iPad Pro iPad Pro 11” Review: A Skeptic’s View

Trey M

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I would say I’m someone who has had an overall love/hate relationship with the iPad. I got my first iPad, a first-gen iPad in 2010 w/cellular, as I was finishing up high school and it always felt so futuristic and innovative. However, I never really felt it reached its potential or met the hype. I just couldn’t come up with use-cases for the device as much as I wanted to. I had 2 subsequent iPads (iPad 3rd gen and iPad Mini) and I never really ended up using the devices. I always reverted to using MacOS and the iPads would just become another device I have to maintain (update OS, updates apps) only to never use the thing all year long.

I had an ‘iPad hiatus’ and didn’t own an iPad for a number of years. I didn’t miss them. I was tempted when they launched iPad Pros and released keyboard attachments/Pencil but I still felt like my opinion would remain the same.

Shift to today and I’m typing this up on my iPad Pro 11-inch. The thing that I love most is definitely the hardware. They took a very aging design and came up with something totally fresh. Seeing one in person is really necessary to truly appreciate the hardware and overall form factor. When you consider that this super light device has a chip as powerful as it does, it really makes you fall in love with the hardware. The gesture based navigation, a la iPhone X, is next level and makes the device feel that much more futuristic. Also, without the home button, it just becomes a super-light glass slab that you hold in any orientation.

I feel the 11-inch form factor is fantastic. I know Apple designed the 10.5 inch Pro around the notion of a full-sized keyboard, and this new 11-inch model is just a natural evolution of the form-factor. The keyboard is really effortless to use and as someone who is used to the butterfly keyboards, it’s a very natural typing experience that I don’t have to really think about going between my MBP and my iPad. I know there’s the whole 11 vs 12.9 debate, but more than anything it comes down to personal preference and how you use the device. When I consider what I like the most about my iPad, it’s the combination of portability in a stunning form-factor and always-on LTE. It wouldn’t be nearly as portable if I owned a 12.9 version, however if I just sat it at a desk all day, the 12.9 might be a better choice.

I also continue to find use-cases for the device, which I never did in the past. A lot of it has to do with the fact that it has a very usable keyboard now, and iOS has matured to recognize basic shortcuts i.e. Spotlight or CMD-F. I find that iOS is better suited for when I really need to focus on one thing— such as typing this review. My profession requires me to multitask so frequently, and because of this whenever I open my Mac, I immediately go do 100 different things. If I just need to do one or two quick things, I find the iPad is the better device to pick up because I can quickly accomplish whatever I need to, then just move on.

It’s ironic because part of what I enjoy most about the software (the simplicity) also becomes the devices’ Achilles heel when comparing it against a laptop. As every review mentions, it’s incredibly obvious that the bottleneck for this device is the software because you can just feel how powerful it is as you’re using it. The fact that I can’t connect a USB-C drive and transfer to/from is laughable for a device that costs this much. When you add in a Pencil/Keyboard, you’re already looking at an additional $300+, not to mention if you opt for the cellular model ($150). It adds up quickly yet I can’t even transfer a movie over from a drive. Another limitation of the software is the fact that iOS continues to treat so many sites as ‘Mobile’ sites. This thing is larger than a lot of real laptop devices- i.e. Surface Go, but certain sites insist on locking me into a mobile browser view, even when I ‘Request Desktop Site’. If I’m being honest with myself, to knock out some real work, I’m reaching for the Macbook every time due to limitations such as these.

Wouldn’t be a review without mentioning the bending. I will say I’ve stared at the damn thing for a lot longer than I’d like to admit, and I can’t determine whether or not there is a slight bend when looking along the top. After so much focus and one-eye squinting, I decided if I have to try that hard to see something, it’s not worth letting it ruin my opinion of the device. I’ve moved on from caring about the ‘bending’ and I think many others would live happier lives if they did the same. I’ve seen pictures of some extreme cases and they are appalling, to be completely transparent. I know there are exceptions and some cases are different than others, but largely I think it’s a lot of noise about what’s essentially a non-issue.

iOS 13/14 will really shed light on the path forward for iOS (maybe eventually PadOS?) and that will really dictate just what this device will become in the future. The exciting thing about the 2018 iPad is that for the first time in forever, it feels like the device is about to get that much better when Apple launches iOS13. Innovation in the tablet category was stale for so many years, however it finally feels like the time is right with Marzapian and all of these other synergies going on that the iPad may finally be approaching a point of maturity where the OS will eliminate the need to use mainstream desktop operating systems for a lot of people. The beginning of the end, so to speak. Especially when considering the younger generation (under age 15 or so) who heavily prefer iOS to something like MacOS, the time seems right for a shift. There will always be a place for MacOS but mainstream computing is approaching a new phase. The time is ripe for Apple to show us the next big thing.
 

B.A.T

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"The fact that I can’t connect a USB-C drive and transfer to/from is laughable for a device that costs this much".

I went to the Apple store the day these came out to check out the 12.9" iPad. While I loved it, I felt it was too big for my use cases and really fell in love with the 11". If I could plug the iPad into an external hard drive I would have bought one o n the spot and sold my iMac. I suppose Apple already knew this and this explains why hard drives are not compatible. I ended up buying a used 10.5" with keyboard and pencil, LTE and 256 GBs for $600 but I would have preferred the 11". Hopefully soon this will all change and when it does I will buy the newest iPad.
 
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Trey M

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"The fact that I can’t connect a USB-C drive and transfer to/from is laughable for a device that costs this much".

I went to the Apple store the day these came out to check out the 12.9" iPad. While I loved it, I felt it was too big for my use cases and really fell in love with the 11". If I could plug the iPad into an external hard drive I would have bought one o n the spot and sold my iMac. I suppose Apple already knew this and this explains why hard drives are not compatible. I ended up buying a used 10.5" with keyboard and pencil, LTE and 256 GBs for $600 but I would have preferred the 11". Hopefully soon this will all change and when it does I will buy the newest iPad.
I can totally understand picking up the 10.5 on a good deal. You’re paying such a premium for the brand new hardware and there’s essentially no sales or anything like that.

I am very optimistic that iOS13 will actually enable additional USB-C functionality on the 2018 iPad Pro, including the ability to transfer files to/from a drive, but we shall see. It’s a logical next step.
 

RudySnow

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So, more accurately, your post’s title should’ve read, “iOS 12 on iPad 11-inch Review: A Skeptic’s View.” Your review, sans the bending issue, applies to any iPad that runs iOS 12.
 

Whoakapi

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May 26, 2010
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So, more accurately, your post’s title should’ve read, “iOS 12 on iPad 11-inch Review: A Skeptic’s View.” Your review, sans the bending issue, applies to any iPad that runs iOS 12.
Not mentioning the bending issue in a 2018 Pro review is the same as not adding salt to your popcorn. Completely pointless and incomprehensible :D
 

Trey M

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So, more accurately, your post’s title should’ve read, “iOS 12 on iPad 11-inch Review: A Skeptic’s View.” Your review, sans the bending issue, applies to any iPad that runs iOS 12.
Except not really because my review covers the hardware
 

masotime

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Except not really because my review covers the hardware
Not only that - the hardware is useless without the software, it's not possible to write a meaningful review without including the software as well.

The iPad Pro is really amazing - I could play back 4k60 HEVC content from my GoPro Hero 7 without any lag, whereas my MacBook Pro would stutter trying to play back the same, but all that hardware is really held back by the lack of software, and I think at this point the lack of flexible external storage is really just a way for Apple to preserve their huge margins on their higher tier storage capacity iPads.

Don't get me wrong - I love my iPads, but Apple needs to find better ways of making money than trying to gouge people over the prices of flash storage. That may have floated in the past, but when you can buy a 2TB SSD for ~$200, it's borderline irresponsible for Apple to charge an additional $50 per 64GB of additional flash storage (this is why the 1TB iPad Pro commands a (1TB - 64GB) / 64GB = 15 x $50 = $750 premium over the 64GB variant)

To put that in perspective, $200 for a 2TB SSD is equivalent of charging $6.25 for every 64GB. Apple's $50 premium per 64GB is 800% of that.
 
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MistrSynistr

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The fact you've been peering at your iPad over and over and can't tell if it's bent or not is not a good sign.

If it wasn't bent, you'd of looked at it once and knew it wasn't bent.
 

plexdk

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The fact you've been peering at your iPad over and over and can't tell if it's bent or not is not a good sign.

If it wasn't bent, you'd of looked at it once and knew it wasn't bent.
This! If its that hard to see, it shouldn't be a problem :p
 

Trey M

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The fact you've been peering at your iPad over and over and can't tell if it's bent or not is not a good sign.

If it wasn't bent, you'd of looked at it once and knew it wasn't bent.
Reading this forum too much is why I can’t stop looking at it, lol

I think mine has a very, very slight curve along the top. I seriously have to try my absolute hardest to even see it. Normally it would bother me but it’s really that hard to notice.
 

masotime

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Reading this forum too much is why I can’t stop looking at it, lol

I think mine has a very, very slight curve along the top. I seriously have to try my absolute hardest to even see it. Normally it would bother me but it’s really that hard to notice.
All this is within Apple's own specifications. While it's arguable if they even should have a bend in the first place, Apple has presumably accounted for this in the QA process, so functionally it should have no effect.

If visual perfection is a part of functional acceptability levels, then yes - it's definitely not acceptable. The power is in the hands of the consumer :) - although I do think that Apple shouldn't have waited until after people purchased the iPad Pros and are unable to return it before putting up a document explaining the bend situation.
 
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Trey M

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although I do think that Apple shouldn't have waited until after people purchased the iPad Pros and are unable to return it before putting up a document explaining the bend situation.
Completely agree on this point. Their response is pathetically late and this type of behavior has become all too common with Apple in recent years. They certainly knew about this issue from a quality control point and should’ve been transparent from the beginning.

Take the 2016 MacBook Pro. Within months of its initial release, they applied for a patent related to the silicone barrier which is in place in the 3rd gen butterfly keyboard in the 2018 models sold today. This was after the internet had already negatively reacted to the quality and durability of the butterfly keyboard. They still sold the 2017 MacBook Pro with an almost identical keyboard, fully aware of issues and continuing to remain mute on the issue. There’s actual evidence available to suggest a significant uptick in repairs for keyboard-related issues the moment the 2016 models launched.

Now they’ve admitted issues with all of these models and supposedly corrected it with the 3rd gen butterfly keyboard (time will tell), however all of those buyers in between get screwed with a questionable keyboard on a very expensive machine. Oh and if you have an issue have fun waiting 2 weeks for a Genius repair
 
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RudySnow

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Except not really because my review covers the hardware
I covered hardware in your edited title.
[doublepost=1546921639][/doublepost]
Not mentioning the bending issue in a 2018 Pro review is the same as not adding salt to your popcorn. Completely pointless and incomprehensible :D
Salt does not make everything taste better. If anything, OP’s review had too many herbs and spices.
 

DougFNJ

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Jan 22, 2008
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First of all, great, honest, and well thought out review!

I spent a ridiculous amount this year upgrading my Apple devices. I upgraded to the 2017 MacBook Pro for the Quad Core, Updated my iPhone to the XS for the additional storage and dual SIM, upgraded the Watch to Series 4 for the larger display, and upgraded to the 11" iPad Pro. Every one of these devices feels like they are what Apple ultimately had in mind as advanced products.

This is the first time my iPad is used more than my MacBook Pro. If I left my MacBook Pro at home for a couple days, I would not feel like I was overwhelmingly missing it. My MacBook Pro has become more primarily a desktop at home than the Mobile device I have used them as for years. Mind you, there are still different use case scenarios for each device. When I am putting together reports and need 2 screens and multitasking, my MacBook Pro is necessary. When I am doing major work on a spreadsheet, my iPad Pro is more capable than it ever has, but it is much easier to work in spreadsheets that are already developed. I still need my MacBook Pro to backup and transfer the data to my iPhone and iPad, and I still need the MacBook Pro for professional level apps. Each device still has their place for what I use each for.

My 11" iPad Pro has become a true all day go to. My iPad has no noticeable bend, and I agree with you on both points, looking for defects in a perfectly working device takes away from the enjoyment, and Apple really should had posted that in their notes before hand. People know, and can make their purchasing decision based on that.

Like you, I have had many generations of iPads, and I primarily used them as consumption devices. Reading books, magazines, watching movies and TV shows, and the iPads sat most days. When the iPad Pro came out with the Pencil, I definitely used it more. This device and the app Goodnotes helped me organize my notes, and remove notebooks from my life. I was able to work with spreadsheets a little more, but my MacBook Pro remained the true go to device. The Keyboard case on the previous iPad Pros were heavy, clunky, and I found myself swapping cases back and forth often. This version is different. I appreciate the front and back protection with the keyboard case, I didn't even bother getting the regular portfolio case this time out. Much of the software HAS caught up with the hardware. Microsoft Office is so much more usable since the last versions, especially with the responsiveness of the Pencil. Goodnotes and PDF Expert have been doing great updates. Emailing, web browsing, research, writing reports, note taking, along with my consumption has been an incredibly easy experience for me. I appreciate the magnet that holds my Apple Pencil, and charging is so much better as I attach it when in Keyboard mode which is often. I am so incredibly satisfied with what they put out with these hardware and accessory updates. I also look forward to seeing what direction they go with IOS on this device. I have also found the battery life improved over previous generations.

Glad you are enjoying yours too.