Even with all the improvements to the iPad Pro, it still can't replace my Mac yet

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in iPad
I was hopeful that this would be the year that I could shift my workflow to the iPad Pro, but once again, there is nothing on Apple's tablet line that is able to usurp my Mac. Let's talk about why.

2018 iPad Pro
2018 iPad Pro


Over the years, iPad has significantly improved both in hardware, as well as with iOS. It has improved enough that I've adopted iPad as my primary device for most use cases, spending more time utilizing it than both my iPhone and my Mac in both my professional life, as well as my personal life.

As Apple has continuously iterated on the iPad Pro, we continue to inch tantalizingly close to the point where I truly can use my iPad rather than my Mac for all my tasks.

It acts as a shot list, note-taking device, and occasional teleprompter during video shoots. During photo sessions, I quickly dump photos onto it for preview and processing. When working with photos after a shoot, I fall back onto the couch with my iPad and Apple Pencil to edit. On trips, it is a great large display to relax with movies or TV. Rather than watching movies, it is also great for reading or kicking back with a game. I even do light front-end web development on my iPad. Of course, it also is a great writing device for nearly all my articles and videos here on AppleInsider.

When Apple announced this year's batch of iPad Pros, I sat back, brimming with anticipation. Apple showed off a wealth of new functionality including connecting to external 5K displays, using USB-C to connect directly to a professional camera, no-compromises Photoshop, and of course the upgraded Apple Pencil.

There's very little iPad can't do that I need it to. But, despite all of iPad's newfound capabilities, I knew it still wasn't going to replace my MacBook Pro. At least not yet.

Glaring omissions

If you haven't spotted the glaring hole in my iPad workflow, iPad's biggest limitation for me, is video.

That's not to say iPad doesn't have some video capabilities. There are several quite capable iPad-specific video editing applications I've used from time-to-time. Even so, they are no replacement for Final Cut Pro X, where all my AppleInsider and other professional videos pass through.

It's also going to take much more than just FCPX to appear on iPad for me to be able to actually utilize iPad Pro as my actual device. The interface alone would be extremely cumbersome on iOS.

Final Cut Pro X Timeline
Final Cut Pro X timeline


From the basics of interfacing with the timeline to animating with keyframes, without a mouse, these tasks would be difficult. Just looking at the timeline alone, for an audio track you have the level of audio, the fades in/out, and the beginning and end trims. These UI aspects can get extremely tiny and cramped and beg for a mouse to be used. Moving some of these into popups or modals would work, but it would slow down the workflow significantly.

To go with FCPX and mouse support, I would also need external storage support. I've terabytes of storage occupied by hundreds if not thousands of videos over the years and their backups. There would simply be no way for me to utilize onboard local storage for all my video production. I could perhaps suffice while on the road, but to ditch my Mac, I need to be able to connect more external storage.

Right now, developers can create apps that talk to external storage, but it is severely hampered by iOS, making it near unusable for this scenario.

Lastly, I also want better monitor-out support. Sure, I can connect to a 4K or 5K display, but it only mirrors the iPad or previews media rather than being used as an actual display. Mouse support could play a big part in that so you can actually interact with items on the display, but it will undoubtedly need some work and adjustment.

Performance

All that said, it isn't as if the iPad is incapable of doing what I need it to do. The benchmarks for the new 2018 iPad Pros are outstanding, easily besting my late-2016 MacBook Pro.

Running the test a few times myself, my Mac pulls 15696 on the multi-core test. The new iPad Pros on the other hand, are able to clock 17995. A pretty substantial gain. Of course, Geekbench isn't the be-all-end-all measurement of real-world performance and doesn't always represent any given workflow with 100-percent accuracy.

That's why we can take a look at real 4K export times to get an even clearer picture. Laptop Mag did just that and the results were insane. Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro exported a 12-minute 4K video in 7:47, almost one-fourth of the 25:53 that the 13-inch MacBook Pro squandered on the task.

That leaves me confident in the iPad's power, and also confident that it just needs to be able to take advantage of that power.

The cost of upgrading

Where that leaves me right now, is in a bit of a hole. I really push the iPad to its limits with editing massive RAW photos and other workflows. This makes it solidly worth upgrading for the new Pros.

This year's iPad Pro's got a redesign, so instead of just picking up an iPad, I also am going to be picking up a new Apple Pencil and a new Smart Keyboard, pushing my cost of ownership well over a grand.

At the same time, I can't ditch my Mac. I can't even opt for a cheap Mac like the new Air or the Retina MacBook because I need some power to handle those 4K videos.

That leaves me with an absurdly expensive setup, one that could be markedly less if my iPad could properly handle video.

I wouldn't leave the Mac behind completely, it still runs as a home server amongst other things, but I wouldn't need the high-end model I need now.

The bigger picture

Assuming everything isn't all about me, if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture it's clear the iPad should to be more people's primary device.

It harkens back to an old Steve Jobs interview where he discusses the parallels of computers and tablets to trucks and cars.





In the agrarian times, trucks were ubiquitous and occupied 100-percent of vehicle ownership. As time has gone on, vehicles evolved and people switched to cars as trucks were no longer necessary for the bulk of consumers. Jobs described that as a similar transition in the computer to tablet market. Personal computers were what everyone had because it was what was available and was necessary.

To date, most people still see the iPad as purely a consumption device, and not a device that can truly replace their computer. Apple is facing an uphill battle as it tries to shift the perception of their titular tablet.

Even more so than when the iPad launched, tablets are primed to take over. Computers will still be around and fill a niche void, but tablets can fill the need for we daresay most people.

Hope is not lost

Luckily, I've never felt better about the future of iPad.

2018 iPad
2018 iPad


Apple has been positioning the iPad Pro this year as a direct computer replacement rather than a mobile consumption device. There is a clear sign Apple wants the iPad to be used for creating and productivity rather than just games, movies, and reading.

We see some early signs of that with iOS 11 and 12. They gained several new productivity features for pro users. Multitasking -- while not nearly as robust as it is on a Mac -- got improved. Between split view, slide over, and PiP, I'm able to run many apps simultaneously. Especially fruitful for me, photo/video import got overhauled that has made a huge impact on how I process images on my tablet.

Next summer, we will get our first look at iOS 13 and what new features Apple has in store. For years, Apple has been hammered by requests to open up the file system/support external storage, to improve multitasking, and to add support for a mouse.

Here's hoping that iOS 13 takes us that last step forward towards making the iPad Pro a full computer replacement. I'll be patiently waiting.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 77
    Nice perspective, thanks!

    Shifting the impression that the iPad is just a consumption device has proven very difficult. For me it was very easy to accept, and I did 95% of my master’s dissertation on the original iPad (now I could have done the entire thing on the iPad since apps have since come out that can do aspects I needed to do on the computer back then) and several complex presentations on that iPad using Keynote and a VGA adapter.

    But for others it’s been difficult for them to feel like they don’t need a computer. Products like the Surface don’t help, spreading the ‘lie’ that you need a full-fledged desktop OS to be productive.

    There are only specialised use cases where an iPad won’t suffice. For most people, even content creators, the iPad can do a great job.
    dewmechristopher126redgeminipa
  • Reply 2 of 77
    I've moved about 3/4 of my work to my iPP. I'm very pleased at the gains in ability and I can see the day when I will use my last Mac. It might even be my two year old iMac. But I'm not there today.

    You mentioned several times about adding mouse support. No, just no. I direct you to this article:
    https://techpinions.com/the-pencil-is-mightier-than-the-mouse/53995
    In it the author argues that a mouse is just a precision pointing device and the Apple Pencil 2 with the added features and gestures IS the mouse for the iPad. I already use my AP on my year old iPP as my mouse more and more of the time. This is only going to get better. But, and I say this as someone who a year ago thought that the iPad DID need a mouse, the LAST thing we need on an iPad is a pointing device from the last century. It's time to move on.
    edited November 2018 chiamac_dog
  • Reply 3 of 77
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 267member, editor
    DAalseth said:
    I've moved about 3/4 of my work to my iPP. I'm very pleased at the gains in ability and I can see the day when I will use my last Mac. It might even be my two year old iMac. But I'm not there today.

    You mentioned several times about adding mouse support. No, just no. I direct you to this article:
    https://techpinions.com/the-pencil-is-mightier-than-the-mouse/53995
    In it the author argues that a mouse is just a precision pointing device and the Apple Pencil 2 with the added features and gestures IS the mouse for the iPad. I already use my AP on my year old iPP as my mouse more and more of the time. This is only going to get better. But, and I say this as someone who a year ago thought that the iPad DID need a mouse, the LAST thing we need on an iPad is a pointing device from the last century. It's time to move on.
    I've actually spent a lot of time in that same mindset as you. What finally turned me over, was external monitor support. If I ever hope to connect my iPad to a 5K display to edit video, I need a way to interface with what is on that display. Otherwise, it will exist solely as a mirror of the iPad or as a preview window. I love Apple Pencil and use it all the time. It is much more exact and a delight to use, but I still can't poke at that external monitor.
    DAalsethchiairelandtylersdadadbelolliver
  • Reply 4 of 77
    Andrew_OSU said:

    I've actually spent a lot of time in that same mindset as you. What finally turned me over, was external monitor support. If I ever hope to connect my iPad to a 5K display to edit video, I need a way to interface with what is on that display. Otherwise, it will exist solely as a mirror of the iPad or as a preview window. I love Apple Pencil and use it all the time. It is much more exact and a delight to use, but I still can't poke at that external monitor.
    You do realize iPP only mirrors the display to an external monitor? So in order for your fantasy to become a reality you first need to wait for dual monitor support before you’re able to use a mouse in the way you’re imagining. Currently, external monitor support is presumed to be intended for presentation purposes where you “work” on the iPP and “present” on an external monitor. Like you said: it exists solely as a mirror of the iPad or as a preview window.
    edited November 2018
  • Reply 5 of 77
    thttht Posts: 3,312member
    Hopefully, Apple designs future iterations of the hardware and software to be as tablet oriented as possible, while providing all the functionality of a personal computer. 

    Accessories to make it like a clamshell and a desktop, so that people can use it like a desktop and a laptop, are needed, but it’s functionality should be designed around touch and stylus. 

    Ie, I should be able to do everything with just my fingers (software keyboard, trackpad) and maybe a stylus. The external keyboard, pointer and external monitors would be functional multipliers for usage on a desk, just like external monitors and hubs are accessories for laptops on a desk. 

    My list for iPads is basically the same as yours for it to replace my MBP:

    0. Larger display
    1. Overlapping app, overlapping document/view UI
    2. Improved software keyboard: better layout, trackpad pointer option, layout options
    3. External monitor support for extended desktops
    4. Full USBC port functionality, with 2 ports minimum. Make it TB3 ports
    5. Shell access with shared file access

    For regular usage, the iPad is there. I’ve been using an iPad Pro 10.5 as my only personal mobile machine and I’m quite happy with it. Web browsing, documents, games, all awesome. Even Python scripting is doable. A blank piece paper plus pencil - one of the most useful tools in human existence - is something that can be done with a tablet. Laptops, not so much. In many ways, a tablet is better than a blank piece of paper. 
  • Reply 6 of 77
    Wake me up when you can play a real MMORPG like World of Warcraft on an iPad. 
    tylersdad
  • Reply 7 of 77
    irelandireland Posts: 17,684member
    DAalseth said:
    I've moved about 3/4 of my work to my iPP. I'm very pleased at the gains in ability and I can see the day when I will use my last Mac. It might even be my two year old iMac. But I'm not there today.

    You mentioned several times about adding mouse support. No, just no. I direct you to this article:
    https://techpinions.com/the-pencil-is-mightier-than-the-mouse/53995
    In it the author argues that a mouse is just a precision pointing device and the Apple Pencil 2 with the added features and gestures IS the mouse for the iPad. I already use my AP on my year old iPP as my mouse more and more of the time. This is only going to get better. But, and I say this as someone who a year ago thought that the iPad DID need a mouse, the LAST thing we need on an iPad is a pointing device from the last century. It's time to move on.
    I disagree because when used with a keyboard, using a mouse is less tiring than using a pencil on a near-vertical surface. Even having mouse support purely for text editing alone with make writing and coding much easier on an iPad. All we’d need is the cursor to appear when you connect and use the trackpad in its keyboard case. They could even time the cursor to disappear after a duration and go away when the keyboard is disconnected. The Pencil is for drawing, sketching, painting, note taking and editing photos and other similar uses. It’s not meant for editing a complex multi-layer linear timeline, and at that angle. A mouse cursor is way more productive for such use, and I don’t see that changing at this point. iOS needs mouse cursor and trackpad support for those scenarios when people need them. And Apple will eventually add it. That’s my prediction. That and external hard drive support and the iPad becomes more capable. And it’d want to be and the prices Apple is charging.
    edited November 2018 Chris46
  • Reply 8 of 77
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,784member
    Who said that it had to replace your MacBook Pro?

    Seems to be an assumption festering around here that because it's as fast as a laptop then Apple has to start sticking all sorts of crap into it so that it becomes a laptop.

    Not entirely sure that's the endgame here.

    I suspect the reason behind this is the same reason that every problem with Apple boils down to: folk wanting to tell Apple what they want to pay for whatever tech they want.

    In this case, folk want a machine that is a laptop and a tablet, so they don't have to buy both.

    Fair enough, but if that form factor is such a big wow, then how come none of these hybrids seem to be outselling the iPad?

    Just a thought …

    edited November 2018 chiachasmlolliverjony0
  • Reply 9 of 77
    Thanks for this detailed analysis. For me an even bigger impedement to making my iPad Pro my main machine is the continued clunkiness of iOS for ordinary workflow, especially when it comes to filing and locating documents. I rely on years’ worth of documents and graphics carefully stored in topical and chronological folders and sub-folders. Yes it’s possible to do some of that with the iPad but the process is extremely clumsy compared to the keyboard-driven commands available on a Mac. Third party efforts to solve these problems seem only to complicate matters. We’re now forced to SUBSCRIBE to Microsoft’s Office suite for iOS for an interface brimming with features I don’t and a proprietary document-sharing scheme that I just can’t seem to master. I get that Apple would prefer everyone to own both devices, but at this point the decision to withhold actual Mac OS features from iPad seems merely petty
  • Reply 10 of 77
    jason98jason98 Posts: 765member
    Just bring xcode to iPad
    Andrew_OSUjbdragonivanh
  • Reply 11 of 77
    Wishing that the iPad would turn into a clone of a laptop is a mistake. Wishing that more developers would release pro level software that is specific to the iPad is not. However, that second wish largely hinges on the economic issues of cost to develop vs. expected return. One of the weak spots for the iPad is the expectation from users that the apps are really cheap. Does that really parallel legacy desktop software? No, so those developers have to find a realistic model for making money from an iOS version.
  • Reply 12 of 77
    thttht Posts: 3,312member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Who said that it had to replace your MacBook Pro?

    Seems to be an assumption festering around here that because it's as fast as a laptop then Apple has to start sticking all sorts of crap into it so that it becomes a laptop.

    Not entirely sure that's the endgame here.
    Philosophically, Apple should let people use an iPad to their fullest creativity. For a lot of people, it will be a better device to use than a MBP. 

    The complaints aren’t about turning an iPad into laptop, even though it may sound like it. It’s about enabling the iPad to be just as functional as a PC device like a macOS computer. That is, let people compute with it. 

    It doesn’t mean iOS will be turned into macOS in look and feel, but it does mean their functionality should be the same: shell access, easier file organization, accessories, more display space, more ports, more functionality. The UX should scale from novice users to expert users. 

    People are essentially banging on Apple’s door to let them use the device in more varied ways. It behooves Apple to enable it. 
  • Reply 13 of 77
    Until there’s a 27” iPad, nothing will replace the desktop. And who’s going to carry around a 27” tablet?
    edited November 2018 dewmettollerton
  • Reply 14 of 77
    I would love to replace my 2013 MBP with an iPad Pro. The only thing stopping me is iTunes. I have an external hard drive with my entire collection of ripped and purchased stuff on there. If I can’t manage that drive on an iPad I’ll still need my MacBook Pro for that one purpose. Also I have iTunes Match so that stuff still needs to be online to be available everywhere.

    The new new iPad Pro to some people can finally be the Mac with the touchscreen they’ve always wanted. The new Apple Pencil looks nice and I may still get the iPad Pro but until it has a way I can manage an external hard drive’s music and movie collection (of stuff not bought in the iTunes Store) than it can’t do everything.
  • Reply 15 of 77
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 267member, editor
    Puh-Leeze said:
    Andrew_OSU said:

    I've actually spent a lot of time in that same mindset as you. What finally turned me over, was external monitor support. If I ever hope to connect my iPad to a 5K display to edit video, I need a way to interface with what is on that display. Otherwise, it will exist solely as a mirror of the iPad or as a preview window. I love Apple Pencil and use it all the time. It is much more exact and a delight to use, but I still can't poke at that external monitor.
    You do realize iPP only mirrors the display to an external monitor? So in order for your fantasy to become a reality you first need to wait for dual monitor support before you’re able to use a mouse in the way you’re imagining. Currently, external monitor support is presumed to be intended for presentation purposes where you “work” on the iPP and “present” on an external monitor. Like you said: it exists solely as a mirror of the iPad or as a preview window.
    Of course, I do. Hence "it will exist solely as a mirror of the iPad or as a preview window". Mouse support and external monitor support go together. Currently, there IS external monitor support where developers can project different content on the second display. There are just limitations because you can't interact with it. Once mouse support is added, developers will be free to better utilize the second display.
  • Reply 16 of 77
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 267member, editor
    Rayz2016 said:
    Who said that it had to replace your MacBook Pro?

    Seems to be an assumption festering around here that because it's as fast as a laptop then Apple has to start sticking all sorts of crap into it so that it becomes a laptop.

    Not entirely sure that's the endgame here.

    I suspect the reason behind this is the same reason that every problem with Apple boils down to: folk wanting to tell Apple what they want to pay for whatever tech they want.

    In this case, folk want a machine that is a laptop and a tablet, so they don't have to buy both.

    Fair enough, but if that form factor is such a big wow, then how come none of these hybrids seem to be outselling the iPad?

    Just a thought …

    I want it to replace my MacBook Pro. It is frustrating to have to switch to another device for just a single task that could be done on the tablet. I don't think it is a crazy thing. I prefer working on my iPad. I love the portability of it. My Mac is heavy, loud, expensive and now less powerful than my iPad.

    I'm not looking for a fundamental shift in the iPad. Not even a touchscreen Mac. I think external storage and external monitor support with a well-designed app is an easy extension here and not something everyone has to use.
  • Reply 17 of 77
    "In the agrarian times, trucks were ubiquitous and occupied 100-percent of vehicle ownership. As time has gone on, vehicles evolved and people switched to cars as trucks were no longer necessary for the bulk of consumers. Jobs described that as a similar transition in the computer to tablet market. "

    Except that Jobs was totally wrong. Trucks were neither ubiquitous nor 100% of vehicle ownership at any point in the history of the automobile.

    Check out the US census numbers here:

    https://allcountries.org/uscensus/1027_motor_vehicle_registrations.html

    Yours
    Vern
  • Reply 18 of 77
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 267member, editor
    Wishing that the iPad would turn into a clone of a laptop is a mistake. Wishing that more developers would release pro level software that is specific to the iPad is not. However, that second wish largely hinges on the economic issues of cost to develop vs. expected return. One of the weak spots for the iPad is the expectation from users that the apps are really cheap. Does that really parallel legacy desktop software? No, so those developers have to find a realistic model for making money from an iOS version.
    To be very clear, I do not want to turn the iPad into the clone of a laptop. I would just be thrilled to see more pro apps come to iPad, which they are with full photoshop, Pixelmator Photo, and more. I think many pros are comfortable paying more money for pro-level apps on iPad, but the market is small. If more pros adopt the iPad as their device, the market will grow. So it is kind of a chicken-egg situation. Adoption needs to increase in the pro market, but to do so they need pro apps. Pro apps cant survive until the audience is there. Apps like Affinity Photo have done well on iPad, we just more like them.
  • Reply 19 of 77
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 167unconfirmed, member
    Wishing that the iPad would turn into a clone of a laptop is a mistake. Wishing that more developers would release pro level software that is specific to the iPad is not. However, that second wish largely hinges on the economic issues of cost to develop vs. expected return. One of the weak spots for the iPad is the expectation from users that the apps are really cheap. Does that really parallel legacy desktop software? No, so those developers have to find a realistic model for making money from an iOS version.
    But ipads sell more than all laptops so the market for developers is bigger.

    Once people start to realize that volume is what makes the iPad great, they will adapt the software to be cheaper, expecting the volume to be larger.

    And the iPad desperately needs a game controller.
  • Reply 20 of 77
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,193member
    The iPad is a transitional product that is slowly leading us to the next generation of human-computing interaction, but we (and it) aren't quite there yet. The original personal computers from CPM to Apple II to IBM PC moved us from the drudgery of working with typewriters, calculators, drafting tables, paper memos, postal mail, and overhead projectors to remarkably adaptable computer boxes that sat on our desk but still pulled along vestiges of the prior generation typewriter/teletype/calculator interface to deliver human-computer interaction. Likewise, the iPad will move us away from PCs to the next phase of human-computer interaction. The iPad is at its core a magical pane of intelligent glass, but it still retains some vestiges of its PC roots. Adding even more PC based interactions like a mouse and cursor would either move the iPad in the wrong direction, or be an admission that human-computer interaction can no longer evolve much beyond the PC.

    I don't believe the PC is the end of human-computer interaction evolution. Apple does not believe it. Companies like Amazon and Google most assuredly don't believe it and are hellbent on leaving those who refuse to move beyond the PC stranded on their own irrelevant little island in the middle of a vast ocean on Flat Earth. But it isn't as simple as flipping a switch to make it happen. It's an evolutionary process for both the machines and us humans.
    suddenly newton
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