Apple makes a big play in their advertising how “your next computer will be an iPad”. They point to all the funky things you can do with it (Apple Pencil sold separately), how it syncs to the cloud and you can get the Office suite for it. For the past couple of months I’ve been using a 12.9 inch iPad Pro and I think I’m ready to draw a conclusion.
A competent, basic laptop
Most of the time it more than does the job. Accessing email, documents, shared drives and project apps is as easy as any other machine. Sometimes it’s easier because a touch screen is simpler than wiggling a mouse around or using a touchpad. The screen is clear and bright, the keyboard OK for much of the time and the Pencil makes note taking a breeze.
The way I work has changed
When it was time to document a process or user flow you used to find me sat at my desk, hunched over a trackpad trying to move shapes around on a screen. Now you’ll find me sat back in my chair, iPad resting on a crossed leg, pencil moving around quickly. OmniGraffle is a breeze to use, and I quickly shuffle flows and charts around on screen under the direct guidance of the Apple Pencil.
My sketches have also become something of a legend in their own lunchtime. When there’s a problem my colleagues and I will discuss it, I’ll sketch a rough solution and then email the image around for comment. A couple of times we’ve bypassed formal documentation in favour of a few of my pictures put onto a PowerPoint file.
These subtle changes have led to a more fluid and intuitive working style. My work rate (already pretty high) has increased simply because I’m cutting out steps in having to translate notes and ideas from one style to another.
It isn’t all good news
There are a few problems with the machine. The “magic keyboard” is a bit noisy and while I like the mechanical clicking of the keys I’m not entirely sure my colleagues do. When I’m at my desk I prefer to use a more ergonomics-friendly separate monitor, which is a pain as it doesn’t support dual-screens properly (I have the same image on both, which is a distraction). One key app – Sketch – is missing from the iPad and there isn’t an alternative I can use.
That said, I don’t need another laptop on the move
A few times I’ve spent days on client sites without my MacBook Air, relying entirely on the iPad Pro. It’s worked fine and I haven’t found myself wishing I had my other machine with me. Sure, I make subtle adjustments though these are barely noticeable.
Overall I’d say the iPad Pro – particularly the largest 12.9 inch model – is a good replacement for a laptop if you’re on the move. Yes, it is expensive, but I think the way it has allowed me to become more fluid and dynamic in how I create and collaborate has more than made up for it.