Apple’s Phil Schiller thinks it’s “really sad” that people are still using five-year-old PCs and he wants them to replace their old computers with the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. But can Apple’s newest iPad really be a full replacement for your old computer? The reviews for the new iPad are in and they’re all very positive, although questions remain about whether this new device is really that “laptop killer” that Tim Cook hopes it is.
Apple wants to say that this third category is the next category, the thing that can replace your laptop. And the new iPad Pro is powerful enough and portable enough to make a compelling case that it could happen, someday. I don’t think it’s there yet — but it’s not because of the hardware. The hardware is stunningly, amazingly good. Instead, I just don’t think that iOS can make the case for replacing Windows or OS X.
Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff heaps praise on the new iPad and calls it the best tablet Apple has ever released. When it comes to being a full laptop replacement, however, he is a little skeptical. One reason? Its size:
There’s no getting around the fact that this is not a full-sized keyboard. Made to match the 9.4-inch width of the iPad Pro, it’s better-than-usable, but also a little cramped. Those with smaller fingers may love it. I’m still wishing Apple would introduce one more flap that folds out and becomes a little trackpad. Sure, I can touch the screen, but I can do that on a Surface Pro 4, too, and I still use the trackpad all the time.
Speaking of cramped: The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is just as able a multi-tasker as the 12.9-inch model. Both run iOS 9 (9.3, actually) and I truly love working in split screen. But let’s face it, halving 12.9-inches is a lot different than halving 9.7 inches. In split-screen mode, the 9.7-inch’s screen size is a little bit of a liability. You may get used to it, though, if you don’t keep switching back and forth between the iPad Pro and a full-sized laptop.
Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham is amazed at how powerful the new iPad is and he praises its build quality, battery life and camera quality. But… can it serve as a laptop replacement? Like others, he is skeptical:
The Split View multitasking mode is a truly useful and welcome change, and it makes the iPad a device you’d actually want to work on rather than one that is merely capable of doing work in a pinch. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
I’ll run down the list quickly to save some time if you’ve already read those reviews. The biggest problem is that iOS won’t let you open two copies of the same app next to each other at the same time, which would be especially useful for productivity apps like Pages or Word or Google Docs and browsers like Safari and Chrome (though you can kind of, sort of dance around this one by using two browsers or a hack like “Sidefari”). It’s a legacy of the one-full-screen-app-at-a-time model that defined iOS up until really recently.
The second-largest issue is that the UI for switching apps still needs work. There’s no way to “pin” secondary apps. Only three app icons are shown in the current app switcher at once, and there’s no preview of what you were doing in the app as there is in the primary multitasking switcher. Your list of apps is only shown in reverse-chronological order, which means a lot of swiping if you use a wide variety of apps or if you want to launch one you haven’t used in a while.
And finally, Laptop Mag has done an extensive comparison between the new iPad Pro and similar laptop-tablet hybrids such as the Surface Pro 4. The good news is that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro delivers superior battery life compared to the other tablets. However, if you’re in the market for a gaming laptop, you should know that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro had the worst graphics performance of any device Laptop Mag reviewed.
That said, it still gives the new tablet a glowing review and says that it could serve as a low-cost alternative to people who are looking for a good portable computer to take with them on the go:
If you want something that can run desktop apps and a more laptoplike keyboard, the 12.3-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (starting at $999 for Core i5; $1,128 with keyboard) is a better option. Or, if you want a device about as thin and light as the iPad Pro but don’t mind sacrificing some performance, consider the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, which starts at $897.99. However, no Windows-powered detachable’s battery life even comes close to the iPad Pro’s.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little screen size in favor of a more portable 9.7-inch size, the more affordable, 32GB iPad Pro is the way to go. Even if you add the $149 Smart Keyboard and the $99 Pencil, you’ll still be paying less than you would for competing devices.