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Opinion: Could the iPad Pro be a viable alternative to a MacBook?


The simplistic view of tablets versus laptops has always been that the former are for consumption and the latter are for creation. Traditionally, laptops are more powerful, they offer greater storage, they have better keyboards, they run more capable software, they are better suited to multi-tasking … there have been plenty of reasons to choose one over a tablet. In the Apple world, to choose some kind of MacBook over an iPad.

But those reasons, like the Apple tech in question, grow slimmer each year. Sure, MacBooks are more powerful, but today’s iPads are no slouches – I’ve even done a little video editing on my iPad Air 2 – and the iPad Pro is almost twice as powerful. MacBooks do still offer more storage, but that’s less important in a world of cloud-based document storage and streaming media. The best add-on keyboards for iPads may not be quite up there with MacBook ones, but they are close – and most of the difference that does remain is due to size. OS X does offer more capable software than iOS, but there’s some pretty serious software on iOS these days. iOS 9 makes side-by-side multitasking something we can now do on an iPad as well as a MacBook. And with each release, Apple gets closer to parity between mobile and desktop as it integrates technologies from both operating systems across platforms.

So the gap between the two is far smaller than it used to be – and the iPad Pro is about the narrow the gap even more. Will the iPad Pro be the point at which an iPad becomes a viable alternative to a MacBook … ? 

The answer, of course, is the same one I give when non-techy friends ask me which laptop they should buy: it depends on what you want to do with it.

But once I’ve heard what they want to use it for, my answer to the question ‘Which laptop should I buy?’ has often been ‘You shouldn’t: buy an iPad plus Bluetooth keyboard instead.’ So far, at least, everyone who has taken this advice has been happy with the result.

Screen and keyboard size are a consideration, of course. For some people, a standard iPad and matching keyboard is just too small and fiddly. But the iPad Pro will remove that objection.


With existing iPads, there’s a difference between what they can do in theory and what a professional would use them for in practice. In theory, you can do pretty much anything on an iPad. Video editing, audio mixing, photo-editing and design all have competent iOS apps.

In practice, however, the small screen and limited processing power of a standard iPad means that, while you can do any of these things, and a professional might use one to do a little of each in the field, any serious work is going to be done on a Mac. The iPad is a companion device, there to help out when needed.

But the A9X in the iPad Pro appears to be a serious laptop-equivalent processor. Apple says that “the 64‑bit desktop‑class architecture [gives the] iPad Pro the power to easily take on tasks that were once reserved for workstations and PCs.” That’s just marketing copy, of course, but the company backs it by stating explicitly that users will be able to edit up to three 4K movies simultaneously and that AutoCAD 360 will run at 60 frames per second.

Any way you look at it, that is serious processing power. We’ll need to wait for benchmarks and hands-on use to be sure, but on paper at least, the iPad Pro does seem to be infringing on MacBook territory. So could it be a viable alternative? Let’s look at some potential buyers …


The enterprise world – a huge yes

This is, of course, the primary market Apple was targeting with the iPad Pro, and the corporate applications will be many and varied – especially with all the apps coming out of Apple’s partnership with IBM.

It’s ideal for those who need to make corporate presentations on a one-to-one or small group basis. The large screen makes it easy for a small group to see, and the form factor means it can easily be passed around. AirPlay when you need to present to a larger audience. Sales people and trainers will love it.

As will anyone who currently has to cart around large volumes of paper – manuals for site engineers, for example. An iPad is a much more convenient way to consult a PDF in the field than a MacBook, and the size means it’s reasonably close to the size of a US letter piece of paper, so less scrolling and zooming than with a standard iPad.

Those who need to fill in forms on-site, especially where tick boxes are concerned, will also love it. It can be comfortably held in one hand while using it with the other, just like clipboard and paper. You can again see a full sheet of paper’s worth of info at once, and it’s easy to hand over if the person you are visiting needs to fill in a form. This looks like a perfect market research tool, for example.

I could go on, but it would be superfluous. This is the market it was made for, and I think it’s going to be hugely popular within enterprise – and for many, definitely will replace a laptop, be it their MacBook or Windows machine.


Video, audio, photography – a companion, not a replacement

While an iPad Pro may be able to handle video, audio and photo-editing, it falls down big-time when it comes to storage. Being technically able to edit three 4K videos is one thing; being able to store the uncut footage on an iPad is another. Depending on codec, 4K video runs to around 5Gb per minute. Let’s be generous and imagine that of the 128GB the iPad Pro offers, you get to use 100Gb of it for your video files – that’s 20 minutes of raw footage. Ask any video pro about the relationship between original footage and final, edited work and it quickly becomes apparent that they are never going to be using an iPad Pro as a primary device.

So for video work, a Mac Pro with multiple 4K screens is the ideal, while a maxed-out MacBook Pro is the serious portable alternative. That’s not to say there’s no room in the toolbox for an iPad Pro too. If you’re using a Mac Pro as your workstation, an iPad Pro might well prove to be the perfect portable companion device – but it’s not going to replace a MacBook.

The same arguments apply to audio pros, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree. Again, an iPad Pro might make a useful additional tool at the recording stage, but isn’t going to cut it for the serious post-production work.

Photographers, too, want more than just CPU and GPU power – they also want plenty of storage space and enough screen size to see their work at a good size whilst still leaving room for tool palettes, thumbnails and so on. With a typical wedding shot in RAW format easily able to approach 10Gb, you’re also not going to be able to store many of them on an iPad. Granted you can offload them, but most photographers are going to want to have immediate access to more than just their last few shoots. So once more, an iPad Pro could be a fantastic tool for showing portfolios, and for quick-and-dirty editing in the field, but is never going to replace a Mac.


Designers & artists – I’m guessing yes

I have to confess here to having the drawing ability of a four-year-old. A not very talented 4yo, at that. So it isn’t something I can write about with any authority, but having talked to a few artistic friends, there does seem to be a marked preference for drawing directly on the screen, rather than relying on the indirectness of a graphics tablet.

A big objection to digital drawing on an iPad has been the lag between stylus contact and line. The increased refresh rate of the iPad Pro when used with the Pencil does, from the demo and explanation at least, appear to have addressed this.

We need to see whether the Apple Pencil is as impressive in real-life use as the keynote demonstration made it appear, but certainly for anyone who needs to draw or paint electronically, the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil looks impressive. I’d love to hear some comments from artists and designers about how you think it likely to stack up against a Mac with drawing tablet.


Writers – mostly yep

For writers, even a standard iPad is still a pretty good tool. Keyboard size aside, I’ve mostly pointed writers to a MacBook for the fact that it runs Scrivener. Frankly, if you’re writing novels (gratuitous plugs for mine here and here), I wouldn’t use anything else – so until the long-overdue iOS version arrives, that rules out the iPad. The same would be true of complex non-fiction books, where you need to flick back and forth between sections as you write.

But for pretty much any other type of writing – poetry, short stories, newspaper articles, magazine features, copywriting and almost all web work – an iPad makes an extremely convincing writing machine. It offers genuine all-day battery-life, rather than the ‘almost but not quite in real-life use’ offered by MacBooks, so is ideal for those who do the coffee-shop thing. Most iPad writing apps are auto-save, with many doing automatic cloud backups, so it’s a very safe way to write. And if you need to write online, or upload your work when complete, the cellular connectivity of an LTE iPad is more convenient than relying solely on WiFi or taking the battery-life hit to both devices when tethering.


Consumers who like the form-factor – yep

Finally, while Apple isn’t yet presenting it as a consumer product, I can see it finding a market here. For those who want a general-purpose laptop for undemanding use, but find existing iPad screens and keyboards too small, an iPad Pro is going to be an appealing option.

The main barrier here, of course, is cost. If your needs are simple but you want decent battery-life, a Chromebook is going to do much the same job at a far lower price than even the entry-level iPad Pro – and that’s before you add a keyboard. But Apple has never worried about cost: there is always a market for premium products, and the comparison most potential customers will be making is with other Apple products, not Chromebooks.

A 12-inch MacBook ranges from $1299 to $1599. No contest there: if you don’t have a reason to want OS X, and you don’t greatly prefer the form-factor of the MacBook, you’re going to buy the iPad Pro.

An 11-inch MacBook Air starts at $899. Sure, you can spec it up to spend $1649, but we’re talking here about basic use: web, email, writing. This is a straight head-to-head between the $899 entry-level MacBook Air and the $799 + $169 Smart Keyboard. The difference between $899 and $968 is close enough that I’d call it a wash – most people are going to translate either price into “close to a thousand bucks.”

If you’re knowledgeable, you’ll make the call on OS X versus iOS; if you’re not, you’ll decide based on design and form-factor preferences. Which, in my mind, sees a fair number of buyers opting for the iPad Pro thanks to the detachable keyboard and even sleeker appearance.

So, my answer ends where it started: it depends. But factor in the corporate users for whom it was designed, add in those professional users for whom the iPad Pro is a realistic alternative, and then supplement with consumers who will make the decision based on form-factor – and I think the device has a big future.


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  1. David Shreffler - 8 years ago

    Developers – nope. Still jealous of the .NET devs I see at conferences running Visual Studio on their surface pro. The difference- that tablet is running a desktop OS. iOS will likely always be the limiting factor here, so Macbook of some variant will be a necessity :/

    • mikhailt - 8 years ago

      You are correct that it is a big nope for developers for now. However, there is no reason iOS can’t run the mobile version of Xcode, especially on iPad Pro with 4GB of RAM and a fast storage controller they’re making a big deal out of. The only issue is that you can’t exactly compile a Mac app but you could do an iOS app right on the same device and even do the slide-view with the same compiled app.

      Eventually, Apple is going to add an integration to Xcode to store your code in the cloud, run tests on Apple’s server farms, and so on.

      • Justin Stodola - 8 years ago

        That’s a small subset of developers, though. I use a MacBook Pro for Java, C, PHP and JS dev and run Linux dev VM images. I can’t foresee iOS supporting that in the near or medium term.

      • James (@jdrydn) - 7 years ago

        Regardless for the “subset of developers” that this would attract – that would be incredible!

    • darthque - 8 years ago

      this. i mean i suppose you could use RDC or vim + ssh but who wants to pay the better part of $1K and not have any options? I’m guessing that if  makes this more coder friendly, they’ll probably let you run Swift. And thats it lol

    • James (@jdrydn) - 7 years ago

      Developers – maybe. I can get a decent working environment using Panic’s Coda for iOS and Prompt for iOS – both are excellent for mobile dev on my iPhone right when I need it – so I’d imagine with a bit more work in IDEs like that and in building proper AIO solutions (including VCS support and the rest) (because admittedly right now I am working off a server with an SFTP connection, so it’s not great for offline!).

  2. RP - 8 years ago

    If it had at least a usb-c port it would be a great tool to use in conjunction with a mac. Sort of a peripheral. And if major developers finding it financially unfeasible to port pro software to the iPad, then Apple has to step up and seed the platform with great software itself.

    • Tim Jr. - 8 years ago

      I do agree, to be a true pro device, allowing some type of external storage is truly a fail.. His point of working professionally on 4k content is very true.. The cloud just won’t cut it in this case, not a good answer for a pro device.

      A single USB C to plug in external SSD drive would have been much appreciated. Awe well.. maybe in next few generations. It IS a first generation of the Pro series.

      • mpias3785 - 8 years ago

        To be a true Pro device it will need a full OS, meaning a user accessible file system, access to external peripherals, freedom from the App store and no need EVER to connect to another computer. Until this all comes true, it will just be another device that needs to be tethered for full functionality.

      • mikhailt - 8 years ago

        Considering how Apple is making a big deal out of its new desktop-class storage in iPad Pro, it is only a matter of time before they can pair that controller with a Thunderbolt controller. The only issue is that TB is still too big and power hungry. Intel’s working on it and TB3 is improved on the power efficiency level but not enough to put in iPad Pro. I suspect we’ll see it iPad Pro with TB4 or TB5 that’s very power efficient.

    • amazingrugs - 8 years ago

      100% on adding a USB C port.. I think this was a missed opportunity by Apple to really show they were ready to dive in to the Pro world. Adding external disk access through this port would have solved a lot of the storage space issues that the creative field requires. My guess is this will be added in the next version, but it is sad they didn’t really go for it this time out.

      • SKR Imaging - 8 years ago

        I was patiently waiting for Phil Schiller to announce a USB-C port at the keynote but alas, it was not meant to be.. instead, they added the Smart Connector.. at least if they would have demoed a Smart Connector accessory that allowed an external storage dock or something other than just a keyboard, it would have given the Pro moniker more sense… right now, I call it the iPad Plus… iOS 10 hopefully will bridge the gap by adding a way to attach an external drive to the iPad… Apple can’t continue offering 32 GB devices to Pro consumers and expect them to be satisfied. Cloud is not everything in this tech world.. people actually use external storage.

      • amazingrugs - 8 years ago

        iPad Plus I like that! The lack of external storage option is a hurdle. Something else I thought was strange was no trackpad on the keyboard cover. I feel one of Apple’s biggest reasons for not doing a touch screen Mac is they feel the best place to interact for scrolling and selecting is with the trackpad. Its true too, because you get arm fatigue. But then they release a device that potentially will be used more on a table or desk, and yet no way to smooth scroll through documents and webpages. The arrow keys would be an alternative, but definitely not the same as the smooth scrolling we’re used to. Maybe they’ll add Bluetooth Trackpad support in the future.

        All that said, I’m still interested in one for myself. I do a lot of audio recording and there are a lot of good midi sequencers and DAW remotes for mixing, etc. that could benefit from a larger work surface. I tried out an iPad Air 2 and I couldn’t believe how fast it was, especially compared to my iPad 3.

        Hoping Apple makes some headway in the areas discussed here sooner than later, because there is so much potential in this platform.

    • prolango - 8 years ago

      Without a user accessible file system, how would you browse the external USB drive? Remember, there is no Finder in iOS. :-(

      • RP - 8 years ago

        I’m sure they would need system wide changes to add a port. It goes without saying.

      • benfrankart - 8 years ago

        Maybe one day there will be an app for that.

      • Well, the new iCloud Drive app could act as a finder with a couple of updates.

    • Kevin Shields - 7 years ago

      According to a few reports, the current iPad pro has a USB 3.0 controller built into the lightning port. Perhaps external storage devices for an iPad pro aren’t that far off after all..

  3. cameroncovington - 8 years ago

    I only have one gripe with the iPad, and it’s not even the device’s fault–it’s the OS. I want a file picker, like on OS X. Here’s my use case: I am a college student, and I would love to have something more portable than lugging my 15 inch MacBook Pro around everywhere. While an iPad will certainly work for on-the-go writing, I also want something that I can use to submit assignments. Submitting files in Blackboard, for example, is impossible on iOS–it requires a file picker. If iOS had that functionality, then I would buy the iPad Pro in a second. I would, of course, still rely on my MacBook Pro for the heavyweight stuff, but having a portable powerhouse that is the iPad Pro would be a welcome addition to my on-the-go workflow.

    • Tim Jr. - 8 years ago

      You can do that now.. umm.. might want to get out of 2012… amazing things have happened since then..

    • Josh Lambert - 8 years ago

      I think iOS9 and the iCloud drive integration are what you may be looking for. You have the iCloud app that opens up just like it does on OS X where you can see all the files/folders. When uploading things via the web it allows you to pick from iCloud drive files.

    • mikhailt - 8 years ago

      Document Picker in iOS 8 and improved with iCloud Drive app in iOS 9 is the file picker on iOS.

      However, the iPad Pro is not a good solution for college related stuff, you’re just going to see a lot of obstacles in the way that iOS just isn’t built for. It is getting better over time but not fast enough for many of us.

      • amazingrugs - 8 years ago

        It isn’t the speed of iPads as far as I can tell, its the software. College web sites lean very heavily to Windows users. All documents are in Word or Excel format. My wife’s school still uses .wmv (windows media player) files! Most college resources are older and built on older technology, and don’t support mobile OS’s very well. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

      • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

        If I were going to college, I would probably have an iPad and a laptop of some sort because I would use the iPad to read the text book, watch lectures, do research, etc. etc. and use my laptop strictly for typing and carry one or the other to class, both if I really needed to. I would probably not really need a high end iPad to do that, just one with a big enough screen. The problem with having only one computer, whether it be a Surface/IPad Pro type product with a keyboard just doesn’t make sense to me vs a laptop and a tablet to use both at the same time. It’s been a while since I’ve been to college, but that’s how I see that scenario.

  4. applegetridofsimandjack - 8 years ago

    No, just no. If anyone is looking for a the cheapest Apple productivity tool being his/her only productivity tool, I’d say buy a Macbook Air. The Macbook is much too expensive and iPads are not good options if you don’t owns a laptop already…

  5. Tim Jr. - 8 years ago

    I will always have a Laptop (15″ Macbook Pro w/ discrete video card right now).. However, when traveling I nearly always grab the iPad Air 2. I use the Belkin detachable magnetic keyboard and long that thing. Would I want a 13″ iPad?

    No, just to big for me.. If I wanted that size, I’d bring my Macbook Pro… I think.. I will in the end goto an Apple Store and play with the iPad Pro.. see what it’s like.. but for now, the iPad Air 2 is just fine..

    • mikhailt - 8 years ago

      A sensible response, don’t dismiss new products right away based on assumptions. Just go to an Apple Store and try it.

      iPad Pro is ~1.6LB, it is not big or heavy compared to the ~4.5LB 15″ Macbook Pro, many of the hands-on articles said that the iPad Pro is actually one-handable.

      If you had the first-gen iPad, that’s basically the same weight.

  6. taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

    I am curious how the benchmarks of the iPad Pro and and 12″ MacBook compare.

  7. Tony Cheung (@asiayeah) - 8 years ago

    iPad Pro + MacBook = Surface? A lot of limitations with iPad Pro lies on the mobile OS itself indeed. While it’s good for mobile applications, for laptop usage, one would be better off with a full OS, such as Windows 10. For enterprise users, they would probably feel more comfortable with a Surface either, given most of the enterprise apps are running in Windows. Just my 2 cents.

    • sewollef - 8 years ago

      My wife is global director of communications for a large corporation headquartered in NYC. All execs were issued with Surface Pros at the beginning of 2015. And almost without exception, all execs are complaining bitterly about the Surface’s clunky interface [neither one thing nor the other], the fact that even Microsoft’s own apps do not fully integrate with it, and the constant crashes and reboots that my wife reckons, requires at least 1-2 calls to IT support each and every week.

      Her words to me – only this morning over coffee – when we discussed Gizmodo’s head-scratchingly gushing review of the device, is unrepeatable on a family website. In summary, using a review sample is not, in any shape or form, how people use these devices day-to-day and the Surface Pro – in her words – ‘is the biggest piece of crap’ ever to be foisted on her.

      Oh, and she has a company-issued iPhone 6 Plus and a personally-owned iPad Air 2. She has compared both devices and commented she wouldn’t wish a Surface on her worst enemy.

      • Do what? The Surface Pro has met with universal acclaim. It is a PROPER computer running a PROPER operating system which runs PROPER Windows programs.

        Is your missus not getting confused with the Surface RT, which is indeed crap?

      • Jesse Nichols - 8 years ago

        @AuntyTroll Oh! I see the problem here! You think that Windows is a PROPER OS. Silly Troll… Windows is garbage. =D

  8. Mark Granger - 8 years ago

    I don’t see how the iPad could ever replace a MacBook without XCode. Not having a native iOS development system costs time and causes me frustration every day. Apple does not have touch screens on their laptops so there is no real way to test a user interface in the simulator. If your app works in the field, developing, testing and debugging it can be extremely difficult. You have to lug a laptop and the device you want to test wherever you go.

  9. tomi2711 - 8 years ago

    No way.
    Designers: without photoshop or illustrator this thing will never ever became close to replacing a Macbook. The most it will get is a glorified accessory (like a wacom tablet) if display mirroring apps lag is imperceptible.

    Writers: why would you pay more to have a fake keyboard and an inconvinient form factor? Just buy a Macbook Air or Macbook Pro and get at least double storage for free (and a real OS).

    People who like the form factor: who would prefer this beast against a 10″ iPad? For bed usage this thing weights 1.8x iPad Air 2, and is impossible to held it with one hand while using it.

    Video editing: lol

    Business users: no added functionality vs 10″ iPad. In quality control and one handed use scenario (iPad’s best place) is far inferior due to its enormous size and hudge weight.

    Bottom line: this thing is only for people with money to burn, who already have a Macbook. Hudge, totally limited by its OS, and expensive compared to its competitors (iPads and Macbooks).
    On top of this, even though is labeled as Pro it doesn’t run pro software. Unfortunately this won’t change because Apple expects the same software to run on this iPad Pro or an IPad Mini. Developers won’t care developing an optimized version (as what happens with the iPhone 6+). And pricing on the App Store is a mess. Do you imagine Adobe offering Photoshop CC for free? Or Sketch only costing 4.99 (vs 99 OSX counterpart)? No way.

    And no developer usage also.

  10. Jesse Nichols - 8 years ago

    As a graphic designer and web developer… I’ll throw my two cents in.

    As a designer… This looks AWESOME! I dropped Photoshop awhile ago in favor of Pixelmator, but I haven’t used the iOS version of Pixelmator yet. The Adobe tools that were demoed onstage makes it seem like this will be great for prototyping my layouts and possibly even for doing some basic graphic work. But, I still think it will be a companion tool. I have yet to see a good vector graphics application for iOS. And that is a major necessity for anyone doing graphic design work.

    As a web developer… It depends. If you work off of a server (via FTP, etc.) and intend to use the LTE model (or always be around Wi-Fi), you could reasonably use the iPad Pro as a web developers device. However, if you are looking to work locally (or EVER need to work offline), this won’t work. There’s no local server stack for iOS. So, you would be limited to working via apps like Transmit (which is great if that’s all that you need, but that will seldom be the case for developers). Being able to tweak your graphics and stuff within Adobe’s new apps could be cool. But again, the iPad Pro will be more of a companion device than a replacement device for a web developer.

    Summary: The iPad Pro will be the BEST companion device ANYWHERE for designers and web developers. But, it will, sadly, fall short of being a replacement for a laptop for those use cases.

    • darthque - 8 years ago

      Nice. to be honest, i think the ipad pro will hit its stride in 3-4 years, like most personal electronics. then i might get one.

    • Thomas Yoon - 8 years ago

      Heya fellow GDWD, I think you made a lot of fair points.

      With this new iPad Pro and all of its new accessories and bundled power, I want to personally see two things work on it that would make it absolutely killer for designers/developers:

      1. Sublime Text 3 or any other equally expansive code editor and a proper element inspector added to Safari. With the size of the iPad Pro, multitasking and the new keyboard cover, I think this could be a killer combo to run Safari and a code editor side by side to see live changes to your websites/applications.

      2. With no discernable latency, using the iPad Pro with Pencil as a wireless Wacom Cintiq replacement. If this thing could run at no discernable latency and be connected via Bluetooth to run live as a tablet on Photoshop/Illustrator, that would be goodbye to my big, clunky Intuous 5 Medium taking up a healthy chunk of my desk space. If one were clever, maybe they could even run Duet Display on this new iPad and get these results? Hmm…

      I believe the potential for both of these exist (even with the iOS limitations), so I definitely will be investing in the iPad Pro package when it comes out. That said, I’m in agreement that I will never part with my well-loved Macbook Pro.

      • Jesse Nichols - 8 years ago

        Good points Thomas! I hadn’t even thought about the Safari Inspector (which is, obviously, lacking in iOS). That does present a pretty sizable problem to web development (particularly where debugging is concerned). But, if they could integrate that along with an excellent code editor (Coda on iOS is actually pretty good), it would be a decent setup. However, the lack of a local development stack would still, I think, be a deal breaker for most webdevs.

        I definitely see the iPad Pro being a great Wacom replacement if integrated properly in PS/Illustrator.

        I still might get an iPad Pro (mostly because I LOVE drawing on my iPad now… And the new Apple Pen will make apps like Sketchbook Pro and Paper even MORE awesome!). But, it will just be a replacement for my old iPad, not for my MacBook.

      • Thomas Yoon - 8 years ago

        Looks like we’re on the same page then, Jesse! I’m saying goodbye to my iPad Air 2 by this weekend with hopes that the return value on whoever I sell it to will be greater before this upgrade comes along and less people end up interested in it. I’ll happily keep it next to my early 2013 Macbook Pro, which is still going very strong day by day.

        The lack of a development stack is definitely a problem. I think you could definitely have a great contender for web development in the least if the iPad Pro could integrate a strong FTP client with an expansive code editor (Coda is pretty good, agreed). Pair that with a Safari that has a mobile code inspector, and you’ve at least got a tablet that can make live frontend and minor backend edits for websites. That’s huge for a lot of people too. That, and you wouldn’t be bogged down having to run a microscopic UI with all of the security risks and processor strains of a full x64 OS. I actually used to run with a Surface Pro 2, thinking that would be the problem solver for our very topic of conversation, but it turned out to be a chugging mess with icons impossible to tap efficiently, a magnetic keyboard that had an atrocious trackpad, and somehow had a total weight that exceeded the heaviest Macbook you can get at the moment, which is what I have.

        I sincerely hope that Adobe integrates support for the iPad Pro as a bluetooth controller, both the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and the iPad Pro have enough power to make it possible. It’s just that Adobe are very hit and miss with Apple integration, with great moments like incorporating Metal almost immediately into their software, but somehow still leaving their software unable to go into Lion’s full screen app view. They do baffle me sometimes, but I like their software.

        I’m definitely picking one up. In fact, I might splurge for the first time and go for the 128 GB Wi-Fi model, just to store some videos on this thing, because a 4-speaker system alongside that ridiculously crisp display is something I’m sure I’ll be abusing endlessly. My iPad Air 2 already sounded ridiculously good with just 2 speakers too. Of course, I’ll pick up the Apple Pencil as well, but I think I’ll hold off on a keyboard cover. As you so graciously explained, coding is not the best on this so far, and I’m afraid I don’t type enough content on an iPad to actually make it worth it. That, and it kind of sits funny in any position except for the one where you’re actually typing on it. Come to think of it, this cover doesn’t have a trackpad, does it? I actually think I would prefer iOS’ new 2-finger scroll select gesture over using something like Option+Left/Right and reselecting everything. Only time will tell about that.

        Still, I’m super excited for it. It doesn’t help that I have to also pick up the new Apple TV next month. Oh well, that’s the price I pay for indulging in this industry. :)

  11. George Wood (@radiowood) - 8 years ago

    Any serious writing needs cut and paste, and the iPad’s select function is clunky at best. A production tool for writing needs a mouse, and unless the iPad Pro has some ability they haven’t told us about, like the Apple Pencil beibg able to select text, it is just to hard to write anything lengthy or complicated.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Cut and paste is well supported by existing Bluetooth keyboards (the Brydge keyboard that I use, for example, lets you use the standard CMD-C/X/V keystrokes) – so I’m sure the same will be true of the Apple keyboard.

    • mikhailt - 8 years ago

      The iOS 9 keyboard on iPad has a trackpad that works to select text and the top shortcut bar has extra buttons to paste/copy, just tap on the keyboard for a few millisecond and it will then switch to the trackpad mode.

      It is definitely much better than it was before iOS 9.

    • heh, too easy. Plenty of ways to cut and paste with keyboards and the new iOS 9 keyboard.

  12. The answer is “No” and it hardly needs an article.

  13. shareef777 - 8 years ago

    The Pro is literally just a larger/faster iPad. It brings nothing different, so I don’t know how you can call the Pro a laptop/desktop replacement. Keyboards were always available on the iPad and 53 has provided a stylus to the iPad for a while. I’m really starting to get amazed at Apple’s marketing team.

    • I’m amazed you know nothing about the iPad Pro but comment on it anyway. The stylus and screen do far more than she pice of wood with a regular iPad screen for one. But you can Google the rest.

  14. kooksta - 8 years ago

    An iPad is still in my eyes a consumption device. I would use my MacBook Pro or my Surface Pro 3 for doing work. I constantly bounce between both and am happy to have both in my backpack to be honest. I also wouldn’t place one against the other they both are really kick butt devices and sometimes its nice to have a tablet with a full featured OS when other times its nice to have a really thin and light Laptop with a full featured keyboard. (Still cannot stand the touch and type covers for my large hands)

  15. Ali Hamodi - 8 years ago

    I sold my iPad air 2 last week and won’t buy another iPad untill Apple support the pencil on the regular size iPad. I for now luv my macbook pro and surface pro 3.

  16. As a student about to go into medical school, I have a few things I need changed for the iPad Pro as much as I’d love to get one.

    Not being able to hook it up to a larger screen is a huge no-go, I might be happy enough using airplay, but USB-C screen mirroring or extension would be optimal.

    The Office programmes aren’t quite fully fledged, especially in terms of equations and citations. This definitely has to change before I could use the iPad full time.

    Then there’s the risk of having to use an application that is Windows/OS X only. I might use an old PC and remote desktop to there, but if I already have a computer, then why spend $1000 on an iPad?

    Lastly there’s the issue with media, if I could hook up my external HDD to it I’d be happy, but that’s not happening.

    As much as I wan’t to be able to sell my MBP and just use an iPad Pro, it’s more likely that I’ll be going for a MB next time.

    • Armands Bērziņš - 8 years ago

      I guess you have not heard, but there are lightening port to HDMI or VGA, so you can use external monitor. And there are many options for external HDD or external SD/Flash drive readers for iOS. They are using Wi-Fi connection. There are many things and Apps that have helped me studying and I used iPad 3 with external monitor, disk drive and keyboard. Unfortunately, the are situations when I would want mouse but then again, you get used to it and work with stylus very fast, especially when ipad is like big touch pad with screen, because your screen at home is external monitor.

    • The iPad pro specific version of Office isn’t out yet but will be soon. It will meet most peoples needs.

  17. Scott Lunsford - 8 years ago

    Apple is not positioning the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement… So if you purchase one intending to do that, services and software will always fall short of your expectations/needs. You will have to constantly compromise with apps that aren’t as capable as their desktop equivalents. I wish Apple would commit, but it appears that decision is years away. For now, it’s continue to carry a MacBook Pro and an iPad Air… at least for me.

  18. leifashley - 8 years ago

    Developers no… and that’s one of my sticking points. So now I have to get a macbook pro, of some type, for development of java, Android, and iOS/OSX. But if I want a bad ass graphics drawing device, I want the iPad Pro.

    Best of both worlds?: iPad Pro docked into a macbook pro as a screen to it. I get iOS for mobile which I want, and I get OS X for laptop which I want. Similar to a two in one, but both completely independent of each other and running different OSes that communicate together.

  19. There are still too many websites that just won’t work with an iOS device. The worst are tablet/mobile-specific half-featured websites that won’t allow you to override the mobile site and request the desktop site. This happens a lot for me.

    For the screen/technology minimalist I recommend a laptop and a smartphone as the ideal two-device, ultralight setup.

  20. patstar5 - 8 years ago

    There is still no way an Ipad can fully replace a Mac or Pc! The only product that will replace your laptop is a Surface! I don’t even see the point of an Ipad pro, a Surface runs full desktop programs and can do so much more. It also takes much better notes. Well Microsoft is announcing 2 new surface tablets October 6th, a 12 inch and 14 inch. The Ipad Pro cannot compare.

  21. yojimbo007 - 8 years ago

    Not yet…
    We need more robust application and a Visible/managabls file sys.
    Lack of a visible file system is a huge shortcoming in ios !

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

      Here’s my response to that. Nowadays, more and more s/w companies are deploying Cloud services with the App, so you upload and download your files to the Cloud and it updates your desktop or main computer. So, you manage the files within the app for each app.

      Example. I have iTunes on my desktop at home, and it’s connected to my stereo as my main music library computer. I rip CDs to it in AIFF, I collect MP3’s, AAC, AIFF 24 bit, etc through a variety of sources. Now, with $25 a year iTunes Match, it scans my system, uploads what iTunes doesn’t have and then on my iPad or iPhone, I can easily click on what songs I want to listen to or download and it’s there. No fuss, no muss. I can delete off my iPad or iPhone to make more room for something else, but my desktop is still the same. But when I open up iTunes, it’s got my entire catalog from my main computer, but I don’t have it loaded.

      Now, if you really want a file manager because you can’t live without one, then you can download for free or a couple of bucks a file manager from the App Store. no big deal. The problem is that if they had a file manager a la OS X, you would need more RAM, more processing power, and it would probably make it more cumbersome to use and a l lot of people/companies are using iPads for specific apps. So, take your local restaurant chain that has an iDevice using an app to take orders, they don’t need a file manager, they just use one app specific to their job and that’s all they need. The shift in Cloud computing is what’s kinda changing the way we use OS’s, and since tablets have to be thin to hold and use in one hand, they have to make the OS braindead easy.

      As much as I love OS X, it’s still a full blown OS that requires a LOT more attention from a file management perspective, Windows isn’t any different. They are complicated for MOST people that don’t spend and don’t want to spend a lot of time using a computer from an administration perspective. File Managers is more of a administration of the data rather than using or creating data. I want the OS transparent as much as possible, otherwise, it’s not efficiently designed, IMO.

      I think that people that come from the traditional OS mentality NEED it because they are USED to it, but if you never used Windows or OS X and all you had and knew was iOS, you probably wouldn’t think the same.

      But go ahead and see what the 3rd party file managers are all about. For me, I really don’t need them, they just add more confusion I actually don’t need.

    • There are many on the app store.

  22. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

    I believe that the A9X from a processing perspective is more equivalent to the i7 that’s used in a MacBook Pro 13 Retina, plus it’s got higher res screen. Doesn’t the iPad Pro do 3 streams of 4K with a video editor? This is a more powerful than the MacBook, it’s just priced around the same.

    I remember that the A8X was rated about the same as a 2.2 Ghz i7 being used in MacBooks, but this is about 1.9x faster with combined CPU/GPU than the A8X. Skylines are coming out, but they are only marginally faster for the same power consumption. Go look up the processor they currently use in each product and then compare to the equivalent Skylake and see how much faster. Only about 25 to 30% for the replacement processor. I think Apple’s RISC processors are finally catching up and exceeding the low end i7’s. Since iOS is smaller footprint, they don’t need as much RAM, although this has 4GB. :-)

  23. Absolutely not. iOS is a great mobile operating systems, but it is not pro quality nor is it suitable at present for heavy editing of documents and mansucripts or code. I have several macbooks pros and airs, an iMac and some iphones and iPads. Each devices is great in its own way. I also have a Surface Pro 3 which is quite elegant and Windows 10 isn’t horrible. If it ran OSX/IOS hybrid between tablet and computer modes it would be a great device. If Apple made an ipad with an elegant keyboard/trackpad like the SP3 then the proModel with OSX/IOS hybrid would be a killer.

  24. Bob Langevin (@AvsGuy) - 8 years ago

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a USB-C port on the new iPad pro, then I might be looking at it instead of a macbook

  25. Superman (@Codiwin) - 8 years ago

    Still too early to decide, iPad still lacking of many things but i think it’s the future!

  26. jamessmooth - 8 years ago

    for me, the choice is not MacBook or iPad pro, it’s Surface or iPad pro. Ive never been a fan of Apple computers, I’m so used to windows that it’s just so much easier for me and familiar. I have to have LTE, and I assume the new surface will offer it so that makes my decision even harder. I don’t like the lack of a mouse on the iPad, but the apps and App Store on iOS is far superior than what windows offers. In the end, barring an absolute home run from Microsoft and the surface pro 4, I’m leaning towards an iPad pro. I use my iPad Air every day, multiple times a day. There is no substitute for it; if I really need to get work done, I can use the iPad (office is pretty darn capable on iOS IMO).

  27. I see the article focuses in the arts professions + writers.

    But iOS for now lacks a major feature for any heavier work: proper file management. I don’t want my work files sprinkled across the iPad, depending on the app I use to access them. The iCloud app folders allow us a single-level subfolder and nothing more. And the iOS app doesn’t allow full access to the contents of our iCloud Drive. Not very useful when you have projects and you want to organise a variety of file formats therein and organise them into subfolders. A related problem is the iOS apps’ sandboxed file access. If I want to open, say, a Pages document, it has to be (or be moved) within the app’s file space. So if I have a Pages document in my Google Drive app, it has to be moved across for editing and then somehow (?) exported back to Google Drive, after saving. Not very practical.

    The major advantage of the iPad Pro is that there will be tons of developers backing the platform. The Surface, however, is a MUCH better device for what it is. Yes, if Apple gave the MacBook a tablet mode (physically), I’d be much more tempted to make the jump. For now I’m sticking to my rMBP + iPad. I would be giving the Surface a VERY serious look if Windows didn’t DREAD the idea of moving back to Windows so much :/

  28. JoJo (@Solsvik) - 8 years ago

    You forgot to mention musicians! ! What about us ? It is finally big enough to replace sheet music ! :)

  29. COGBABY - 8 years ago

    One illustrator’s view: I switched from Mac to Windows last year because of the lack of a Mac tablet. Got a Cintiq Companion.

    Switched from iPhone to Galaxy Note 3 because of the stylus (Wacom tech inside).

    iPad Pro will develop over time but in this iteration at least it’s inadequate for my needs. Apple Pencil looks impressive and there’s space for developers other than Adobe to step in and make full-featured CC alternatives.

    Would be good if you could pair iPad Pro with a Mac and use it like a Cintiq.

    • COGBABY - 8 years ago

      When the Mac originally came out, it allowed creatives to do things that simply couldn’t be done with other machines.

      But those times are long gone. If anything, creatives are limited by Apple’s small range of hardware options.

      At least all this “draw with your finger” nonsense can be laid to rest, even if we still can’t draw directly on to a Mac.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

      Why didn’t you just get a Cintiq and use the Mac? I thought they worked with both platforms, that’s what Wacom’s site says.

      There was a pro graphic artist that mentioned she uses a Cintiq (not sure which model, but supposedly an expensive one) and she played with the iPad Pro w/Pencil at the event and she was blown away and wants to ditch her Wacom Cintiq. There are or will be apps that will allow it to be used with the workstation, so I can the iPad Pro being used for Graphics applications, and possibly in the same way with other apps like high end animation, video production, etc.

  30. Steven Mason - 8 years ago

    it does look like a good product (not for me, as a photographer my macbook pro might be a little heavier but to have the ability shoot directly into the laptop on shoots and the use of external hard drives, bigger screen space [macbook mid-2015 15 inch entry model] is a winner for me)

    The problem is that they are attempting to target the surface crowd with the physical device of the iPadPro but the reliance of iOS I believe hinders the device. Yeah there are alternative softwares that you can get on the iPad but it isn’t the same. Knowing a product on the market is already in that space Microsoft carved out the early requirements of this type of device and Apple has not brought it a-game when approaching this on a hard or software level. The surface has a lot going for it maybe with the pro 2 they might pull into this arena a bit more.

  31. Need more storage to replace desktop…

  32. MsChicksinger - 8 years ago

    And musicians!! I can’t wait for the larger screen size to view sheet music more easily AND be able to make notes on it!?!? Incredible!! So excited!!

  33. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

    For anyone that has the equipment, here’s what I would like to see.

    Get an iPad Pro, whatever comparable MacBook Whatever and a Surface Pro 3 or 4 that’s comparably priced and run iMovie with 4K video vs Movie Maker on the Surface and run through their paces with similar things and see where the chips fall. Does the iPad Pro compare to a Macbook, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro 13, 15? i7? i5? etc.

    That’s a logical app to run on an iPad Pro to do at least the that type of editing because anything more like lots of special effects, etc. people are going to drag out FCPX and use a workstation. but for those that have to a budget movie or TV commercial in 4K, why not? They did a Sundance movie in 1080p on an older iPad, so what does the iPad Pro really do in a real world comparison test because benchmarks aren’t necessarily going to tell the whole story, especially between a X86 running Windows vs RISC on iOS.

    I don’t know what other processor intensive apps would run these through their paces or than something like Photoshop rendering.. But this would be a great shootout using a real world application rather than just looking at specs.

  34. triankar - 7 years ago

    I generally agree with the article, but:

    I would say iOS’s most SERIOUS LIMITATION for work is FILE MANAGEMENT and how apps access files.
    – (iCloud) file management currently only shows the “app” folders (Pages, Numbers etc) and not any arbitrary folders and files that may exist in the drive, even the basic types (images, pdfs etc). This means I’m not allowed to access and manage my files like I want. I have to stick to app folders. Which brings me to the 2nd issue:
    – apps can only access a file within their file space, as far as I understand. That means that if I want to open a Pages document from my Google Drive, it first gets copied to the Pages’ file space, I do any editing and when I’m done I have to somehow re-export it to the Google Drive file space and destroy the local copy. Anyone who’s tried that knows how cumbersome it is.

    Overall, iOS is not very practical if you’re used to organising your files by task/project, rather than by app. App-centric file management works nicely for the (very) novice user, who doesn’t want to care, but not for anyone above that.

    This year I was disappointed twice by the hardware  released.
    – First it was the MacBook: an underpowered, port-limited laptop (hipster-focused, anyone?). No touch input either, so no drawing on it (and no “tablet” mode).
    – Then came the iPad Pro. Hardware-wise it’s almost there (I still want access to a USB port, even a USB-C one), but the biggest drawback is iOS itself. But I was very happy that there’s a stylus for it. I’ve tried all sorts of styli on my iPads and I can’t say I’m happy. It’s also probably more powerful than the MacBook :/

    All “we” needed was Apple’s equivalent of the Surface Pro. 12ish inches, touch+stylus input, OS X, thin, light, a couple of USB (C?) ports and good battery life. But Apple is too proud to release such a thing, and we’re now stuck with two half-baked products looking for their (niche?) markets.

    Me? I’m sticking with my 13 inch rMBP and my iPad mini 2 retina, which still offers me the perfect balance between portability, performance and functionality (I do some heavy note-taking on it). Though I admit the Surface Pro 3 tempted me too much, lately…

  35. Andrew Hart - 7 years ago

    I am betting the farm on an iPad Pro with Pencil and Astropad to replace the Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid 13HD I just sold on CraigsList. I hated the Cintiq because it was too clunky to use: that 3-in-1 cable with power adapter was just too much crap. But, an iPad Pro connected via a single cable or even wireless would be exactly what I wanted in the first place.

  36. pstelman - 7 years ago

    Just got an iPad Pro — really to experiment with, and see where it fits in. I’m a software developer, though, and what I really want is a tablet that runs a touch-enabled version of OS X. Yeah, I’m not expecting to run mysql locally on a tablet — yet, but I would like to have a web server and (of course) a file system.

    For now, the iPad Pro will be nice for taking notes in meetings (once the Pencil ships), and reading technical books that are cramped on the iPad Air.

  37. Graig Smith - 7 years ago

    It’s so close to being a full replacement. Except for the lack of real file management. Sure I could move dslr images to the device. Upload them to iCloud. But what if I want a local backup. When I run out of space on the iPad. What happens. When you run out of iCloud space. What happens? You can’t hook an external drive up to an iPad to create backups. Or move photos off to an external drive. This is basic computer stuff that the iPad must be a master of. if it ever wants to be a replacement for a computer.

  38. Michael Fournier - 7 years ago

    For Designers & artists – I’m guessing NO NO NO. It can not run high end graphics apps so no it can not replace your Mac. It can with the Help of a third party App (Astropad by Astro HQ) be used as a Graphics display tablet (similar to a Wacom) I have yet tested it though to see is Apps like Zbrush or Mudbox or support the app and the iPad used as a Wacom. As these apps have Wacom support built in but not sure if the Apple IPad pro with Astropad would work yet or not. But Again Apple does not get it. And it has been some 15 years since Wacom first combined a Pressure sensitive tablet with a LCD display. Yet Apple has ignored this feature in iMacs. (and thanks to Wacom’s virtual monopoly on these high end Graphics tablet displays their products are still priced WAY too high for 2015. Apple could cement their dominance in the Graphics market but again they don’t care (even though for years they are the same customers that kept apple afloat in the late 1990s and early 2000 when in the Enterprise market you would have a hard time finding a Apple computer except in the Marketing and graphics department. SO Apple It is time you actually design a product for those Artist and Graphics pros that were your largest supporters. It has been a long time since you even acknowledged we existed. (the Mac Pro is a need looking desktop but nothing about it is really making it more Functional. And it’s design actually limits the display card options that still to this day most are designed to fit in big square PC Towers. and Wit het cost of a Wacom 27 inch Display tablet almost 3 grand who is going to buy a additional apple display on top of that.

  39. Christian Duerig - 7 years ago

    The iPad Pro is just marvelous ! The crystal clear pictures and the catching sound satisfy my senses. Maki Harikito is even more beautiful, Yuja Wang much closer, Hilary Hahn more brillant, so that Krisia Todorova may dream of a beautiful future. Katica Illényi’s “El Choclo” on You Tube invites you to a Tango. The iPad Pro brings the world to the user.

  40. Divy Shah - 7 years ago

    i have a question. I have a MacBook Pro the 2012 version, without retina display. I want to sell it and buy iPad Pro. Is it a right decision or not? Also di I have access to Microsoft Office tools like I have in MacBook Pro or not? Thanks.

    • Christian Duerig - 7 years ago

      First of all comes the Mac Book Pro 13″. Second comes a Time Capsule. Third comes a 27″ monitor with Retina Display. Last comes an extension with an iPad Pro 13″. Now you can enjoy Mac !

    • Christian Duerig - 7 years ago

      Dear Divy, an iPad Pro can never replace a Mac Book Pro nor a Mac Book. The iPad Pro is only the best, lightest, most handy extension to a Mac. If you only want to watch videos, films, fotos, documents, … then the iPad Pro is marvelous. The sound an the pictures are excellent and brilliant. Today I watch movies only with the iPad Pro !!!


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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