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iPad Pro Review

iPad Pro Review

 

I have been an iPhone user for quite some time now, and can remember standing in line for several hours outside the AT&T store in State College, PA for the release of the iPhone 3G in 2008 while I was coaching swimming at Penn State University. Since that time I have moved with Apple and AT&T through the various upgrades, enjoying the latest tech Apple had to offer and becoming somewhat of an Apple devotee. I say somewhat as I never bought an iPod, MacBook, or iPad in that same time frame or prior; I never saw the need for these products as my iPhone or work issued laptop served my purposes just fine. (On a side note, I do go back to the early days of Apple...certainly dating myself here but I distinctly recall playing the lime green version of Oregon Trail on our family's Apple II GS back in the early 90's, then Sim City on a Macintosh Performa shortly thereafter.) 

All of that changed with the launch of this website and with my commitment to writing a "full-length" book (my first published book totaled 38 pages). It was time for a personal laptop, as my 9 year string of university issued laptop computers, while great for a desktop office setting and the occasional need to go mobile, were a bit much for my much preferred style of minimalist writing on the go. As I was already entrenched with iTunes and Apple the question was never which brand, more so which model of Apple laptop, the MacBook Air or Pro? I tested both and enjoyed both, but had a sneaking suspicion that these too were more than what I really wanted, as minimalist and ultra mobile were two of my highest priorities. 

And of the goals, what did I want? What specs would the ideal laptop have? I was looking for the following, in no particular order - 

  1. High performance keyboard for high performance typing 
  2. Minimalist...IE no need for an optical drive and so forth 
  3. Connectivity 
  4. Battery life  
  5. A screen I could see
  6. Lightweight  
  7. iPhone/iOS syncing a plus  

After examining my list it became clear that I wanted a much bigger iPhone, and that meant iPad. But the current lineup of iPads at the time didn't impress me, as the iPad Air models lacked the screen size of a true laptop, and the keyboard options seemed limited. What was I to do? I didn't need a MacBook, as it was too much for what I really wanted - an ultra portable typewriter. The iPhone obviously didn't cut it as it was too small. I wasn't impressed with the iPad. When would Apple truly bridge the gap between iPhone and MacBook? Was it possible? Certainly the market was there? 

As you can probably guess then, I was thrilled to learn of the release of the iPad Pro. Finally, Apple (in Tim Cook's own words even) had attempted to make a true laptop replacement. I watched the keynote live with great anticipation, as this was my first real glance at the Pro after making countless trips to the Apple fan sites and rumor forums prior to the launch attempting to find the latest leaks. The Apple Keynote got me hooked, and the rest as they say, is history.

This winter I received a 128Gb Wi-Fi iPad Pro as a Christmas gift from my family, and I added the Logi CREATE Backlit Keyboard Case myself after testing it out at a local Best Buy and walking away quite impressed. You can find the iPad Pro and Logi Keyboard plus reviews on Amazon here - 

To say that this combo of the iPad Pro and Logitech CREATE keyboard has satisfied my desire (need is a strong word...too strong here) for the perfect balance between the iPhone and true laptop would be quite the understatement. After a month and a half of usage and more than 25,000 words written, I can say without a doubt that for me, this is the missing link between the two. With the iPad Pro and Logitech CREATE keyboard I have the screen size, typing ability, and portability of a laptop combined with the ease of use, connectivity, and iOS functionality of the iPhone. I have been more than pleased with the Pro's replacement of my work issued laptop as a writing machine, and except for one minor drawback that I will list below, the Pro is ever so close to replacing the "real" laptop completely. 

Below I will highlight the Pros and cons of my setup in hopes of providing the reader a somewhat unbiased review of Apple's latest iPad. Much of the value of the Pro over a genuine laptop depends upon usage demands, and while the Pro may not replace a laptop completely for all professions, it does so almost flawlessly for a college swimming coach and those who write for a living. 

Writing  

It is here that the iPad Pro with the Logitech CREATE Keyboard Case shines, and for me makes the biggest impact in my writing productivity. The iPad Pro / Logi combo is a fantastic writing machine, and I have been thoroughly impressed with the creation capabilities. For starters, the Logi CREATE Keyboard is hands down, without a doubt, a better keyboard than Apple's own model, and I would urge the reader to absolutely consider it instead of the Apple keyboard when looking for a keyboard accessory for their iPad Pro. Where to begin? The Logi keyboard features the following: 

  1. Full size keyboard. 
  2. Fits into the iPad smart connection seamlessly. 
  3. Quick and responsive...no Bluetooth lag.  
  4. Features a backlit keyboard with three different brightness levels (OFF, bright, brighter). 
  5. Several function keys including the ability to control music playback, volume, mute, lock the iPad, unlock the iPad, control the iPad screen brightness, control the backlit keyboard brightness, toggle between windows/apps, and use the iOS search feature. I should note that Apple included NONE of the aforementioned keys with their keyboard. 
  6. Doubles as a sturdy case. The case adds weight to the iPad but this is well worth it in my opinion as it is still lighter than most laptops of a similar screen size.  
  7. Did I mention the keyboard is backlit?  

The iPad also takes full advantage of several great writing applications, including evernote and the Squarespace blog app, which are optimized for the Pro and provide great outlets for creation. My favorite writing app is one called iA Writer Pro, and this app specifically is a dream to use with the iPad and Logi Keyboard. The iA Writer app features true full screen mode, night mode, focus mode, and a host of other features that take minimalist writing to a new level. I am writing my Power Tower Book on swim training using iA Writer and it has helped me stay more focused, write more, and write at a higher level of quality than any other writing app I have tried. I should note that the Microsoft Office version of Word works quite well on the iPad if you need it; this is a plus as sometimes Word documents are scrambled on iOS due to the formatting issues. Having mentioned Word, Microsoft has also released versions of PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook among others for the iPad, and while they are not the "full" versions you would find on a dedicated Windows based model, they do just fine for the majority of professions. 

Portability 

It is an iPad after all, and features all the portability features one would expect from an Apple device. As I have tethering on my phone through AT&T I did not go with the 4G version, but had I not had tethering the 4G/WiFi iPad Pro combined with the 10 hour battery life is a go anywhere and do nearly anything device. Regarding the battery life, I am running the iOS 9.3 public beta version for the night mode / blue light blocking feature, and I have noticed an increase in battery life on this latest version of iOS. On a full charge the Pro will last 10 hours and then some, which is more than enough for high quality writing, as the majority of writers are not able to maintain high quality writing output in a deeply focused mode for more than 6 hours. See Cal Newport's latest book Deep Focus for more on the subject, it is a great read and I highly recommend it for all serious knowledge workers - 

As I mentioned previously the Logi case does add a bit of weight to the iPad, but one is still able to carry it in one hand quite easily for a quick grab and go, certainly much easier than a laptop of a similar size. Often times you will see me with my Pro and a journal while on the run, and this is a device that a student could carry with a book quite easily in one hand while walking to class. As a minimalist writer it is as portable as any I have seen. 

Productivity  

In Gary Keller's 2013 business epic The ONE Thing -

he outlines a concept that professionals should focus on what matters most, as often as possible, while simultaneously avoiding distractions and eliminating work that does not matter if we are to move our organizations and ourselves forward. For me, as a college swimming coach, that one thing if I had to narrow it down is recruiting, in my humble opinion, and as far as productivity and recruiting are concerned, the iPad Pro is a dream. Consider that with one device I can take advantage of nearly every form of recruiting allowed by NCAA rules, the exception being snail mail and other postage, with which a true laptop would obviously be of little help as well. With the iPad Pro I can: 

  1. Email recruits  
  2. Skype with recruits  
  3. Direct Message recruits through Twitter, Facebook, or other social media 
  4. FaceTime with recruits  
  5. Do the above mentioned with their club coaches or parents 
  6. Utlize our recruiting software JumpForward, which features a mobile app that is optimized for the iPad. This software is a database for our recruits and allows us to mass email hundreds or even thousands of potential student-athletes at a time, call them, email their club coaches or parents in a similar fashion, and even logs our calls for NCAA compliance tracking purposes

When you combine the aforemtioned recruiting advantages with the personal productivity of the various apps in the App Store (banking/finance, Squarespace, etc) the iPad Pro becomes a true "One Stop Shop" for personal and professional productivity. If I do need my work issued laptop I can sync remotely via my iPad through an app called Jump Desktop, allowing me to access any document or program while on the go. 

The lone drawback I have found after almost two months of use is that a specific program we use in swimming for meet entries, Team Manager, requires Windows to run and thus cannot be transferred to iOS. I have emailed the company and asked for a web based cloud version, and sure enough they are working on it, with a release to come soon. When that happens the iPad Pro will take over the laptop as the only device a swim coach will ever need. In the meantime I can remotely log in through Jump Desktop if I needed to access Team Manager. And that is not all...

Coaching 

If the aforementioned benefits were not enough, along with said benefits the iPad Pro also doubles as a specific coaching device, one that is applicable to all sports and not just swimming. In my specific situation, I can use my GoPro underwater camera to stream wirelessly to the iPad via WiFi, then use the Coach's Eye app to provide specific feedback to our student-athletes. The 12.9 inch screen allows for immediate viewing right on the pool deck, as they can actually see the screen on the iPad vs having to squint to see the iPhone.  I can then upload these videos to YouTube or email/text the videos directly to the athletes, allowing them to see their strokes underwater anytime they please, helping them substantially with the technical changes we want to implement. 

 

In conclusion, as is quite obvious by now, I highly recommend the iPad Pro and Logi CREATE Keyboard combination for professionals who are looking to bridge the gap between iPhone and laptop. A dream for writers and thinkers alike, the combination is powerful, portable, and will motivate you to want to write more often and create at a higher level of quality. 

For college coaches specifically, regardless of the sport, the Pro is a true workhorse, and can tackle nearly any task flawlessly, utilizing the mobility and portability of a mobile phone and the raw speed, power, and screen size of a laptop. In my specific situation as a college swimming coach, I challenge the reader to find a similar device on which I can email, Skype, FaceTime, or Direct Message with recruits, write a full length book, seamlessly sync with my iPhone, provide instant video feedback to athletes on the pool deck, and trade stocks in my spare time... While I might be biased, I highly recommend the iPad Pro and Logi CREATE Keyboard combination; it has been a fantastic gift thus far and will continue to be, and I am excited to see where Apple takes the next generation of Pro models. 

If you have grown tired of your heavy, burdensome laptop yet need more size, speed, and power than your phone, the iPad Pro in my humble opinion truly bridges the gap and I highly recommend it for professionals and students alike.  

As always, thank you for reading! 

 

 

 

 

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