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iPad Pro review: Why the best iPad yet won't work for everyone

Susie Ochs | Nov. 26, 2015
The iPad Pro won't replace my iPhone or my Mac, but it provides a mostly great experience, thanks in large part to the Pencil.

Well, I tried. I tried the whole “use the iPad Pro instead of my computer for a week” thing and barely lasted a day. It doesn’t fit my workflow like my MacBook Air does, so I stopped trying to force it—and that’s OK. Apple’s newest largest tablet doesn’t need to be a laptop replacement to be good, but for a $300 premium over the cheapest iPad Air 2, it does need to deliver more than just a larger screen.

In some ways it does. Thanks to a faster processor and more RAM, the iPad Pro can enable a new class of applications that feel as powerful as desktop apps. Support for the Apple Pencil is limited to this iPad, so if your work includes drawing or drafting, or you’d rather handwrite notes than type them, your choice is clear: Buy this iPad Pro or wait a year to see if Pencil support trickles down to more models.

So much screen, you could drive a truck between those icons. 

But if you aren’t planning to use the Pencil, it could be hard for most people to justify the extra cost over an iPad Air 2 or even an iPad mini 4—at least, it is for me. As a work tool, the iPad Pro is a little like the Mac Pro, or the MacBook Pro, or even something specialized like a miter saw: If you really need it to do your job, you likely know you need it, and you don’t need me to tell you. If you find yourself wondering if you really need it…you probably don’t.

The Pencil is the iPad Pro’s big selling point

Using the Pencil is awesome. It feels natural, and it writes naturally, and makes a cheap rubber-tipped capacative styluses feel like trying to write your name with a hot dog. Drawing and even just doodling with it are wonderful experiences thanks to the pressure sensitivity and tilt detection that help it act more or less as you would expect, with very little lag. I haven’t done much drawing or painting since college, but the Pencil just makes me want to use it, and the fact that I can doodle, or color, or sketch, or mind-map while catching up on a show in Hulu in a Picture-in-Picture window appeals to me in a unique way. It’s a strange blend of nostalgia for the time when paper and pencils were my daily tools of choice, and that futuristic tingle of using something that feels so cutting edge.

iPad Pro with pencil
Apple The Pencil has next to no learning curve, since it reacts to your movements pretty much like a real pencil would.


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