Long Live the Trackpad: The iPad Pro Still Can’t Replace my MacBook

BY Evan Selleck

Published 5 Nov 2018

“Can the iPad Pro replace your computer?” is a question that won’t go away, and is once again being reinvigorated thanks to the brand new iPad Pro lineup that Apple just announced back in October.

It is a question that I have asked myself more than a few different times. I even picked up the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro when it launched to give it a shot. But, if I’m being honest, I didn’t really try to make it work. I focused on using apps, like WordPress, instead of using Safari or Google’s Chrome browser to access the platform, and that resulted in less-than-optimal results.

Plus, the thing was just too big. So I exchanged it for the smaller 10.5-inch model and I was pretty happy with it — as a secondary device. But, just like every other version of the iPad I have ever owned, the iPad Pro was sold off because I just couldn’t find a place for it in my life. I just don’t need another screen on my desk, no matter how badly I want to buy all the new gadgets. I’m old and set in my ways, apparently, so get off my porch.

The new iPad Pro is an exciting device. It’s arguably the most exciting thing Apple announced in October, even in light of a brand new MacBook Air being unveiled. That as a lot to do with the switch to USB-C and the ability to plug in devices like a DSLR or an external display into the tablet. Or the fact that, according to Apple, the A12X Bionic processor under the hood makes the new iPad Pro faster than 92 percent of all portable personal computers sold in the last 12 months. And let’s not forget the “Xbox One S-class graphics performance” in the remarkably thin device, too.

Apple has obviously been positioning the iPad Pro (or the iPad lineup in general) as the go-to consumer choice for their computing needs, but, speaking from experience, that’s a lofty goal that might still just be out of reach for most people who want to use the iPad Pro as their primary device. At least when it comes to folks who want to use it for work.

I thought I would be the perfect example of this, because most of my job is just typing things up on a website or in an app. So, before the new iPad Pro launched I decided to go get a 10.5-inch model and give it a go. Really try to give it a shot. So last Friday I used the 10.5-inch iPad Pro as my sole work device to see if I’d be upgrading it to the new iPad Pro later this week.

That won’t be happening, and it comes down to the little things that don’t actually require typing (mostly). But, let’s get the typing out of the way first. The Smart Keyboard is pretty good, even if it is missing media playback keys. Typing on it feels okay, but it does start to get tiresome after a particularly long day of stringing words together. It’s also not backlit, which might be a dealbreaker for some. It isn’t for me, but it can definitely be annoying.

Now, there are a variety of third-party keyboard options out there and a lot of them are good, especially form the likes of Logitech. Some of these issues could be addressed by another keyboard, which is why this isn’t really the biggest issue. I can find a fix in this department, and sometimes save some money compared to what Apple offers.

macbook in cafe

But where things fall apart for me is just about anywhere that I would normally use the trackpad on my MacBook. That includes scrolling through websites. That includes scrolling through lists on WordPress. That definitely includes word selection while typing something up. Using my finger on the touchscreen isn’t awful, but there is definitely a difference between that and just using the trackpad. And, for me, it’s more accurate to use the trackpad, too.

Comfort and accuracy go a long way when you’re just trying to get some work done.

The other little things that came up? No media playback keys are definitely one. Or the fact that the standard browsing experience on the iPad Pro is still mobile websites (and some just refuse to hand over the desktop version, no matter how many times you request it in Safari or Chrome). Something that didn’t annoy me as much as I thought it would, though, was taking screenshots and resizing images. iOS has a pretty quick way to edit screenshots right after you take them. However, on the other side of that coin is the fact that there isn’t a desktop, so that means if you do need to save a photo it’s usually saved to your Photos library — and uploaded to all your other devices. By the time Friday’s work day came to an end I was going through saved photos and deleting them.

I really want the new iPad Pro. I think it looks awesome and it sounds like a remarkably capable machine (just like the previous models). However, I can safely say that, even for me, the iPad Pro can’t quite replace my laptop. Not yet. And for that reason alone I can’t justify the higher price tag of the new iPad Pro lineup, not for a device that I know I won’t use nearly enough to make spending that much worthwhile. Those initial iPad Pro reviews for the new model feel right on target.

Basically, long live the trackpad.

Can the iPad Pro, or any iPad (except maybe the iPad mini?) for that matter, replace your primary computer? I definitely think it can, but your use case has to be pretty specific.

What about you? Do you plan on making the new iPad Pro your primary computing device when it launches later this week?