I’ve decided to keep this iPad Pro after all, and that decision has mainly come down to the joy of note-taking with the Pencil. It really is that good, and I like the simplicity of placing one device into my bag that will act as a writing machine + notebook. This iPad Pro’s screen is also large enough to let me review my notes and current draft, simultaneously, just like I could with an Air 2 and paper notebook.
It still disappoints me that I can’t properly import XAVC-S video to the iPad Pro, but I’m basically letting go of the notion that an iPad Pro can replace my current Retina MacBook Pro. I’ve decided that is not a problem for me as long as there’s a clear differentiation between what each of my devices specializes in. With this iPad Pro, I’ll have three tiers of device:
A 128 GB iPhone 6S Plus that I carry everywhere. It functions as a great stills and video camera, quick note-taking in the field, and a primary music player. It does a lot more than this, of course, but these are its major strengths.
A 128 GB iPad Pro Wi-Fi which always comes with me in my bag. Works for 80–85% of what I’d use my MacBook Pro for, and provides the screen size and comfort of a laptop as well. It also replaces my notebook and pens for sketching and writing notes out by hand.
A 256 GB Retina MacBook Pro (2013) that functions as my primary home computer. I roll it out for intense formatting of documents (which Word on iOS can’t handle), as well as video importing and editing.
I could bring the MacBook Pro with me everywhere, but its weight and size are what stop me from doing so. I like to keep my loadout as light as possible, so I’m very careful about what I place in my bags. The MacBook’s thickness makes it difficult to fit my camera alongside it in my lighter bags, and, at 3.5 lbs., it’s heavy enough that I can’t forget I have it with me. The iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard weigh in it around 2 lbs., which is 1.5 lbs. savings over bringing the MacBook around. That’s a noticeable difference over an afternoon of walking.
What About The Air 2?
The iPad Air 2 is even lighter, of course, and it isn’t that there’s anything inherently wrong with that device. It’s still fast enough on iOS 9, and its 2 GB of RAM work very well for Split View multitasking. The Logitech Ultrathin keyboard is also still holding up very well. However, the Pro just feels like a more flexible machine to me. It’s exactly what I think tablets should have been from the start: transformable typing, drawing, and writing machines. Now that I’ve used a Pencil with an iPad, I don’t think I could go back to a tablet without a pixel-precise writing tool.
Unsurprisingly, I’m also more comfortable working for longer periods of time on a 12.9-inch display than on the 9.7-inch display of the iPad Air 2. I also don’t miss the one-handed reading capability of the Air 2 now that I own a 6S Plus, since I can comfortably surf and read on my smartphone in bed. The iPad usually stays at my desk.
iPad Pro vs. 12-inch MacBook
The other contender for my money was the 12-inch MacBook. I wrote a post evaluating the value proposition of the iPad Pro and Retina MacBook a few weeks ago, and I have changed my mind since then. The MacBook is still a better deal for the storage, keyboard shortcuts, and work automation via OS X, but that MacBook would have replaced my iPad and my Retina MacBook Pro.
The more I researched the MacBook, the more limitations I found with the single USB-C port. I was fine with the prospect of purchasing a USB hub to multiply the ports, but as of December 2015, there’s no other hub aside from Apple’s that lets you have extra ports while maintaining a charge to the MacBook. Apple’s own $99 USB-C Digital AV hub only provides a single extra USB 3.0 port and HDMI, and I don’t like how it dangles so far off the body of the machine. The more I looked into the MacBook as an iPad + MacBook Pro replacement, the messier things got. The iPad Pro is still as pricey as it was before, but its value proposition changed for me when I realized how useful I found the Pencil. Being able to draw and write on the display has really changed how I can use a tablet, and it’s great to have so much touch-friendly software that already takes advantage of this.
That’s why I’m comfortable with this iPad Pro + MacBook Pro setup. I have the flexibility I need in my day-to-day with the iPad Pro, but I can always step it up and bring my MacBook Pro whenever I need to do more involved Microsoft Word formatting or video editing. I do have hopes for this device to become even more capable in the coming year, but I’m already satisfied with what it can do now.