Tech review: Adrian Weckler on the latest gadgets
Reviewed by our technology editor are Apple iPad Pro, Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro.
Giant iPad you will learn to love
Apple iPad Pro
Price: from €940
Rating: 4 stars
Can you replace a laptop with a large, powerful tablet? This is the real question behind the existence of the iPad Pro, unless you really have a lot of money to spend on a luxury video or arts-and-editing screen.
In my life, I use both laptops and tablets. But mostly, it is laptops that have been more important because of their better keyboards, more numerous connectivity options and - above all - their better multitasking abilities. They have had the clear edge as work machines.
But for the last fortnight, I have been using the iPad Pro as a one stop shop machine. I have run presentations off it, watched TV on it and have written articles (like this one) on it. I'll get to the work stuff in a minute. But for non-work activities, it has been a revelation. There is little comparison in viewing (or editing) photos, for example: the iPad Pro's gorgeous 13-inch screen brings them to life in a way you have to see to believe. While I still need to use some applications on a laptop for photos (Adobe Lightroom in particular), I don't think I could go back to a smaller tablet now. It works especially well for TV and movies, too. Both Sky Go and Netflix look and fantastic on the machine, not least because of its four speakers. It's relatively thin and light, too: certainly lighter than almost any 13-inch laptop you can buy.
For work, I'm still not sure. The iPad Pro has some big improvements over previous generations of tablets, mostly in the realms of power. With Apple's A9X chip in it, there really is no lag at all when it comes to working on it. The slightly better multitasking ability with iOS 9 helps, too: you can run two apps (email and Word, for example) side by side on the screen. And the extra real estate that the 13-inch display provides (it is actually twice the size of a standard 10-inch iPad) means that you get to see more on screen, which is a big help when writing, editing or browsing.
On the other hand, the iPad Pro still isn't as flexible as, say, a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. As handy as the new split screen functionality is, it is still quicker to flit from program to program on the same screen with the laptop.
Keyboards and typing remain an issue too. I got the iPad Pro's 'Smart Keyboard' cover and it works really nicely. But it still narrows your ergonomic options compared to the MacBook. For example, it's a lot trickier to use on your lap, something I like to do a lot at home. This is partly because it's not as sturdy as a laptop (meaning it wobbles and lists) and partly because there is no choice on adjusting the angle between the screen and keyboard. (If you use it on a desk or table most or all of the time, this won't be much of an issue for you.)
As for the lack of USB ports, I actually don't consider this to be an issue anymore: USB storage or connectivity is an increasingly scarce thing for many of us these days.
Oddly then, it's the iPad Pro's physical inflexibility - and not its user experience - that is holding me back from using it as a primary computing device.
Despite this, I will say that I love using the machine, especially for non-work stuff. It's light enough (just about) to hold in one hand and its screen experience really is unparalleled. For photo-lovers like me, that's a killer combination.
Of course, the other selling point to the iPad Pro is its 'Pencil', which Apple is at pains to differentiate from a stylus. In its own right, the Pencil is incredibly impressive: its tip sensitivity allows you to draw and sketch in a way that no other consumer tablet accessory matches. It can also be used as a tool for industrial applications, such as for computer-aided-design sketching. Alas, I have little interest in drawing or physical inputting in this way. So I'll say that while the Pencil experience looks and feels impressive, it is not something I am likely to use much.
Unlike other types of tablets or computers, I can't imagine anyone really regretting buying an iPad Pro, even at its premium-grade pricing. It's a beautiful piece of machinery.
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
Price: €1,499 from Komplett.ie
Rating: 3 stars
Want a thin, ultra-powerful laptop with a 4K touchscreen which rotates into a tablet? Toshiba looks like it has you covered with its latest offering, the 12.5-inch Satellite Radius 12. It has a very high resolution screen that flips over to become a (rather heavy) standalone Windows 10 tablet. It's packed with muscle, boasting an Intel i7 chip and 8GB of Ram. And it's thin, with a backlit keyboard and Harman Kardon speakers.
Yet this isn't the perfect laptop, largely for design reasons. While the components of Toshiba's laptop are top notch, it has overlooked a few ergonomic qualities. Principally, its keyboard and touchpad are a level below those of most rival machines. This matters an awful lot in the day-to-day use of a standard laptop, even
one with touchscreen functionality.
For such a premium-positioned product, it's also a little disappointing that it comes with irritating pre-installed desktop apps (such as Booking.com and eBay) from commercial partners.
This is normally the hallmark of cheap machines and it detracts from this computer's appeal at the start.
There are no complaints with connectivity, however. The Satellite Radius has two USB ports, a HDMI port and a USB-C port - an excellent combination.
This is a powerful, potent laptop. But its keyboard lets it down a little.
Lenovo's picture show is quirky
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
Price: €499 from PC World
Rating: 3 stars
Lenovo has a curious twist to the tablet genre, one that I imagine is aimed mainly at a travelling workforce. It has stuffed a reasonably decent pico projector into the barrel of its latest 10-inch Android tablet.
The result is a machine that's relatively heavy, but which lets you beam anything you like from the back of the tablet. If this sounds useful, it may be worth giving this machine a look. The quality of the projections - which go up to a 70-inch display equivalent - are passable, if not aspirational.
While it will do for a Powerpoint presentation, it doesn't remotely compare to a proper telly if you want to watch a video or a movie.
One thing I'll give Lenovo credit for here is the build quality, which is excellent. Its metal and leather construction gives it a premium feel and goes some way to forgiving the extra weight it's carrying compared to competitors. Its bright HD screen and speakers also do the Yoga 3 Pro credit.
Lenovo isn't passing off any cheap materials here. Its powerful processor and 2GB of Ram keeps everything ticking along nicely. Lenovo's tablet incorporates a miniature stand which lets you prop the unit up on its own or hang it from a hook on a wall. For anyone who cares, it also has a 13 megapixel camera and a 5 megapixel selfie camera.
I can't say I'd use a projector much from a tablet unless I was on some sort of presentation roadshow. And without that, this feels a little pricey. But it's a quality piece of kit.