iPad Pro: Impressive, But Not a Laptop Replacement for Dr. Mac

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves|
Episode #160


I’ve been testing a decked out 128GB iPad Pro with the new Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard for a couple of months.

The new iPad Pro is big, beautiful, and available in three flavors (colors).
Photo courtesy of Apple, Inc.

With its svelte profile (just over a quarter of an inch thick), high-performance A9X processor, huge 12.9-inch Retina display, and optional Smart Keyboard, it could easily be considered as an alternative to a new laptop. And many people I’ve talked to are considering it as just that. So, for as long as I’ve had it I’ve been picking it up instead of my usual on-the-go computing device —an 11-inch MacBook Air.

The first big test was spending a week in Florida with my family. I considered leaving the MacBook Air behind and relying solely on the iPad Pro for my computing needs, but I chickened out just before leaving for the airport and brought ‘em both.

For a few days I didn’t touch the MacBook, but when it came time to write and submit a column, I spent an hour struggling with it on the iPad before I switched to the MacBook Air to finish and submit it in record time.

The problem was, in order to write the column I needed to refer to multiple web pages as well as email messages and notes stored in Dropbox and Evernote, all while writing the column in Pages. Therein lies the rub. While the iPad is as good as (or almost as good as) a notebook at many tasks, it falls apart at multitasking. On my Mac, I can arrange the windows from multiple applications to make it easy to bounce from one program to another; on the iPad, it was an exercise in frustration, swiping back and forth and trying to get Split View and Slide Over to work the way I wanted them to.

See, iOS doesn’t support overlapping, movable, resizable windows from multiple apps (and is unlikely to ever support them). So an iPad is unlikely to ever replace a Mac in my workflow.   

This experience led me to a theory about what kind of people will be happy using an iPad — Pro or otherwise — as their main computing device: If you’re typically the kind of user who opens an application and uses it exclusively for a long while, the iPad may be just the ticket and you may never need another laptop or desktop computer. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and prefer to multitask by keeping a dozen or more programs running and switching between them with great regularity, you’re not a good candidate for ditching your laptop and using an iPad as your main computing device.

On my Mac, everything I need is one click away… (click to enlarge)

Then, of course, there’s my preference for working with multiple displays—another thing I don’t foresee the iPad supporting.

OFF TOPIC: On the other hand, the iPad Pro (or almost any iPad for that matter) makes an excellent external monitor for my MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. When I’m anywhere but my desk, I usually use a very cool app called Duet Display to connect my iPad to my MacBook Air or Pro and use it as an external display. It works with most iPads and Macs, and is currently on sale for $7.99 (I think I paid $15) in the App Store; whatever I paid, it was worth every penny. If you have an iPad and like the idea of having an extra display for your Mac, check out the video.

And now, we return to our regularly scheduled programming…

In spite of not being a suitable MacBook Air replacement, at least not for me, I have to tell you that I liked the iPad Pro a lot. Enough, in fact, that a Pro will probably be the next iPad I buy.

That being said, I’m out of space, so you’ll have to tune in next week to find out what I thought of actually using an iPad Pro.

And that’s all he wrote…