“Wow, that’s big.” This was my first reaction when I took up Apple’s new 13-inch iPad Pro to play with it.
To put that screen size into context, 13 inches is the same size as the display on a large MacBook Air or a standard MacBook Pro. If you can imagine detaching that type of screen from the keyboard and flipping it over to use as a tablet, you have some idea of what it feels like to play with an iPad Pro.
For a a start, it doesn’t feel like something you will hold up an awful lot. It’s not that it’s heavy, because it’s only 0.7kg, way lighter than the thinnest, smallest MacBook Air. It’s just that it’s a relatively large screen: you may need to hold it at least 60 centimetres away if you want to watch a movie on it. Instead, this may be something that you’d rest on a lap or a stand.
That being the case, it’s probably just as well that Apple has a smart keyboard accessory to go with it. The keyboard has special haptic feedback that’s supposed to enhance the way you type on it. I didn’t have long enough on it to really make a firm conclusion either way, but my first impression was that it was workable.
This iPad Pro feels like it’s set up much more to be a very specific device for specific purposes than a catch-all tablet aimed as a home web-browsing replacement. This may very well be what Apple intended: it spent a lot of the iPad Pro presentation (and subsequent guided hands-on demos afterwards) focusing on office-type software, graphic arts apps and other non-casual, non-consumer type experiences.
It has the power to back this up, with a new processor and graphics. Apple claims that it’s faster than 90pc of the laptops on the market.
Is there a wow factor to it? A little. While we’re now used to seeing ‘convertible’ touchscreen laptops and rival Windows products such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro machines, few of them are as thin or as large as the iPad Pro. Also, this doesn’t bother with things like USB ports that existing work-based convertibles offer.
I spoke to one or two of the partnering app companies that have software ready to go for the iPad Pro, including Dublin-based 3D4 Medical. They say that the iPad Pro is a God send for their business, because it lets their customers — doctors and medical students — use their software in much, much higher resolution and graphics capability. So it seems that the word ‘Pro’ is a lot more literal here than it is in, say, the case of Apple’s MacBook Pro (which is probably used by consumers as much as professionals).
A word about the iPad Pro’s stylus, called ‘Apple Pencil’. Leaving aside the €100 price, this is a pretty remarkable device. I’m not one for styluses at all. But the way that this interacted with the iPad Pro (I used it simply for doodling and drawing) was a step above any digital pen I’ve ever used before. Again, it seems that its greatest strength will be for those who need it for work.
I can’t see this becoming a mass market product. And it probably won't stem the decline of recreational tablets: we have simply replaced them with our phones.
But the iPad Pro looks to have staked a pretty promising claim in the computing ecosystem. Apple has seen the way the wind is blowing and is retargeting the iPad in a very definite direction.
The iPad Pro is expected to land in Ireland in November.