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iPad Pro Review for Handsome Nautilus

Posted February 25 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

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.
But big.
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.

10 Responses to ‘iPad Pro Review for Handsome Nautilus’

jl would have you know...

Posted February 25
This might be the way to go for me. Our current crop of computers are aged (a 2011 iMac and MacBook Pro) and will need an upgrade soon. Swear by Apple products. Seriously. Won't buy anything else.

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HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25
Well, if there was EVAAAAAAAR any fkn doubt about who's BITCH ya be, its been dispelled rather handsomely- MICROSLUT! BIMINGHUM!

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Naut would have you know...

Posted February 25
Hmmmm, while I am no writer I think it can fill my need. My life is mostly reviewing documents and taking notes in between flicking through selfies (your review doesn't cover the camera).

If we do go BYOD here then I think the very big version is the answer. Enough of a desktop replacement for someone that doesn't do any real work, along with the mobility to be effective in meetings. I had a play with the pencil at JB HiFi on the weekend and was suitably impressed.

I really just need to get OneNote to sync properly and I am set. Thanks for the review JB!

Oh and yes, for those that are wondering, I am that handsome.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25
The camera is the same unit they put in the 10R. It's great. The best or second best in the market, depending on your feelings about the Pixel. But I'm not an animal, so I don't use my iPad as a camera.

Naut ducks in to say...

Posted February 25
I think of it more as a mirror than a camera

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted February 25
I had a go with my kid's ipad pro. The pencil and Procreate software is great, if someone gave me one I would use it and like it. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. So I will stick to turning photographs of my drawing work into vector graphics in Illustrator via my PC.

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Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 1
My old iPad is getting to the stage where I may have to send it to a nursing home because it just takes too long to make a decision then occasionally blanks out and says something like "Colour TV will never happen". And my old laptop is already sitting in a chair singing snatches of nursery rhymes and dribbling on its shirt.
This could be the answer.

Therbs puts forth...

Posted March 1
Most def need new tech

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted March 1
Mos' def.

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damian asserts...

Posted March 16
Yeah the iPad Pro seems to do all I want from it and more, since it’s essentially an ultralight ultrabook. Dunno how “new” yours is, I got this one second half of last year, and the new one since then is incrementally better (mostly in terms of more screen and less bezel, but also there’s the new pencil and support for the old one to consider). I got the keyboard cover with mine, and being able to use that was the key point in deciding on the Pro (I had tried all the 3rd party Bluetooth keyboards that work with the non-pro version, and none were even close). The point is that even though it only runs iOS you can’t compare it with an android tab, it’s more in line with a Surface or one of the HP or Dell clones thereof, running a full MS Office. I’m still using my big old Dell gaming laptop for study (complete with two external screens and Endnote), and I have my work HP surface-clone, but the iPad is what I carry around all the time (and what I take to lectures when I have those). In practice I could easily take all three in a backpack (minus the external screens), but you always sort of stick to a weight rating and I don’t generally have a reason to carry all at once.

I have certainly lost all patience with people who have religious views one way or another on specific technology providers. It’s in “get a life” territory - imagine being so passionate about brands of kitchen tongs, socks or sausages.



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