I got my first iPad Pro back in 2021. The first thing I did with it was put away my Surface tablet, and tried to use the iPad exclusively for all aspects of my life, work and personal, for a few weeks.
There would be growing pains, I knew. But how fully featured was it?
From a hardware and processing power standpoint, the iPad Pro was miles ahead of the Surface Pro. That new M1 chip completed spanked the Core i7 in my Surface both in terms of thermal efficiency and sheer power. But certain apps and websites were buggy.
Notably, website builder tools like Elementor had some strange glitches with page or control elements disappearing. Or let’s not forget how YoUTube would artificially break video uploads via browser on iPad, gently forcing you to use their app and pretending it was out of some actual technical limitation.
Real external display support was another thing unto itself.
So that said, how has the iPad Pro evolved since then? Is it more capable as a work tool in late 2023?
There are a couple of key improvements Apple have made in the last 2-ish years that have gone a long way.
First, one of the updates introduced a desktop class Safari that apparently is pretty close to Mac OS’ Safari under the hood, and I can confirm you can actually upload videos to YouTube via Safari now. In a weird way, that’s a compelling bit of evidence that the browser actually identifies differently to servers.
Little page glitches, while still occasional, seem less prevalent now for my on a modern M2 iPad Pro 12.9-inch.
And of course, I’d have to mention the continuous iterations of Stage Manager from then till now. Multi-window multitasking is legit usable on the big screen, and creates interesting possibilities with an external monitor.
I love being able to keep something like Messages or my email open on the main iPad screen, and then have my browser or active project open on the monitor. Or even have a reference article open to the side of what I am writing.
Sometimes clicking a window that’s behind the active one doesn’t actually switch to it like it would on Windows/Mac, so there are some improvements still to happen with Stage Manager.
BUT… I have recently spent entire work days doing everything on my iPad without ever touching my MacBook, which included things like:
- Writing in WordPress and Google Pages docs
- Website page building work
- Design in Canva
- Lumafusion video editing
- Lightroom or Affinity Photo editing
- Zoom calls
When there’s a lot of frequent window switches and intense work, sometimes it is still more comfortable to do these things on a laptop or PC.
What the iPad adds to my workflow that the Mac doesn’t:
The nature of my work with SEO clients involves reporting and data, and I’ve found it helpful to mark up those documents with my Apple Pencil to help clients understand what they’re looking at.
It felt silly before to download reports on the MacBook, then Airdrop the doc to my iPad to mark up and then Airdrop back to the MacBook. (Or use iCloud files to do the same.)
Working from the iPad is seamless here.
I can review a report online, download it as PDF, mark it up, and send it to the client in one shot.
The other thing I’ve found interesting is how even on the Magic Keyboard, where the iPad is arguably the most MacBook-like, the ability to readily touch the screen and use the pencil just feels right for a lot of random tasks.
You wanna guess how many times I’m on the MacBook and stop myself mid-pluck at the screen?
There’s also a nice sense of continuity to work on an iPad at a desk with a monitor, and then take it with me to the living room to relax on the couch. Sometimes I’ll leave the Magic Keyboard on to text with people or answer emails, and other times I’ll just use it as a tablet and draw, watch YouTube, or read.
One device to handle a huge chunk of my day.
iPad Versatility Is Better Than It’s Ever Been.
Sometimes the iPad feels to me like a Leatherman multitool. It may not be as good a pair of pliers, or knife, or file as any of those standalone tools could be to use. But, to mix the metaphor, having a capable computer you can write and browse on, edit on, draw on with the pencil, or hang out with on the couch as a tablet in one device is pretty powerful.
While iPadOS isn’t quite equivalent to a full OS like Windows or Mac, I suspect it’s close enough now for most people.
One observation I made years ago was that I wouldn’t be likely to do spreadsheets on an iPad. Via touch interface only, sure, but with a mouse and keyboard (or with Magic Keyboard) I’ve handled my mileage reports and expenses plenty of times via iPad.
YMMV if you’re an Excel wizard and do super advanced stuff. I couldn’t say.
Where The iPad Experience Could Still Use Improvement:
Real desktop-class browser options that don’t require Webkit.
News earlier in the year suggests this could be coming. I would happily use Firefox as my main browser on all my devices, and did for a long time. But Firefox having some weird limitations (like no right click to open links in a new tab) and largely being a reskinned Safari do push on to just use Safari on iPad or iPhone.
More games with controller support.
Modern tablets in all ecosystems have become pretty decent gaming machines, especially the ones with the bigger screens. Screen controls make sense for a phone, but I think I speak for a fair portion of gamers when I say using a Playstation or Xbox controller with something as powerful as an iPad Pro is a very cool experience.
But there are a surprising number of games where a controller would make sense, from Dragon Quest to Torchlight Infinite, that for whatever reason don’t work with a controller.
Better battery life.
Apple has stuck with the ~10 hours of battery life pretty much from the beginning with iPads. While that’s certainly better than laptops were for a long time, the bar has raised in recent years with laptops hitting 20+ hours.
Especially for the larger iPad Pro that makes sense as an all-day device, climbing beyond the standard 10-hour mark would be a welcome change in newer models.
This post is part of a series called iPad vs. Mac, which chronicles my experiences using each to accomplish personal life and work projects: quirks, solutions, and where each one shines.