iPad Pro 12.9 (2015) review

The iPad Pro 12.9 took Apple's tablet strategy in a new direction

iPad Pro

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I wanted to learn something about the iPad Pro - could I use it as an actual laptop replacement? The answer was only found one way - ditching the Macbook Pro and trying to do the whole review here with just the new Apple tablet.

Let me set the scene for this task: it's a case of writing around 7000 words, taking and editing umpteen pictures, uploading them to an FTP server and then editing the text in a CMS.

For all of this, we usually use Photoshop software with a number of keyboard shortcuts. We have specialist card readers that upload easily to the computer, then use either the inbuilt explorer on Windows or something like FileZilla on a Mac to shove the pics onto our server.

Then comes the relatively laborious task of adding in the pictures at the right place, appending captions, hyperlinking, paginating and more... this is hard enough with a laptop if you haven't got a mouse, let alone dropping the pointer input altogether.

iPad Pro review

The first part was fairly simple: I downloaded my favorite writing app from the App Store, which had a version that mimicked the desktop application, and also made sure Apple's free Pages app was installed as well.

From there, it was a case of just getting on with things. Over a few sessions I managed to crack out most of the review on the iPad Pro 12.9, with the Smart Keyboard the main accessory used to type. It takes a little more battery than expected to use it - detaching the keyboard definitely extended battery life.

But the accuracy level wasn't too bad, with typing speed down about seven or eight words per minute on normal efforts.

That does add up over time with a review like this, and I did find myself yearning for the MacBook on occasion. When I was battery testing the iPad Pro and had to move back, it was definitely a delight to use the laptop again, no matter how comfortable the keyboard on the tablet was.

The irritating thing with writing on the iPad Pro is that I had to keep saving to iCloud drive rather than a dedicated program. You can lob it into Dropbox too, and other services are available, but it's pretty much locked into the one app unless you want to constantly email yourself documents for other machines.

But that was the review done - then it came to the pictures. For this I was using my Sony Alpha DSLR, which uses a CompactFlash memory card to store the images. The card reader is obviously USB, which doesn't connect to the iPad Pro 12.9.

I did have a Lightning adaptor for cameras though, so it was game on. Except, it wasn't. The Pro couldn't recognise the accessory (stating it wanted to draw too much power) and couldn't pull any pictures off.

I suppose if I'd had a camera with an SD slot I could have used an Eye-Fi card to automatically upload the pics to the tablet using Wi-Fi, but that wasn't an option. Also I could have used an iPhone and pulled them on with Photo Stream, but that wouldn't have yielded good enough pictures.

In the end I was forced to do it on the Macbook to pull the pictures up as I couldn't find an easy workaround.

Next up came the photo editing, which has many more options. In most cases it was easy to create good pictures, even using the inbuilt software - Photoshop was particularly great to use thanks to being so fully featured.

But again, I was left wishing for the laptop, which has simple keyboard shortcuts to quickly update and improve snaps the required level. It CAN be done on the iPad, but it's definitely a slower experience - and don't get me started on the excruciating methods to simply rename files.

Up next: getting them on the server using FTP. For this I managed to download FTP Manager, which is free but only allows me to access files - not upload them, which required cashmoney. I'm all for paying for decent software, so I won't begrudge a cost, except for the fact FTP access is free and baked into a number of laptops.

OK - pictures were up and available. Now it was into the web-based CMS to start putting it all together - and this was again laborious. Tapping on the screen and pulling the drop downs wasn't anywhere near as easy compared to using a mouse on the laptop.

But that was it. The review was all put together and posted live here - and I'll admit, I defaulted to the laptop a lot during the process to just speed things up as, time and again, I kept realising that it was just miles easier doing it with a desktop experience.

iPad Pro review

But I learned a lot about the iPad Pro's capabilities in that time. This thing is definitely capable, and the amount of workarounds are large - you can get things done, just not as easily, and since then I've used it on the train to do loads of different bits and pieces and really enjoyed the portability.

iOS isn't a desktop experience, and I can't see it ever being. As such it's hard to call the iPad Pro 12.9 a definite laptop replacement. For some, it will be more than enough, but workers might struggle with the limitations iOS brings through its silo app methodology.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.