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Review: iPad Pro … weighty but induces productivity

BT Calgary | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2015

By Mike Yawney

When I first laid eyes on the iPad Pro at its unveiling in San Francisco back in September, it took me by surprise. I knew from the keynote the iPad Pro would be big, but I didn’t realize just how big it would be until I saw it with my own eyes.

This past week that same feeling hit me again when I pulled the new iPad Pro out of its box. “It’s huge,” I muttered to myself under my breath. A week later I still think this to myself every time I pull it out of my work bag.

The iPad Pro is the largest iPad Apple has ever created. The screen is a whopping 12.9-inches, a far cry from the iPad Air 2 (9.7-inches). In fact, it has 78 per cent more screen area than the iPad Air 2. Place it side-by-side and you’ll see what I mean. The iPad Pro simply dwarfs the iPad Air 2, making it look more like an iPad Mini.

There’s no avoiding it, bigger does mean heavier. In this case the iPad Pro weighs 1.57 pounds. That’s about a half pound heavier than the iPad Air 2, and almost a pound heavier than the iPad Mini 4. It sounds heavy for a tablet yes, but it does’t quite put it into laptop territory. It’s still almost a pound lighter than an 11-inch Macbook Air.

iPad Pro  MIKE YAWNEY/CITYNEWS

The weight does take some getting used to. I found myself resting the iPad Pro on tables, or using the cover to stand it up. While holding it I did find it easier to rest it on my chest or stomach, or simply prop it up on my lap.

iPad Pro  MIKE YAWNEY/CITYNEWS

The Retina display is stunning. It has 5.6 million pixels, giving it 2732-by-2048 resolution, the highest resolution of any iOS device to date. Text is crisp and clean, while photos and videos are vibrant. All the apps I tried took full advantage of the new screen size without issue. Magazines look incredible. There’s something about reading a digital magazine on such a majestic screen. Even surfing the web takes on a different experience. Games and movies become much more immersive, and part of that is due to the improved sound.

iPad Pro  MIKE YAWNEY/CITYNEWS

Apple has built four speakers into the new iPad Pro, taking the audio to the next level. Two speakers on the top act like tweeters, playing the mid-range and high frequencies, while the bottom act more like sub-woofers. The interesting thing to note is the speakers change roles as you rotate the device. The top speakers always take on the higher frequencies no matter which way you flip the iPad.

Typically I listen to movies and tv shows on my iPad with headphones, as I have always been disappointed by the audio quality of the iPad’s built-in dual speakers. That changed with the iPad Pro. The sound is so impressive, you will WANT to listen to your videos and movies through the speakers.

And yes, bigger means LOUDER. It has four times the volume of any previous iPad.

When it comes to performance, the iPad Pro is fast. Sporting Apple’s latest A9X chip, the new iPad Pro has nearly double the CPU and graphics performance of the iPad Air 2.

To put it to the test I created a 33 second 4K video in iMovie on both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro. The iPad Air 2 took 46.62 seconds to export then copy the movie to my library. The iPad Pro shaved 10 seconds of the export and copy time, clocking in at 36.23 seconds.

Okay, 10 seconds may not seem like a lot, so I decided to try a much bigger file to see the difference. In my second attempt I created a 12 minute 4K video in iMovie. This time the iPad Pro took 14 minutes and 35 seconds to export and copy the file, while there iPad Air 2 took 16 minutes and 46 seconds to complete the same task. This time the difference was more than two minutes.

Looking at the processing power of the new iPad Pro, it’s clear Apple is trying very much to make the iPad Pro a productivity powerhouse, much like a laptop. So it should come as no surprise, Apple has created a new accessory specifically for the iPad Pro called the Smart Keyboard.

iPad Pro keyboard MIKE YAWNEY/CITYNEWS

Part protective cover, part keyboard, this new accessory makes it much easier to type on your iPad. The Smart Keyboard attaches to your iPad via a new Smart Connector, found on the side of your iPad Pro. It’s interesting to note the Smart Keyboard does not require batteries, it charges and exchanges data with the iPad Pro via the smart connector. You also don’t have to pair it. Once it’s attached it begins to work. Simple as that.

The keyboard is made from a custom woven fabric, almost like a finely woven canvas. There are no gaps between keys so no need to worry about spills or crumbs. Apple claims the material is also resistant to stains, though I didn’t have the heart to spill coffee or Kool-Aid on mine to test out that theory.

Typing on the Smart Keyboard does take some getting used to. The keys are a bit more shallow than a traditional Mac, almost closer to the new MacBook. The biggest issue for me however wasn’t typing but the lack of a trackpad. While the Smart Keyboard makes the iPad Pro feel like a laptop, I struggled every time I wanted to move the curser while typing. My mind thought I was using a laptop…yet I had to touch the screen to navigate instead of using a mouse or trackpad. It messes with your mind a bit.

iPad Pro  MIKE YAWNEY/CITYNEWS

The keyboard also adds some bulk to the iPad once it’s folded … and a bit of weight. In fact, I found the weight of the keyboard would often cause the cover to unfold and open up at times when I was carrying it in my hands.

To help people navigate without a mouse, Apple has also created an additional accessory for the iPad Pro, one which was the butt of a number of jokes on social media when it was first announced back in September. Yes, the Apple Pencil.

It is easy to write-off Apple Pencil as a simple stylus, but once you use it you begin to realize the potential it holds.

Pairing is simple. The Apple Pencil has a lightning connector beneath it’s rear cap. Plug it in and your iPad pairs with the Pencil via Bluetooth. It’s simple. This is also how you charge the pencil. Fifteen seconds will give the pencil enough juice to use 30 minutes. Leave it charging for 30 minutes and you’ll get 12 hours of use.

Apple Pencil can be used to navigate through webpages and menus, or used within apps to unleash your creativity.

iPad Pro pencil MIKE YAWNEY/CITYNEWS

When it comes to drawing or sketching, the pencil is pressure sensitive.  The harder you press down the darker the line will be. It also detects angles, allowing you to shade and create artistic strokes just as you were using a real pencil. The iPad Pro can detect the difference between your hand and the pencil, so you can rest your wrist on the screen without interfering with your drawing.

It’s important to note Apple Pencil only works with the iPad Pro. I tried to using it on other iPads and it isn’t recognized. There is no way to pair it via Bluetooth.

I did find it strange Apple didn’t come up with a way to store the pencil. There is no clip, like the stylus used on Microsoft’s Surface tablet, so it becomes a bit of a liability if one was to misplace it.

You certainly don’t need Apple Pencil to use the iPad Pro, but the sheer sensitivity and accuracy it provides while drawing is useful. There is no lag, and the precision is remarkable. While I will simply use it to doodle, or sign documents, it’s pretty clear that in the right hands, with the right apps, it holds serious potential.

I spent the past week using both accessories on my iPad Pro and I was happy to discover neither the Smart Keyboard or the Apple Pencil seemed to affect the battery life. Apple claims you will get 10 hours of use surfing the web, playing videos or music. I found that to be quite true. However I did find it took a bit longer to charge than my iPad Air 2.

All the other bells and whistles from traditional iPads can be found on the iPad Pro. Front and rear cameras are the same as the iPad Air 2, as is Touch ID and Siri. Since iPad Pro comes with iOS 9.1 pre-installed, Siri is always on, all you have to do is say “Hey Siri” for access.

After using the iPad Pro for the past week I can tell you the boost in productivity for me was significant. I was no longer scared to type lengthy emails or write articles on my iPad, in fact, much of this review was typed on the iPad Pro.

Multi-tasking became a dream. It’s much easier to tackle more than one job when you have 78 per cent more screen. Using an app at half screen is equivalent to the screen size on an iPad Mini, more than large enough to get work done. But the iPad Pro’s greatest asset could also be it’s biggest drawback.

The size of the iPad Pro is intimidating, as is the price. Starting at $1,049, it’s a large investment to make on a single device. Like the iPhone 6s Plus, there will some who say it’s simply too big, even without trying it out. When you become accustomed to devices that are so sleek and thin like the iPad Air, it feels foreign to graduate to something this big, and that may be Apple’s biggest hurdle. Sure the iPad Pro has serious potential, but it won’t be the iPad for everyone.

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