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iPad Pro Test: Day Two

[fa icon="calendar"] 01-Dec-2015 10:18:25 / by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie Vassallo

The Entropy iPad Pro test is fully underway - and after the first weekend (and a Monday) with the super-tablet, I have to say, I'm getting pretty hooked already.

After struggling through most of the weekend 'commando' with neither keyboard nor Apple Pencil, I actually found that using the iPad Pro in its "birthday suit" was actually kinda fun. The virtual keyboard was a pleasure to use given...well...its sheer size, and the overall speed and performance of web browsing, launching apps, and even editing Excel spreadsheets was downright shocking. I'll go as far as to say that performance easily outclasses my 2015 Retina MacBook - which is to be expected as the iPad Pro's A9X Processor has been clocked well ahead of the 12-inch MacBook's rather pedestrian Core M unit. But to actually experience an iOS device of this speed, tempts you to use that terribly hackneyed term: 'game changer'. And often.

Sunday saw the arrival of the Apple Pencil - and yeah, it's fun to sketch and draw - but I'm really not much of an artist - so I suspect the Pencil will be limited to note-taking in meetings, and Demos of course (as I suspect everyone will want to play with this thing). But yes, it's very fast, super responsive - but to be totally honest, there is still a noticeable lag in most on apps I tried. That said, it's worth noting that the best experience for the Apple Pencil is still Apple's native Notes App - which I don't use - so I will be limited to enduring a bit of lag when notetaking in my preferred app, Evernote. Let's hope 3rd Party Developers can begin to achieve some of the same performance from the Pencil in future updates.

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But the real star for me has been the Apple Smart Keyboard.

I'll confess, I originally purchased the Logitech CREATE Keyboard case as the majority of comparison reviews put it well ahead of the Apple keyboard in terms of use and functionality. And while it may have more shortcuts and iOS-enabled buttons, it's a travesty of size and design, making the combined iPad Pro/Logitech Keyboard package weigh over 3.5 pounds. That's heavier than a MacBook Pro (!) - and frankly, a little ridiculous if you're buying this thing for convenience and portability. So to be honest, I never took the Logitech Keyboard out of the box, and once I used the Apple Smart Keyboard for the first time yesterday, I quickly rushed back to the Apple Store to swap it for the silicone back case (a painful but necessary £65 purchase to protect the back of the lovely tablet). BTW, on the Logitech vs Apple Keyboard debate, it's really telling that the Apple Store had literally dozens of Logitech CREATE keyboards on the shelf with absolutely no Apple Smart Keyboards in sight. Embarrassingly I bought mine on eBay - as I suspect most iPad Pro fanatics will have to do for the near future until Apple gets its act together. 

So back to the keyboard. It's a little wonky to use at first, but after about an hour, I quickly became proficient - typing almost as fast as my iMac keyboard - and every bit as fast as my 2015 MacBook. The surprising thing is how 'fun' it is to use. Yeah, keyboard as entertainment. There's something about the fabric keys that make it a real pleasure to use - they're clicky, have decent travel (especially apparent after moving from the new MacBook), and are well spaced. It's also dead-easy to set up which is a real surprise given the amount of reviews I have read bemoaning the confusing 'origami' of opening and properly setting up the keyboard.

Seriously, it's not a deal.

It takes two seconds and it's ready to roll. And here's another surprise - lap-ability. Although this is a flexible, fabric keyboard, it works great on your lap - with little wobble or give. Granted I'm only about 12 hours in at this point, but so far, I'm mightily impressed.

BTW, I'm writing this from the Apple Smart Keyboard (using the lovely iA Writer App) in my favourite coffee shop near our office - and I have to say, this may be the ideal 'go for a coffee' device. I've switched from classic iPad portrait mode (reading a bit of my RSS from Newsify in a lovely, almost newspaper-size format) to quickly flipping into to 'laptop mode' to write up this post. The flexibility is stellar. Keep in mind, I've had a Surface Pro 3 and countless Android and iPad tablets in the past, and this is still more fun and ultimately - more satisfying.

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So nothing but praise on Day Two of the iPad Pro Test. Not everything is sunny though as I have been struggling to establish a file workflow for downloading, saving, and editing files (looks like Dropbox will be heavily used here), and lots of apps are still not optimised for the massive iPad Pro screen - making navigation and the virtual keyboard look ludicrously large and unwieldy. 

But so far so happy.

The real test will come over the next few days as I will be taking the show on the road to London and will really put the iPad Pro through its paces during a typical super-multitasking sort of day (including presentations using the Keynote App, conference calling using Join.me, loads of Excel and Word work, and the usual fare of email and note-taking). 

Stay tuned...

Topics: iOS

Eddie Vassallo

Written by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie is Founder & CEO of Entropy, former Head of Mobile for Discovery Channel, regular Guest Contributor on GigaOm and has been featured on Daring Fireball, CNN, and Strategy Eye.