iPad (The Return Of)

2024, February 04    

For me (a die-hard laptop/keyboard user), writing an article about my 3rd attempt at daily-driving an iPad is definitely something I didn’t expect to be starting 2024 with.

So how did I get here… Well, as I’ve spent most of my working life travelling the world for work there was once a mission to reduce the amount of weight I needed to carry each day (ask any seasoned traveller, heavy bags disagree with your spine).

I recall my initial switch from a Lenovo W500 (whose power adapter weighed as much as the laptop itself) to a MacBook Pro, and feeling the relief on my back within a week. Even though the weight had reduced it didn’t take long before I switched to a 12-inch MacBook, which still to this day is an engineering marvel (seriously apple, bring these back!).

One of the challenges I faced with the 12-inch MacBook (or any laptop in general) is that while I had personal laptops I always felt they were too bulky to carry around (especially when travelling for personal reasons, as it was a constant reminder of work).

I decided somewhere in the 2010’s to give the iPad a try, as with it being significantly lighter and in theory more portable it could be the saviour of my spine. Unfortunately, the lack of a decent keyboard (I tried a few) and the poor performance (even on standard applications) always left me with a bad experience and a family member inheriting a 2-month old device.

Fast-forwarding to 2024 and here I am again, seeing how I get on with an iPad Pro this time. It’s the smaller of the two models (as realistically the larger model is so similar to my existing laptop it doesn’t make sense to test) and has the newest keyboard/case for it (more on that later).

So what is it like so far you may ask… actually better than I expected. From a performance perspective it’s very snappy (with the improvements in Apple silicon it isn’t surprising), and the quality of the screen is better than that of my laptop (another upgrade incoming). The audio sounds good (having four speakers helps), the WiFi speeds are fast enough for most use-cases.

So what don’t I like… well, not being able to adjust the split-screen width is annoying (albeit not the end of the world). The magic pencil while functional really needs a stronger magnet to hold it in place, as the good jolt sends it down the crevices of the sofa (or worse).

By far though, the biggest frustration is the charging speed. Despite being connected to a 120w charger and using an Apple cable, the speed is woefully inadequate. Comparing it to the latest iPhone (where a charge from 20% to 80% is fast enough to not need the charge to 100%), watching your iPad take over an hour to charge becomes frustrating after a short time.

From a software perspective things have definitely improved, both with iPad OS (which has gained significant features over the years) and with the App Store, where there are more native apps than you could ever hope to install/use. On the latter, being able to install developer runtimes and actually test code is great, not to mention having the typical Linux utilities ready to use.

On the keyboard, that’s honestly a mixed bag for me… The new keys feel like a standard laptop (which I like) and they have a good feel to them. On the downside though, the reduced size means some keys are squashed which does lead to the occasional mistake. The lack of a dedicated escape key is also frustrating, though that impacts me more as a developer rather than a standard user.

It’s early days as far as this test goes, as while the initial results are promising the honeymoon period will end at some point. I’m determined to give it the best chance of being my travel companion, and so a future update on this will come :-)

(And yes, I wrote this on the iPad)