Handsome Naut asked about my new iPad Pro, and because he is such a handsome devil I could not possibly deny him a response. I'm working on it right now, in the local car wash while Jane's Mini is scrubbed 'til its belly button shines. Mobility is not why I bought one, though.
I have a heap of books coming out this year, which means a heap of manuscripts to edit and mark up, a job I normally do on my iPad.
When Random House sent me the 'first pass' page edit of THE CRUEL STARS a few weeks ago, it was obvious that my old (very old) early model iPad simply wasn't cutting it anymore.
I've been rocking the very first retina model fondle slab since about 2011, a testament to the longevity of these devices and a hint about why sales of new iPads tapered so dramatically after an explosive few years at the start. You just don't need to replace them very often.
Mine needed replacing.
A hundred thousand word document (MS Word because the publishing industry never learns) was taking fifteen seconds to load and juddering as though it had late stage Parkinson's whenever I tried to scroll or edit. As an aside, I'll fess up that Microsloth's iPad apps are really fucking good. I still find the Sloth's cloud sync service, OneDrive, to be super fucking confusing—I seem to have two subscriptions to it, but can't quite figure out why—but the apps themselves, Word in particular, are a joy to use on the slab.
Or they were in the past. My 2011 iPad was just too old to take advantage of the latest OS and applications. It also predated the Smart Keyboard cover so whenever I travelled for work I had to take a separate Bluetooth keyboard. (Well, I didn't have to, but, you know...). Finally, and this was a small but constant gripe, whenever I receive contracts for signing, it was a non trivial challenge to get my ink onto a desktop copy of the Word documents that most publishers, producers and agents tend to use. (Again, they never learn). An iPad with Apple Pencil would make that small frustration go away.
Last year's lower cost 'education' iPad shipped with Pencil support, and if the Pencil was my only concern it would probably be fine and a helluva lot cheaper than a Pro level pad. But although I do a lot of my thinking with pad and pencil, I do all my writing with Scrivener and that app LOVES a big screen. It's at its best on my 27" iMac, but the iPad app, like Word, has been redesigned for mobile from the deck plating up. It is a pleasure to use on the iPad but even more of pleasure on the big arse 12.9" Pro.
Could I write a whole book on this thing?
Hell yes. People used to scratch whole books into thin pieces of bark with tiny twigs dipped in a fermented badger pee. I could easily write a book on this thing. Or do a university degree. Or file copy for magazines if magazines were a thing that still existed in the world. The hardware is more than capable. What you can do with it comes down to software. I stripped out a lot of the shit that crept onto my old pad over the years, and loaded core apps I knew for sure I would use for work. Scrivener, Drafts, Patreon, Dropbox Paper, Save the Cat (a great screenplay structuring app), utilities like One Password and so on.
The functionality of some software is nowadays as good as the desktop variants. Sometimes the user experience is even better. Looking at you, Word.
But file management remains a challenge. Books generate a lot of files. Not just chapters, but story notes, character bios, research, maps and so on. Individual apps like Scrivener can be almost Bento-box like in their elegant storage of all the little bits and pieces of a project. But there's a reason a lot of people are holding out to see whether the next iOS spins off an iPad specific version.
So, Naut, how does it shape up?
I love this thing.
The screen is insane, super hi def and it puts out some dazzling colours, although the latter is not really an issue for word processing. I've also put a screen protector on mine that tries to mimic the feel of paper when you're using the Pencil. It does a fair job of that, and I use the Pencil a lot, but there is a trade off in loss of the super fine clarity that makes the Retina display a wonder. For me, with my failing eyes, that's less of an issue. But Handsome Naut's sparkling baby blue 20/20 peepers might not appreciate the trade.
The original reason I ponied up more than two grand was an ageing processor. No longer an issue. The Pro feels like its powered by the latest anti-matter warp drive. It fucking screams along, no matter what you're throwing at it. I'm not a spreadsheet user, but I can imagine this thing eating every number the world, burping and holding out a begging bowl for more, all in a blink.
The keyboard is better than merely usable, which is more than a lot of people would say about the keyboards on Apple's laptops nowadays. The chiclet style keys have a surprising amount of travel and a pleasing, if muted 'clickiness', which some regard as the very apogee of the keyboard maker's art. For what I do, typing words one after the other, it's fine. In some circumstances, like say when you're squeezed into the economy size seat on a domestic flight, it's a lifesaver. The redesign of the board's origami-like folds provides you with a compact work space that should let you keep working even after the dickhead in frontreclines their seat ALL the way back.
It's not a surface I'd care to type on for five or six hours at time, every day, but for a couple of hours when travelling, or even just moving around the house (as I am now, the car wash is done) it's a weapon.
There are two sizes, of course. Big and bigger. I went bigger.
The full size 12.9" Pro is too big to enjoy as a pure consumption device alone. It's fantastic to be able to read a newspaper or magazine page at that size. Comics are amazing. And Netflix is super chill. But it's a big ass piece of glass, in the end, and I would not use it for, say, reading a novel on iBooks or the Kindle app. It won't be comfortable. On the other hand, I do find myself streaming TV to this thing while it's propped up in its keyboard. The speakers are powerful and clear and do that magic trick of moving the audio around as you tilt the screen one way or another. And that screen, as I mentioned, is beautiful.
So very very big.
Would I buy one?
Duh, I just did.
But I had a use case, and a book advance, and a daughter at university who could score the educational discount for me (and a free pair of Beats headphones for the back-to-school promo). And my old iPad was so very old.
Your mileage may vary. But I've been more than happy with my purchase.