After a month and a half with the iPad Air, I’m ready to go back
I’ve always preferred the 12.9″ iPad Pros since I first bought one in the Summer of 2015. I know it isn’t the most popular size of Apple tablet, but it’s been the perfect one for me. That size screen has only become more useful as Apple has added features to iPadOS and enhanced things like multitasking over the past few years.
Feeling pretty secure in the rumors that a new iPad Pro with a miniLED screen and faster processor was coming this month, I sold my 2018 iPad Pro back in January so I could get a little more for it before the new one is announced. I also had the luxury of owning a 2020 iPad Air that I picked up to review that was already set up and ready to take the Pro’s place for the two months that followed.
As I wrote in late January, the current gen iPad Air is actually a pretty good stand-in for an iPad Pro. Speed isn’t an issue, as it takes care of all my tasks with no lag at all. It’s an excellent streaming media playback and gaming device, which has been handy as I’ve worked on the road the last three weeks straight. I have a good keyboard case on it, so it’s easy to write articles for this site with it if I choose to. For most people, the Air will be more than enough tablet for what they want or need.
However, while my Air has done the job pretty well, the longer I use it the more I miss my old 12.9″ Pro. That’s been especially true during these last three weeks on the road. While the 11″ size is a bit more portable, I’ll take the bigger screen back in a heartbeat. For example, I haven’t been using my Air for work or for writing the way that I did with my Pro. Maybe this means it’s time to get an eye exam and update my glasses, but the screen just feels too small for me. I found myself squinting and moving the Air closer, so I finally just stopped. I’ve been using my laptop to write almost exclusively over the last month because of this.
I also find other work tasks to be more of a struggle with the smaller screen. I have been marking up the mechanical prints of a sports arena with notes on wall changes, wall colors and floor finishes for a digital artist. He will take those changes and turn them into 3D images for use as floorplan graphics in a Building Automation System I’m trying to finish up. I have used my iPad Pros and Apple Pencil for this and similar tasks over the last five years, but I really miss that little bit of extra screen real estate right now. There’s been a lot more zooming in and extra effort involved doing this on the Air.
I mentioned above that the iPad Air is a fine digital streaming and gaming device. While true, the 12.9″ Pro is a lot better as a sole source of entertainment on the road, at least for me. I tend to do a lot of work and writing in my hotel room in the evenings, so I keep my iPad right next to my laptop so I’m not tempted to look away at the TV and lose focus on what I’m doing. The Air is good, but with a bigger, brighter screen and 4 stereo surround speakers, the Pro is noticeably better. The AirPods Max can erase the audio gap, but they can’t make the screen grow.
That difference in screen size is really the killer for me. If the Air came in a 12.9″ version, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. I would still prefer the latest and greatest feature set of the new Pro, but I wouldn’t be passing on using the Air the way I do sometimes right now. For example, I needed two screens for some testing of a program automating the Air Compressors in an automotive manufacturing plant yesterday. I needed to see the graphical interface the customer will work with and the program working in real-time at the same time to ensure everything matched up.
Typically, I would connect my iPad Pro to my Windows laptop using Duet for this task. Connecting the two with a USB-C cable, there is little screen lag, making the Pro a great secondary screen for my laptop. Unfortunately, an 11″ screen is just too small for what we were needed. I ended up getting out my Surface Pro 7, which I have as a backup work laptop, and opening the same software on it to use side by side with my primary laptop. It has a larger, higher resolution screen and was simply better suited to the task.
All of this totaled up doesn’t make me dislike the iPad Air, but it has been enough to take away from how much I use it. Sure, I always want to get my hands on the latest and greatest tablet from Apple. I would buy it anyway to review here even if I was in love with the Air. I wouldn’t be much of a writer for an Apple site that focuses on the iPad if I didn’t.
However, missing the iPad Pro is more of a practical matter for me. I’m ready to go back to my normal workflow of using a 12.9″ tablet for all of my writing here at the site, several tasks at work, and all of my entertainment needs on the road. While the iPad Air has had a solid run as its stand-in, the fact that I’m passing on using it so often right now is telling. It isn’t just about what I want. The 12.9″ Pro is just the better tool for what I need.
The good news is that is shouldn’t be much longer of a wait for those of us who are ready to buy the latest high-end Apple tablet. Hopefully we will be hearing from them about new hardware sometime over the next three weeks. It’s also possible that a new iPad Pro will be shipping to those of us who are ready and waiting by the end of the month.
Who else is ready to jump on the new iPad Pros the moment pre-orders open? Are you team 12.9 like me, or is the 11″ Pro your Apple tablet size of choice? Let me know in the Comments below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.