TechNow: The pro that helps you work, rest and play

TechNow: The pro that helps you work, rest and play

At only 5.9mm thick, the iPad Pro still manages to feel incredibly robust.

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m an iPad fan and more especially, the iPad Pro.

I’ve been using the latest iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2020 since it came out for this long-term review.

Design 

The iPad Pro hasn’t changed much since the one released in 2018 and I still love the way it looks and feels.

There’s a decent weight to it (641g 12.9-inch model) and you know you have a premium device when you hold it in your hands.

At only 5.9mm thick, the iPad Pro still manages to feel incredibly robust.

Each corner is rounded and the edges are bevelled, so there’s nothing sharp to catch on when you hold it in your hands.

The screen bezels are the same size all the way around, but now there’s a bigger camera module on the back to house the dual cameras, LiDAR scanner (Light Detection and Ranging) and flash.

The screen doesn't go all the way out to the edges and so you have a decent-sized bezel, but this only makes for a better user experience for drawing, playing games etc.

It also means no screen notch since there's plenty of room for the TrueDepth and selfie cameras.

You still get the four-speaker grills for amazing audio and a single USB-C port.

Display 

At only 5.9mm thick, the iPad Pro still manages to feel incredibly robust.
At only 5.9mm thick, the iPad Pro still manages to feel incredibly robust.

One of the highlights of any Apple device is their displays. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is still one of my favourite displays on a smartphone.

The new iPad Pro screen has the same display as the 2018 model. Colours are vibrant making it excellent for media consumption.

It also supports the P3 wide colour gamut, which makes it an ideal display for creative professionals that require consistency in their colour workflows.

The 120Hz ProMotion is what makes the entire user experience so buttery smooth and responsive.

Apple continues with a 4:3 aspect ratio and although it’s definitely not my favourite for watching movies because you get black bars on top and bottom.

However, I do prefer 4:3 for everything else, especially when you need to get real work done.

Sound and mics 

Whether you hold the iPad in portrait or landscape mode, you’ll get a realistic stereo sound stage.

The sound system is not only great for watching movies, but also for listening to music.

It can get really loud and has decent bass for a tablet and sounds better than most laptops, which is an impressive feat of engineering considering its size.

There are now five studio-quality microphones for calls, video recording, and audio recording.

These manage to record with impressive detail. The recorded sound quality is excellent.

The vocal sound quality is even good enough for recording things like podcasts, but I did notice they will pick up ambient sounds and a little hiss that will require some post-editing.

For privacy, the mics will automatically switch off when you close an Apple-certified case on the screen.

This works with Apple’s Smart Folio, Smart Keyboard Folio, and the Magic Keyboard as well as other third-party cases.

Performance 

The 2020 iPad Pro uses a slightly newer version of the A12X processor. The newer A12Z now has eight GPU cores instead of the seven found in the older A12X.

In real-world use, I didn’t notice any difference in performance, but the older iPad Pro was already more powerful than the requirements made from it by current software.

Using software like Adobe Lightroom on the iPad Pro is super fast, compared to the desktop version running on a PC, which is notoriously slow.

All versions of the 2020 model get 6GB of RAM, which helps in video editing, drawing in Procreate with lots of layers or 3D software and games.

Only the 1TB versions of the 2018 models had 6GB of RAM.

My review unit was the maxed-out version with 1TB of storage, but other options include 128GB, 256GB and 512GB for both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, with or without cellular.

Cameras 

The cameras on the rear are so good you’ll be looking for reasons to use them.
The cameras on the rear are so good you’ll be looking for reasons to use them.

Thanks to recent events, we’re all using webcams for video calls, but the cameras on the rear are so good you’ll be looking for reasons to use them.

There are lots of advantages including the massive display to see what you’re recording, but also, the size makes it easier to hold the camera steady for capturing video.

It comes with a 12MP wide and a 10MP ultrawide camera that can capture 4K video up to 60fps and slow-mo 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps.

I found it very useful for taking photos for reference drawings or quick snaps when my phone wasn’t nearby.

For video calling the 7MP TrueDepth camera is ideal for FaceTime or Zoom calls with excellent clarity.

It was able to deal with less than ideal lighting scenarios where most laptop webcams would struggle and the extra screen size makes it better suited to group chat calls than a phone.

Software 

The App Store is packed with quality apps designed specifically for iPad.

The very best iPad apps are optimised for the resolution and screen size, an area where Android still has a lot of catching up to do.

Top apps like Procreate don’t try to mimic desktop apps but rather embrace the iPad ecosystem and offer incredibly powerful features by harnessing the touch hardware and Apple Pencil in a way not possible by PCs, even those with touch screens.

Of course, Apple are trying to make the iPad experience more computer-friendly and now you have a cursor as well as proper mouse and trackpad support.

This makes text editing much easier and it’s often easier to move a mouse or trackpad than continually moving your hand up to touch the screen.

Apple Pencil 

Pencil sketch drawn in Apple Notes by Noel Campion.
Pencil sketch drawn in Apple Notes by Noel Campion.

The new iPad Pro uses the second-gen Apple Pencil and it’s brilliant.

It is ergonomically superior over the original thanks to the matte finish and wirelessly charges when magnetically attached to the iPad’s right-hand long edge.

Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap at €135 but it’s essential if you want to maximise the full potential of the iPad Pro.

The new Notes app is incredibly versatile and powerful, but I also use apps like Notability and GoodNotes for jotting down ideas or note-taking.

For drawing, there really isn’t anything that comes close to ProCreate, but I also love Apple Notes for pencil sketching because it’s just like drawing on real paper with a real pencil.

There’s no layers or anything fancy like you get with ProCreate but it’s as pure and simple as you get traditional pencil and paper.

That being said, there are loads of other great apps for illustrators and artists.

Magic Keyboard 

So, what’s so special about the Magic Keyboard? Well, you get a trackpad built into the keyboard and the keys are backlit.
So, what’s so special about the Magic Keyboard? Well, you get a trackpad built into the keyboard and the keys are backlit.

I think the Magic Keyboard stole the show when the new iPad Pros were launched and there’s a good reason for this.

It’s expensive at €339 for the 11-inch and a whopping €399 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro which some may find prehibitive.

The Folio case, which doesn’t have a keyboard is €119 (12.9 iPad Pro).

The Folio Keyboard costs €199 and €219 respectively, so at least you still have cheaper alternatives to the Magic Keyboard.

So, what’s so special about the Magic Keyboard? Well, you get a trackpad built into the keyboard and the keys are backlit.

The iPad Pro floats over the keys as if by magic and the hinge mechanism allows for a variable angle adjustment, but doesn’t go all the way back to 360 or even 180 degrees.

The trackpad isn’t massive, but I don’t like huge trackpads anyway. Your fingers glide nicely on the surface, making gestures and general use a pleasure.

Taking on and off the iPad from the back of the Magic Keyboard is quick and easy thanks to strong magnets which keep it firmly attached.

Unlike the Folio Keyboard, the Magic Keyboard keys are not water or dustproof and dirt can get trapped under the keys, so you have to be careful as you would with most laptop keyboards.

The keys are superb to type on and a massive improvement over the Folio. They’re very quiet, which I like and have a soft to touch feeling with low travel.

I found it easy to type fast and accurately with little fatigue over long sessions.

Another great addition to the Magic Keyboard is the USB-C port on the side. This means the one on the iPad is free to use for something else.

However, you can only use it for charging and not data.

iPadOS 14 support 

The next version of iPadOS is on the way and I’ve been using the beta since it became public.

iPadOS 14 has a lot of new and exciting features that will make the iPad Pro an even more compelling tablet/computer.

I love the new Scribble feature, which lets Apple Pencil users handwrite in any text field, with the handwritten text converted to typed text.

In Notes, you can use Smart Selection to select and copy handwritten notes and you can copy handwritten notes and paste them as standard typed text.

Verdict 

The iPad Pro is still the king of tablets in terms of hardware and the app ecosystem.
The iPad Pro is still the king of tablets in terms of hardware and the app ecosystem.

In a nutshell, the iPad Pro is still the king of tablets in terms of hardware and the app ecosystem.

It isn’t perfect and the 2020 version isn’t a major upgrade over the 2018 models, unless you really want the ultrawide camera and LiDAR scanner.

The new Magic Keyboard transforms the user experience for those who require a keyboard and trackpad, but adds a hefty premium to the overall cost.

The iPad Pro isn’t a replacement for a laptop because it can’t run everything a laptop can but for many, it is a better alternative to help you work, rest and play.

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