Instead, the 11-inch iPad Pro is for those who can’t sit still. It’s what you throw in your bag as you travel around, writing, drawing, creating and/or working – an existence we lost for a long time and are only starting to get back. Normally to get this level of performance you’d need a 15-inch laptop, but here it is in a form you can forget you’ve got with you, a form you don’t question about whether you should take with you – it’s just there in your day, tote or handbag ready for when you need it.
As with many Apple devices, the key question about the smaller of the new iPad Pro range isn’t ‘is it any good’, it’s ‘who’s it for’? It’s not the iPad for most iPad buyers – that’s arguably the iPad Air – nor is it the money’s-no-object, ultimate powerhouse of its 12.9-inch sister.
As the name and price imply, this is aimed at professionals – or at least financially enthusiastic amateurs – who want to use it for more than just playing games and watching Netflix. It’s for pro artists, creatives or business users – and for those users, the iPad Pro alone won’t be enough. You’ll either want to couple it with the Apple Pencil for creating or the Magic Keyboard for working (or both), so you’ll need to factor that into the price.
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Without these, the iPad Pro is like a car engine without a chassis – it’s obviously powerful but you can’t actually go anywhere with it.
Design and Build
On its own, the iPad Pro is as sleek and stylish as you’d expect. The camera sticks out the back, but you can still happily type or draw with it flat on a desk. The silver industrial design of the sides isn’t as cool as it once was, but it is practical with well-place buttons, USB-C for charging and connecting accessories and a magnetic strip at the top to hold your Pencil while it wireless charges.
The new iPad Pro – unrealised potential in a possible laptop replacement
The Pencil is a perfectly balanced and weighted stylus – light enough to use for long periods but heavily enough to make marks precisely. It’s level of pressure and tilt sensitivity is practically as good as anything Wacom tablets can deliver. There’s also a tapable button on the top that works well to quickly change tools in apps from Photoshop to Notes.
The Magic Keyboard is equally well designed: the iPad Pro clips magnetically to it, with a degree of tilt adjustment. From the front, the iPad screen appears to levitate in front of you, while under your fingers is the best keyboard I’ve ever used outside of a 15-inch laptop or standalone desktop unit. It’s responsive and there’s a good amount of travel, with the touchscreen easily in reach to quickly tap and pull and push. Many of Apple’s apps – and others – put controls and menus at the bottom of the screen, where you can quickly tap to make contextual selections where mere keyboard shortcuts won’t suffice (such as which word you meant when you went on spelling safari, writing saffoce instead of suffice).
The touchpad is titchy, but I rarely use it – favouring the tablet screen instead. The other oddly unuseful feature is the keyboard’s own USB-C port. Yes, plugging your power lead into it is sleeker as your cable runs along your desk/table rather than hanging off the right edge of the landscape iPad – but it charges more slowly that way. Maybe Apple has some idea that I’ll be working away on my iPad-as-a-laptop on a desk most of the time, briefly pulling it off the Magic Keyboard when inspiration strikes and I need to lie down on the sofa and sketch my Spring/Summer 2022 collection – but I’m more of a ‘when I plug it in, I need it to charge ASAP’ kinda person. And I suspect we all are. This is all very lovely – but is pretty much exactly what I wrote about the previous model. What’s new in the 2021 model is what’s sandwiched between screen and backplate.
This year’s iPad Pro is the first to feature Apple’s M1 chip, as found in the company’s MacBook 13.3-inch Air and Pro laptops. Using synthetic benchmarks, the 2021 iPad Pro was up to 56% faster than last year’s 12.9-inch model and 73% faster than the current iPad Air.
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