It seems like a year doesn’t go by that my workflow sees some sort of major disruption, caused by a new device. Last year’s big shakeup was the iPad Pro, which was large enough that I could finally comfortably write on a tablet for hours at a time. It also held the promise of becoming a full-time computer given the storage space. But given what I’d like to accomplish with a mobile computer — mobile photo editing, writing, browsing, and video editing — the iPad Pro isn’t there yet. I’ve written that word quite a lot over the years: yet.
Touchscreen devices are seeing the fastest growth in terms of innovation and performance improvements, but they still feel inferior to the L-shaped laptops we’ve been using for years. There’s something about resting my hands on the keyboard, looking forward at the screen, and keeping my hands in place as I manipulate content. It is more enjoyable to surf while touching the content on screen, but when it comes to multitasking or batch-processing of tasks and files, the Mac still feels faster to me.
So I’m seeing what it’s like to use a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro as my primary mobile machine. It’s the one with the fancier Touchbar and all of the USB-C ports. It needs two separate dongles to function like my 2013 MacBook Pro, but the iPad Pro already got me used to that idea, so I’m not too torn up about it.
What this means is that I only use the iPad Pro when it feels natural to do so. I think that’s a good thing because, even though I’ve been leaving the iPad Pro at home, it still feels like the device has a particular spot in my lineup. My primary uses for the iPad Pro these days are:
Drawing in Procreate or Paper. There’s still nothing else that can touch the Pencil’s accuracy and ease-of-use, and I’m toying with the idea of getting Duet Display’s in-app purchase, so that I can use the iPad Pro with Photoshop.
An extra monitor on the go. Speaking of Duet Display, I was unable to use my 24” Dell Monitor for a few days because I didn’t have the right cable for the MacBook’s USB-C ports, but a Lightning cable and the iPad Pro made for a fantastic and responsive secondary screen.
Mobile photo showcasing. I’ll be heading out to do some portrait work tomorrow morning, and even though both the MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro require adapters to read SD cards, the iPad Pro is still a better computer for previewing shots in the field. My USB 3.0 Lightning-to-SD Card reader makes it a cinch to download 100 shots to the Photos app, where I can quickly review a few frames at full resolution. This is something that MacBooks are also capable of, but balancing a laptop in your hands always feels precarious. Lifting a tablet in one hand to show off a picture just feels right.
Netflix and Cook. The iPad Pro plays a pretty big role during dinner time. It’s the go-to device for consulting recipes while chopping and frying up the food, and it’s also the same device we stand up on the dinner table for a bit of Netflix while we eat. An iPhone — even the 6S Plus — is too small for these things, and a laptop takes up too much room because the keyboard juts out so much. It’s also far easier to clean up an iPad than it is to clean off the keys of a MacBook.
Maybe it’s because I write about the iPad on a weekly basis throughout the year, but I’ve found that it’s the device that I have to think the hardest about. It’s got a screen that’s as big as my MacBook Pro, but it also has the same touch interface as my iPhone. There are a lot of wonderful things about that combination, but it can also be terribly confusing because the hybrid nature of the device makes me want to contort my own habits to try and fit the iPad Pro. Deciding on a MacBook Pro for my daily carry and using the iPad Pro wherever it feels like it fits just feels like a much easier solution for me.