How The iPad Pro Fits In With My Other Devices

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

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