I’m loving the new 2018 iPad Pro. It’s amazingly fast, showing off Apple’s chops in hardware design like no Macintosh can do. Frankly, it’s as important an advance as the iPhone X!
Amazing Progress from Apple
When the first iPad Pro came out in 2015, I was astonished to see that Apple’s in-house A9X CPU had passed the Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs in my old Mac Mini and 2007 MacBook Pro. ARM chips were supposed to be slow, right? And this was an in-house Apple-designed CPU, too! I was also amazed to learn that Apple had added NVMe flash (and a custom NAND controller) to the mix. If you’re a hardware nerd, you could see that this was a real-deal “pro” machine.
Then, last year, the iPhone X appeared. Suddenly Apple’s A11 CPU was as fast as the Intel Core i7 in my daily-use MacBook Pro. And Apple’s transition to in-house graphics didn’t go as poorly as I expected, either. The A11 was competitive with Intel’s integrated GPU offerings.
Now, with the 2018 iPad Pro, everything changed. The A12X CPU is notably faster than most Intel Core CPUs. The integrated GPU is faster than common discrete GPUs from AMD and blows away anything Intel offers. And it adds a powerful Neural Engine to the mix.
It isn’t overstating things to say that the 2018 iPad Pro is a better portable computer than the just-refreshed MacBook Air but for less money. In fact, it’s probably a better computer than the latest MacBook Pro, too! The only thing holding the iPad Pro back is iOS.
Apple’s amazing progress in chip design has made me a believer: Apple will inevitably transition the Mac line to ARM, just as they did to Intel and PowerPC before. Read my essay over at Gestalt IT and you might become a believer too.
My iPad Pro
I’ve been using iPads since the very first model, but it was the 2015 iPad Pro that convinced me it could be a daily-use computer and not just a fancy e-reader. The combination of solid hardware and a good-enough keyboard (Apple’s Smart Keyboard) allowed me to take just the iPad Pro on trips without missing my MacBook Pro much. Frankly, the only time I needed a “Real Computer” was when using web sites that steadfastly refuse to offer the desktop version to an iOS device.
If you’re an iPad user like me, I unreservedly recommend upgrading to the new iPad Pro. I chose the 256 GB Wi-Fi model, because that’s the sweet spot price-wise. It’s crazy how much Apple charges for storage, but iOS doesn’t work well with add-on storage and 64 GB is just too little. Still, I couldn’t justify the 512 GB model at $1,149 since I just don’t use that much space on my iPad.
After using an LTE-equipped iPad Air for a couple of years, I just don’t see the point in it. It’s just so easy to tether an iPad to an iPhone and share the data subscription for free. I could see it being an awesome platform for Google Fi, but I’ve got a mobile hotspot for that. The $150 LTE option just isn’t worth it to me.
I tried the Apple Pencil with the previous iPad Pro and just didn’t get it. I am not an artist and the keyboard is good enough for quick typing, so I decided to skip the improved 2018 model.
I don’t love that the new Smart Folio Keyboard adds so much bulk to the iPad Pro. The old keyboard-only model was much thinner, and the folding design kept the grubby keys off the screen. The key feel is nice, though, and the usability of the keyboard is too compelling.
The third-generation iPad Pro is a great machine but also a bellwether of change at Apple. It will be very hard for the rest of the mobile and client computing industry to keep up with this kind of progress!