Why I [probably] Won’t Be Getting An iPad Pro

Steve’s _IMG_6879

I’ve been waiting for the iPad Pro for over a decade, a truly magazine sized, laptop replacement and sketch pad; a device for browsing those coffee top table books that I rarely look at now.  The original iPad was too small and too heavy and didn’t work as a sketch pad; subsequent generations improved only the weight and speed.  I’ve added excellent keyboards to my iPads but they’ve never stuck and I quickly returned to my laptop.

I currently use a laptop and an iPad mini, the iPad is used almost exclusively for a few games, browsing and reading, I have dozens of other apps, but almost all identical to the apps that I have on my iPhone 4S, I use the iPad for those out of convenience.

The only tablet that I really loved was the HP TC1100, an A4 slab of a device, with a detachable keyboard and excellent docking solution, it was heavy and had terrible battery life, but it did replace my laptop and worked very well as a sketchpad.  In the end though when it came time to upgrade I was back on a laptop.

Not long after though I switched to hybrids,  ThinkPad Tablets, the x60T, x61T, x200T, and x220T all excellent laptops with a touch screen as a bonus, heavy, poor battery life, large.  As laptops they were great, as tablets they had their uses, but they didn’t really work.

I’ve tried the Microsoft Surface and the Surface Pro 2 and 3 for a few weeks, but none of them stuck, they were too big and heavy and ironically the resolution was too high for such a small screen, the battery life failed me too.

Through all of these iterations I thought I wanted something like the iPad Pro, last night I decided it wasn’t for me, why?

  1. It’s heavy, as heavy as the original iPad which I found too heavy to hold for extended periods of time
  2. It’s expensive, for the 64GB model with keyboard and ‘pencil’ it’s expensive, perhaps as much as £1000 when UK pricing is finally announced
  3. Storage is insanely expensive, because I’m often offline I need the 64GB model and I want 128GB
  4. It’s big, I wanted big, but now I’m retired I realise the value of not carrying a large bag around with me, especially when hiking and cycling, so I’d still need my iPad mini when travelling light

So if it’s too big to replace my iPad Mini, is it viable as a laptop replacement, this is a critical question, as I definitely don’t want it if it’s just yet another device, it needs to replace the mini or the laptop or both

  1. Well it’s certainly fast enough to replace a laptop, I’m not a power user of a laptop
  2. It’s battery life looks excellent, I want 5+ hours with a bright screen
  3. It has some great, powerful applications, including Microsoft Office Mobile which I like
  4. It looks like it’s a superb sketch pad

But what else do I want from a laptop?

  1. True multi-tasking
  2. Offline access to my huge eBook library in Calibre
  3. Offline access to my full collection of Evernote notebooks
  4. Access to my TV shows and Movies using Plex and the ability to seamlessly sync specific shows locally
  5. A real file system, that syncs in the background to Dropbox and my home server using Bit torrent Sync
  6. Access to Microsoft Office Desktop apps, Office Mobile is a complement, but not a replacement for them
  7. Google Chrome, with background syncing, extensions and Lastpass for password management
  8. A great blog writing client, my strong preference is for Windows Live Writer
  9. A good keyboard and comfortable use on my lap
  10. A great remote desktop experience, connecting back to my desktop PC and server

Well, the iPad Pro rapidly fails against most of these criteria.  There are a few other things that I really want a laptop to be able to do:

  1. Access peripherals over USB, for additional storage of movies etc. while travelling
  2. Transfer books and documents to my iPad Mini and Kindle over USB
  3. Be able to charge my phone and iPad over it’s USB port, so I only have to take a single charger with me
  4. Transfer pictures from my camera’s SD card
  5. Charge over USB, so that I can use a single extended battery for phone, iPad and laptop
  6. Connect to a big screen TV in hotel rooms etc. while travelling

So in conclusion it’s not going to replace my laptop or my iPad mini, so if I apply my investment test:

will an investment result in me doing more of the things that truly improve my quality of life: currently these things are learning, reading, writing my blog, cycling, hiking, travelling, photography, programming, gardening and spending time with friends and family

Then the answer is a definite no, likely an iPad pro would result in me, sitting more, reading more magazines (and associated adverts), travelling less or travelling in less comfort (with a backpack).  The only real advantage is for reading large PDF’s like gardening books, but actually the best place to read those is on my 27” screen at home, where I have multiple screens, a top notch keyboard, fast internet for research etc.  Oh and how could I forget, I won’t be able to use it for sketching, I will have to use pen and paper instead, just like millions of people around the world do!

As I read these criteria, it’s clear that to some extent the iPad Pro fails me because I live in the past, in the same way that most of us do.  The way I use my laptop is the culmination of decades of honing my working practices and application choices, combined with years of investment in my current hardware and software eco-system.  My needs are also unusual because of the need to work offline, to be able to travel and be self sufficient, prepared for ‘anything’.  By contrast if I were starting from scratch, or addressing only a very narrow use case, or always connected to a high speed network, the iPad pro might be perfect.

So is there another option, well I’m hoping so.  For £279 I can get a HP Pavilion X2,  Windows 2 in 1, tablet with detachable keyboard and a 64GB SSD.  For another £40 I can add a fast 128GB Micro SD card to it for storage, it comes with a years subscription to Office 365, so that covers the cost of the SD card.  That’s almost 1/4 of the cost of an iPad Pro.  The model I’m looking at has good battery life, charges over USB C, has the same resolution as my current laptop, but a nicer IPS screen and a separate USB port for expansion and charging.  It runs all of my existing laptop apps and maybe over time some good Windows Store apps will be created, but that’s a bonus because I have my iPad Mini anyway.  Of course it’s plastic and doesn’t support a pen and it’s a little slower, but these are the kind of sacrifices that I accepted when I decided to retire.  It’s arriving Friday, I’m excited to see how well I survive next weeks travelling with it!  It’s worth noting that apart from it’s lack of pen support, this little HP is the closest device I’ve yet seem to my beloved HP TC1100.

However if it fails me, by making reading, writing, learning etc frustrating experiences, if it puts me off doing them rather than inspiring me to do them, then I might be getting an iPad Pro after all (more likely a Surface 4 though) I’m hoping not, because, as I think I’ve shown above, the iPad as a laptop replacement would have a whole slew of frustrations of it’s own.

The photo that adorns this post is of Scarborough beach, where I will be found for at least a couple of days next week, while touring the East Coast.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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