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I’ve been using Wacom tablets since 1997 and have never found a viable alternative, quality and precision wise. I currently use a medium sized Intuos Pro with a 32” monitor and nothing can match that combo. But I have been itching for a portable travel alternative which doesn’t involve packing a Wacom in addition to my laptop and iPad. I had high hopes when Apple released the Pro with the Pencil, but I couldn’t get used to work with Astropad / Luna / Duet, as it involves looking at the second display (at least most of the time), unlike Wacom’s blind workflow, which I personally find much more precise for photo retouching (the stylus never covers any portion of the display etc.). Plus, while great, Apple Pencil can’t match Wacom’s pressure sensitivity. So I might get the small Intuos Pro after all.
Well, all that power won’t be harnessed for longer pro tasks until there is a great cooling system. Lately I’ve been using an iPhone 8 with Lightroom as my main camera while traveling. LR camera does some quite heavy computational stuff, for example making HDR RAW DNGs (so actually blending RAW files on the fly, leaving the fully editable result) or long exposure shots, where it blends dozens of shots into a single image, again leaving an editable RAW file. While the results are lovely, when taking few shots in succession the app queues them because it takes quite a while to process each one and after a few minutes the phone overheats and starts to trottle heavily, crawling to a halt, while also force dimming the display untill all the shots are processed (which starts taking forever due to the throttling). On a recent trip to a hot-ish place I had to periodically get in the car and hold the phone, without a case, against the airco vent and that helped immensely. I know this is a somewhat rare and extreme usage scenario, but not out of this world extreme, especially for a product touting its technological superiority in a big way.
People are unrealistically expecting the iPad to be a fully self contained desktop replacement by simply duplicating the desktop experience, but a LOT can be achieved by re-thinking the interface and using the multi-touch option. Tablet display is at your fingertips, at the keyboard distance, with even more dynamic and context sensitive functionallity. Just cleverly lay the action keys along the edge and open the menus on the fly as needed, but use the touch gestures as much as possible, so not to eat up the screen real estate. In that case, a regular tablet display becomes rather large. As an example, Lightroom Classic on a 21" desktop monitor uses so much space for the persistent interface that the actual image area is equivalent to the 12.9" iPad Pro. So a 15" tablet, while by no means ultra portable, could replace a 24" monitor with some clever dynamic interface design. Actually, due to the distance at which we use out devices, a 12.9" Pro could be sufficient for most pro users, as long as the interface is cleverly done. Perhaps we'll be also able to use Siri to run app specific actions, it would add a whole new layer to the user interface.
Being a long time Adobe Illustrator user I have recently installed Affinity Designer on my 10.5" iPad pro and am delighted at how much can be done using the combination of finger gestures and the Apple Pencil; I sincerely do not miss the keyboard. Or for that matter, Adobe's own Lightroom Mobile getting up to speed and becoming useful as of lately. I still wouldn't tackle any major large-scale projects on the tablet, rather work on bits and pieces while on the go, then finish off when back at the desktop, but at least I feel I could travel only with a tablet. Almost: what I really miss on the iPad to make it a viable desktop/ laptop replacement at this point is a no-frills external storage/ backup option. Cloud doesn't cut it when for example traveling for three weeks in countries with spotty internet speeds (or on a 19-hour flight for that matter), trying to back up lots of video footage or very large layered photos. I have just ordered a SunDisk Wireless Stick, I am curious to see how much it can do in terms of copying the flies from the iPad, but I am still dreaming of built-in automatic or at least one-click effortless backup to an external drive.