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iPad Pro review: can it really replace a computer?

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The presentation of the new iPad Pro (Check on has traveled on two parallel and converging tracks. On one hand, Apple has been focusing on the creatives, to amplify the artistic skills of photographers, video makers, and designers. It was apparent by just looking at the event’s location: an old stage in the center of Brooklyn. On the other hand, Apple’s rhetoric has guided the iPad Pro’s concept to no longer be considered as a plain tablet. It’s much more, they assure us. It’s a computer. Or, better, a device that can replace it and – in some ways – surpass it. The number of iPads sold in the last year – 44.2 million – was not been compared to that of the other tablets but to that of the most popular notebooks (and no other brand equals that figure). So, si the new iPad Pro a worthy PC replacement?

The screen

The screen

The new iPad Pro looks totally renovated compared to the previous model, which was released in 2017. And the screen is one of the reasons for which this tablet can be a valid notebook replacement. Big, clear, and now spanning from edge to edge, both horizontally and vertically. The dimensions change slightly: the small grow one from 10.5 to 11 inches while the bigger remains the same (12.9 inches). The Liquid Retina display is the same one used for the iPhone XR. An LCD screen with a definition of 264ppi that supports True Tone which can be used to correct colors and match them to the surroundings, and P3 wide color, which makes them more real. The anti-reflective coating remains and makes the device easier to use outdoors, as well as the ProMotion, a technology already seen on the previous iPad Pro that intervenes (and makes for smoother) animations.

The design

The design

The new iPad Pro is “screen-centered”. The display is surrounded by much thinner edges that streamline the device: it now measures 21,5cm (8.46in) in width and 28cm (11in) in height, for the larger version, against 22×30,5cm (8.66x12in) in the previous version. It also weighs less – but still enough – 633grams (22.32oz) for the mobile version. The rounded corners of the screen that follow the lines of the body are extra nice. The thickness decreased by a massive 15 percent makes it handier: measuring just 5,9 millimeters (0.23in) it’s the thinnest iPad ever made. It is also flat and that makes it look even more like a computer screen. It also “copies” the design of its main rival, the Microsoft Surface. As a result, the 12-megapixel camera becomes rather protruding and can be uncomfortable for those who use the iPad to type or design by laying it flat on the surface of a desk or table. There are two available colors, Silver and Space Grey. If the entire front is taken up by the screen, then there is no room left for the home button, which goes away.

Face ID

Securing the information on the iPad Pro is no longer entrusted to the Touch ID – the digital fingerprint sensor on the home button. Hidden in the upper edge of the tablet is a TrueDepth camera, whose sensors are not only used to take 7 megapixel selfies, portrait shots, or make calls with FaceTime but also to scan every part of our faces and thus enable the 3D facial recognition, which for the first time lands on a tablet. Even better than that of the iPhone XS: With the iPad Pro, the Face ID works even if we keep the device in both horizontal or vertical position. But it often says that our faces are too far away to be scanned: a tablet sits often farther away than a smartphone. And in case the sensor is obscured by the hand holding the tablet, the screen says “Camera is covered” to alert us. The Face ID, like on Apple phones, can also be used to safely store various account passwords, as well as for online Apple Pay.

Hello USB-C

Hello USB-C

Another welcome feature of this iPad Pro is located on the lower edge. Here in the middle, in addition to the four speakers for audio – there are others in the upper edge – there is no longer a Lightning port, typical of Apple devices, but a USB-C port. As we already stated, this isn’t a tablet, and the port isn’t just for charging. The iPad Pro, similar to a PC, is a hub to connect every professional or creative tool we may need, from a camera to an external monitor. And it was, therefore, necessary to break with tradition and focus on compatibility. A change that was necessary. The elimination of the headphone jack is more of a choice, as it already happened with last year’s iPhone. Apple has made its Air Pods a big deal, so it’s a good decision to go the wireless way, taking away from its devices the cabled temptation. Around the frame are no longer mounted just three but instead five microphones.

The interface

The iPad Pro loses the Home button but is enriched with Gestures, those functional gestures introduced on the iPhone X, that you learn quickly and get used to without problems. You will not miss the home button. The spacious screen can be parted in two and you can use two applications at the same time. The operating system is iOS 12.1.

Inside the shell

The great work that takes the iPad Pro ever further away from the tablet range and even more close to that of notebooks is within the aluminum shell. The heart of this device is the A12X Bionic, an even better chip than the one on the iPhone XS, which – ensures Apple – makes it faster than 92% of personal computers in sale today. It sports a 7-core graphics unit that makes performance twice as fast as the previous generation and brings it on par of one of the most powerful gaming consoles, the Xbox One S. Compared to the first iPad, we have a thousand times the better graphics performance. And then there’s the Neural Engine, the brain that uses computer learning to optimize every function, and that is able to perform 5 billion operations every second. The battery has an autonomy of 10 hours of continued use (that drops to 9 hours with the mobile network turned on).

The accessories

The accessories

Also redesigned are the main accessories that complete the offer of this iPad Pro. First of all, the Pencil, the stylus for writing and sketching on the screen. The new design accommodates its new functions: one side of the Pencil is flat and concealed underneath are the magnets that allow the device to adhere to the right side of the iPad and recharge wirelessly. The point is the same while inside – at the lower part of the pen – there are contact sensors that enable pen gestures. With a “tap” or two you can change from pencil to eraser, for example.

The Smart Keyboard is also updated. Can it replace a desktop keyboard? It’s a bit louder, and a little awkward in case we have to use it on the move, with the iPad resting on our lap. But the words in this article were all conveniently typed on the Smart Keyboard.

A Tablet or a PC?

The iPad Pro (Check on is no longer just a Tablet. And it’s a device designed for a particular group of users who have particular needs. Apple targets – reasonably – the creatives, those who often work outside an office (a recording studio, a production center, a photo studio or a graphics editorial room) and who need to have a screen in front of them that will allow them to work in an agile, speedy and more precise way. A screen where they can find applications dedicated to their work, of which the iPad Pro has a rich set. Can it replace a computer? Yes, and for some features, it is better. While there are also tasks where the convenience of the classic notebook is way better. There is no compatibility with a mouse, and although the screen is touch, it is also true the fact that, while using it, we always tried to reach for the touch-pad at the bottom of the keyboard. There is also no intention from Apple to let us create more user accounts. The iPad is a personal device, unlike the Mac or PC, where everyone can store their own data in their own files but can share the device with a colleague or a family member.

Change in order to survive

Giving new life – and new goals – to the iPad is an important strategic move. If with the “budget” model released in the first part of the year – the plain iPad – Apple aims for school and learning, with this more high-end and sophisticated version it wants to give an alternative to professionals – especially the creative ones – who are trying to find a portable, multi-purpose and easy-to-use device. It is true that the iPad still has its own public, but it has to come to terms with a segment, that of tablets, which is undergoing a downward trend: in the second quarter of the year the loss was 135%. With the larger and more powerful smartphones gaining way, this market is getting shorter and shorter. Apple is just preparing for the future by telling us how an iPad can easily replace a PC.

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