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iPad Pro review roundup: Can Apple’s biggest tablet replace your laptop?

Published Nov 11th, 2015 7:50AM EST
Apple iPad Pro Review Roundup

Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a bold declaration that once you owned an iPad Pro, you’d never need a traditional PC ever again. The reviews are now in on the iPad Pro and they try to answer the burning question of whether Apple’s monstrous tablet really is a laptop “killer.”

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The Verge’s Walt Mossberg flatly says that it isn’t even though he’s a huge fan of iPads in general. Among other things, he says the device’s keyboard can’t replicate the PC experience:

Apple’s keyboard is actually cleverly made, with flat keys that depend, for their minimal travel, on a special springy fabric that covers the whole thing, which means the keys don’t seem like individual units, but behave that way. I got used to typing on it, on a flat surface. But I just kept looking for shortcut keys that weren’t there. And I kept wishing for a trackpad, so I didn’t have to keep reaching for the screen. […]

For me — a person already using his laptop a lot less in favor of the iPad — the Pro is just not likely to eliminate my laptop use entirely. And I say that knowing that, for instance, there will be better keyboard covers and cases. There already is one: I prefer the the Logitech Create I used to write part of this column. But it still doesn’t work nearly as well in my lap as a MacBook Air, partly because, like Apple’s keyboard, it only has one angle.

But, even if the iPad Pro doesn’t fully replace a laptop, it does have a killer app: graphics, in all its forms, when used with the optional $99 Apple Pencil.

Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff, meanwhile, had the opposite take and said that the iPad Pro is good enough to be your primary productivity device:

If you think the iPad Pro is simply about a bigger iPad, you’re missing the point. Apple’s iPad Pro is a new front in the quest to grow the productivity and business market for the iPad. Consumers are likely a secondary consideration. The iPad Pro does everything a smaller iPad can do, but its size, especially when paired with the Smart keyboard and Pencil, offers benefits tiny tablets can only dream of.

I honestly like the iPad Pro, but not because I have so much screen real-estate. I like it because I could use it to get real work done. And even as Apple SVP of Marketing Phil Schiller told me last month that the market for convertible devices like the Surface Book (which, to be fair, runs a desktop OS) was not growing, the company has essentially delivered its own hybrid device.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern also thinks that tablet-PC hybrids like the iPad Pro are the future of personal computing. She notes that Apple has a nice head start in this regard because the iPad already has a terrific app ecosystem:

There’s one thing the iPad has over all other laptops and competing tablets though: incredible apps. The Pro helped me realize that I’ve been living in the past, using legacy desktop programs to accomplish things.

I brainstormed for my video using the Paper app, dragging in photos and videos, marking them up with handwritten notes. I edited a short video by cutting and moving around clips with my finger. I sliced off what looked like a real human leg in an app called Complete Anatomy.

That’s why answering “So… what is it?” is so hard. The Pro may seem wedged between iPads and MacBooks, but it will be your main computer in the future. As our phablets push smaller tablets into retirement, the big tablet and its accessories will do the same for our traditional computers. For now, however, it may be easiest to step back and see the Pro as a… really good, really big iPad.

Wired’s David Pierce echoes Mossberg’s take that the iPad Pro is fantastic but not the “laptop killer” Apple is claiming it to be:

For those of us who still cling to laptops and desktops, the iPad Pro just doesn’t feel like a serious machine for serious work. We need our keyboard shortcuts and our mice, our apps that work just how we like them. We need our accessories. A touch-first interface just doesn’t feel right, and the iPad Pro can’t overthrow our existing workflows and tools. Maybe we’ll catch up to Tim Cook’s vision of work someday. Maybe. But for right now, we have work to do, and no time to reinvent how we do it.

Nobody’s going to toss their iMacs and ThinkPads into the garbage tomorrow and instead lay a 12.9-inch tablet on everyone’s desk. If there’s a touchscreen revolution underway, it’s going to happen slowly, an app and an accessory at a time. That’s OK. The iPad Pro is a fantastic tablet, not to mention the first iPad in ages that has an obvious value next to our giant smartphones. It starts as a big, powerful, beautiful screen, and with the right accessories and apps can be almost any kind of device you want. So, yeah: size matters.

And finally, Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham says that the iPad Pro’s potential to replace your laptop seems seriously hindered by the fact that it runs iOS and not OS X:

I’m having a uniquely hard time putting myself in the shoes of a potential iPad Pro buyer, particularly those who Tim Cook believes will replace a laptop with a big tablet. Some of that is because the iPad Pro isn’t really for me, even as someone who already works on an iPad Air 2 with some regularity.

Even with a bigger screen and new accessories, the iPad still feels like a “sometimes computer.” I can take it with me on vacation instead of a MacBook and do pretty much everything I want, and I can even get quite a bit of work done on one (the majority of this review was written on an iPad Pro, usually while also chatting in Slack or Messages or firing off e-mails). But what really does it in for me are the many small ways in which the iPad Pro is not quite a traditional computer and iOS is not quite OS X.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.