer replacement and for the most part it did the job. As a writer and multimedia content producer, my workflow consists entirely of typing words, surfing the web, and editing video clips, and the Pro handled everything with ease.
The ability to run two apps side-by-side has opened up the iPad for me as a writing machine. I can have Google Docs open on one side and a website or video on the other, and the machine doesn’t miss a beat.
LumaFusion (one of the best video editing apps for those who are not quite editing at a professional level) runs smoothly on the new Pro, allowing me to scrub through the timeline of 4K videos smoothly and speedily. This iPad is so powerful it can output a 4K/30fps video in just about real time, meaning a five minute video takes about the same time to finish processing.
Editing videos is one instance where I think Apple’s vision of the future comes in. Using my finger (or the Pencil 2) to scrub through a timeline, make cuts, and move clips around feels more natural and immersive than the old way of using a mouse. Think about any depiction of computer use in futuristic sci-fi films: the characters aren’t using a mouse, they’re grabbing things with their hands and moving them around on a holographic screen. The iPad Pro’s hands-on approach evokes that feeling.
Battery life is excellent too: it’ll definitely last a full eight hour work day if you’re just typing. Even gaming and watching films for two hours only drains about 30 per cent of the battery.
But the iPad Pro still cannot replace a computer for everybody. Apple’s stubborn restrictions with iOS means the new Pro still doesn’t have a true file system: you cannot just save a file from Gmail and store it in a local directory for viewing later. And in true Apple fashion, the USB-C port does not recognise external storage, so you can’t just plug in a hard drive or a USB-C thumb stick and move data around.
To me, the iPad Pro, as it is, appeals to creatives – artists, designers, writers, video editors – but not so much regular desk jockeys.
The Pencil 2, is excellent and easily the best mainstream stylus on the market. Sensitivity and pressure points are best in-class and makes for a great drawing tool. It’s a shame Apple decided to make the older Pencil not compatible with this new iPad Pro, forcing users to make a new purchase.
The new iPad Pro is not cheap, as anyone remotely familiar with Apple products should know by now. But with Apple products the price almost doesn’t matter. The iPad Pro is one of the most powerful and best looking tablet out there, designed to cater to creatives and gadget geeks who want a glimpse at the future of computing. And this is a group that’s willing to pay.
Dimensions: 280.6mm x 214.mm x 5.9mm (12.9-inch); 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm (11-inch)
Weight: 631 grams (12.9-inch) 468 grams
Display: 12.9-inch, 2048 x 2732 LCD; 11-inch, 1668 X 2388 LCD
OS version reviewed: iOS 12.1
Processor: Apple A12X Bionic
Cameras: 12-megapixel, 7-megapixel front-facing
M emory: 64/256/512GB/1TB; 6GB RAM
Price: from HK$6,399