Hands-On With iOS 11 Beta: The iPad Can Finally Be A Proper Laptop Replacement – Forbes
Last year I wrote a piece poking fun at Apple’s marketing campaign claiming its iPad Pro can replace a laptop. I was hardly the only tech writer who felt that way at the time — after all, the iPad’s OS is basically a blown up version of a mobile phone OS, lacking the ability to truly multi-task more than two apps at once or basic (yet crucial) PC things like having access to your files. But that still didn’t stop devoted Apple fans from getting upset with me.
Well, Apple has worked hard in the past year to make even doubters like myself shut up. I’m currently typing this article on the relatively new (released a month and half ago) iPad Pro 10.5-inch with a beta version of iOS 11, and … everything is going fine. In fact, I’ve been using this device as my work laptop for the past few hours and I haven’t pulled my hair out.
The reason for this is iOS 11, (it’ll be available to the public later this year), which brings significantly improved functionality to the iPad Pro. All the setbacks I mentioned earlier that prevented the iPad from being a laptop has seemingly been fixed with iOS 11. I can now sort of open three apps at once — two simultaneously via split screen as before, but a third “slide over” app that can pop in easily (getting it to go back out is a bit buggy right now, but I’m sure this will be fixed in the final version of iOS 11). Even without the split-screen apps, just simply jumping to another app is a lot easier because iOS 11 lets you bring up your dock (that “main” row of apps at the bottom of your iPhone/iPad home screen) at all times now, even if you’re inside another app. You don’t have to jump back to the home screen just to open another app anymore.
And because this new iPad runs Apple’s latest A10X chip with 4GB of RAM, apps open instantaneously without needing to refresh/reload. Check out the video below of me jumping between apps.
One of the things those Apple fans who were upset with my criticism of the last iPad insisted was that iOS didn’t need a dedicated file storage system à la PC. Well, Apple disagrees because iOS 11 introduces just that. Now I can actually access files I’ve downloaded and drag and drop them elsewhere, like people on MacBooks and PCs do every single day.
I’m testing this new iPad Pro with the full set-up here, including Apple’s first party keyboard (Apple calls it Smart Keyboard) and stylus (Apple Pencil). The Smart Keyboard doubles as a screen cover flap and is surprisingly thin. Despite this, the typing experience is quite good (but not excellent). The key travel is a bit shallow and will take some getting used to, but the keys are spaced evenly and all the crucial buttons you’d need are there, including shortcut buttons. I jumped open typing test.com and took the Aesop test, and finished with 97 words-per-minute, which is about six words below my average on a proper laptop.
You cannot adjust the angle of this keyboard stand, however, that’s a pretty major flaw because the fixed angle is optimized for desk use — use this on your lap and your neck will hurt within ten minutes. Still, with a proper desk, this keyboard, coupled with iOS 11, makes the iPad Pro a functional laptop replacement.
I’m still typing this article on the device, by the way, and the experience is good but still falls a bit short of if I were doing this on a real laptop. Embedding links into this piece (we use WordPress CMS) is still quite a bit slower than on a laptop because there’s no mouse input, it’s all taps and swipes.
The Apple Pencil is excellent and the best stylus on the market. The Pencil itself didn’t get an upgrade (it’s the exact same Pencil that went on sale in the fall of 2015 actually) but this new 10.5-inch iPad Pro has a superior refresh rate of 120Hz, which benefits the Apple Pencil because now latency is down to 20 millisecond (as opposed to 49 millisecond on the first gen iPad Pro). I actually couldn’t really tell latency improvement (I own the first gen iPad Pro and Pencil and drew on it quite a lot last year) but that’s probably because I’m not a professional artist.
The usual excellent Apple hardware returns with this new 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The bezels are still a bit large, and the display is still just LCD, but the four speakers pump out the best sound on any tablet by far, and the camera here has been improved drastically over the first gen iPad Pro. The shooter is now a 12-megapixel f/1.8 lens with optical image stabilization. The selfie camera has jumped from the measly 1.2-megapixel 720p lens to a 7-megapixel f/2.2 shooter. With Apple devices though, the spec sheet usually doesn’t really matter much, because the Cupertino giant is better at fine-tuning its hardware and software to work in sync so performance usually surpass numbers. Check out some samples below.
So Apple’s really done a good job convincing me that the iPad Pro can (finally) be a laptop replacement. But just because it can, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good purchase. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro retails from $649 (for 64GB storage) to $949 (for 512GB storage). Throw in the keyboard and you’re spending a minimum of $800 for this set-up. For that same money you can get plenty of nice laptops, or you can buy a Chuwi 12.3 (which I also used as a work device for two weeks without any problems) for $300 and save that extra $500 for a nice vacation. The iPad Pro being able to operate as a computer is cool, but ultimately, this is still a device you buy if you want a great tablet first and foremost.