The speakers are much improved, though, which does make a difference when using the iPad Pro as an entertainment device. Apple included four speakers, and the top two are used for treble while the bottom two are used for bass—no matter how you hold the tablet. They sound good, loud enough to fill an average room with music even if you don’t have a Bluetooth speaker handy.
Still, compared to using a laptop, the iPad Pro is just less comfortable all around. When sitting at a desk with the Smart Keyboard, I didn’t like how I couldn’t adjust the angle of the screen, or keep my hands in one relative position. (Reaching up to tap the screen feels awkward at first, but after about a day and a half, I found myself reaching up to tap the screen of my MacBook Air, instead of going for the trackpad.) The software keyboard keeps coming up even when I have a Bluetooth keyboard paired, thanks to a bug that I’m told is being addressed in iOS 9.2—it’s not a deal-breaker now, but it is annoying for half the screen to be gobbled up by a keyboard I don’t need.
Battery life is excellent—starting a workday at 85 percent charged, I didn’t get the 10 percent warning until almost 4 p.m. I do wish the iPad had the Low Power Mode that I’ve been enjoying so much in iOS 9 for my iPhone, but that mode works by throttling some performance behind the scenes (stopping background app refresh, slowing down the processor speed), and Apple might have felt these weren’t acceptable trade-offs to eke more power out of the iPad Pro. The tablet ships with a 12-watt USB power adapter for charging—both the battery life and the tiny universal charger are big points for the iPad Pro over a MacBook.
Apple offers multiple sizes of iPhones, laptops, and iPods, so it makes total sense to expand the iPad lineup from two sizes to three, and with the Pencil, Apple’s given the 12.9-inch iPad a rightful claim on the name Pro.
For me, it’s just not worth the considerable premium in price over an iPad Air 2 (which starts at $499 for 16GB) or my favorite model, the iPad mini 4 ($399). The Pencil is fabulous, but instead of shelling out $799 for the entry-level (32GB, Wi-Fi only) iPad Pro and another $99 for the Pencil, I could get a maxed out 128GB iPad mini 4 with cellular for $729 and have plenty of money left for all the fancy pens and notebooks my heart desires.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.