iPad Pro review roundup: fails to be a laptop replacement due to iOS, but Apple Pencil is impressive

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 11 Nov 2015


The iPad Pro went up for pre-order on Apple’s online stores earlier today. Now, the first barrage of reviews of the tablet are out, which will help you in answering the question whether the iPad Pro can successfully replace your MacBook or Windows laptop or not.

Irrespective of what Apple says, iOS is too limited to allow the iPad Pro to be a full blown laptop replacement and the early reviews of the device seem to agree.

The Verge

The Verge's iPad Pro review

The publication praises the size and dimension of the tablet, which despite its 12.9-inch screen is relatively portable and light.

It’s hefty by iPad standards, and definitely not suitable for casual stuff like one-handed reading. But as with all tech gadgetry, it’s a matter of relativity. It certainly doesn’t feel thick relative to its size. And to go back to the earlier comparison to a MacBook: it’s still lighter than a laptop. It was easy to throw in a bag and carry around for a day or a weekend trip.

It also praises the tablet’s display, with the lack of 3D Touch being the only notable downside. However, it is the powerful A9X chipset, 4GB RAM and the four speakers that impressed the publication the most.

Apps launched super quickly, and navigating between pages or different projects felt fluid. I can’t judge if a professional illustrator or graphic designer or architect would really be able to go full-time iPad Pro, but the mere fact that we’re at a place where the question is even possible is a win for Apple.

As for the Smart Cover Keyboard and Apple Pencil, The Verge says that the former is just plain overpriced and of little use, while the latter is just “plain fun.” The Pencil is extremely precise with no notable latency lag, and when combined with Apple’s flawless plan rejection software, it is an absolute heaven for designers and artists.

The Pencil’s greatest feature, then, is its precision. In my experience there was almost no latency between the Pencil and the screen; it really felt like I was using a pencil or pen.

In the end though, the publication finds iOS 9 too limiting on the iPad Pro to make the device a viable laptop replacement.

So fundamentally, I know that the iPad Pro can’t do all of the things my MacBook Pro can do. And, as of right now, the iPad is still not quite the computing savior that Steve Jobs predicted it would be five years ago.

But I would still consider this a worthy runner-up to a laptop, or the one (non-smartphone) device I would take with me next time I travel — something I’ve never felt confident about before when it came to the iPad. This new iPad is powerful, it’s fast, it has a large display, and it never lagged when I was multitasking or switching between apps. It’s not better than my laptop, but makes far fewer sacrifices than I expected.

Wall Street Journal

WSJ‘s review of the iPad Pro is generally positive, though even reviewer Joanna Stern ultimately finds it difficult to recommend the tablet as a laptop replacement for anyone.

On paper, 12.9 inches may not seem much bigger than the standard iPad’s 9.7 inches, but the Pro screen made me more productive. I spent much of my week writing in Microsoft Word on the left hand of the screen and toggling between websites and my inbox on the right. Text looks incredibly crisp, especially in comparison with my MacBook Air’s display, which has just half the pixels.

The A9X chipset inside the iPad Pro really is a beast, and in certain cases, it is even faster than traditional laptops.

The A9X processor and 4GB of RAM kept those apps running swiftly. But most impressive? When I exported the same 4K video in iMovie on both the Pro and my Intel Core i5-powered MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM, the iPad reached the finish line a minute and a half faster. And, unlike the Air, it didn’t sound like it was about to blast off from Cape Canaveral.

Ultimately though, iOS 9 greatly limits the potential of the iPad Pro and makes it short of becoming a full blown laptop replacement.

Despite iOS 9’s improved multitasking, there are still shortcomings. You can’t customize the home screen’s comically large icons with files or other shortcuts. You can’t place the same app—say two Safari windows—side by side. And iOS’s lack of real file management can be maddening. Microsoft saddles its Surface Pro with full-blown desktop Windows while the iPad Pro is still too closely related to an iPhone. Apple has to keep working to find the happy middle.

Joanna also found the Apple Pencil to be better than Microsoft’s solution. WSJ’s illustrator and visual editor, Mike, used the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for four hours and below is what he was able to come up with.

iPad Pro pencil

Mike noted that the iPad Pro felt “more natural to sketch and shade” on compared to his Wacom tablet. Every aspect of the Apple Pencil impressed the illustrator, with his only complaint being the pen sliding a little too smoothly on the glass surface.

Other notable reviewers like David Pierce from Wired have similar things to say about the iPad Pro. While the tablet is definitely impressive, it is just not a true laptop replacement due to iOS 9’s limitations. David also says that the Apple Smart Cover Keyboard accessory is just overpriced and lacks useful function keys, while the Apple Pencil is “special” compared to other similar offerings from third-party OEMs.

The first generation iPad Pro definitely falls short of becoming a laptop replacement, but a few generations down the line, there is a strong possibility that it will replace traditional computers and laptops. What do you think about the iPad Pro based on its reviews? Will you be buying one?