It's certainly a compelling idea--ditch the laptop in favor of something just as powerful but smaller and more portable. In fact, ever since the iPad became a thing, fans have been waiting for the day that it could truly replace their computer.
Enter the 2018 iPad Pro, which was the first tablet device with specs that made it a worthwhile competitor to a MacBook or PC laptop. And the introduction of iPadOS went a long way toward giving us an operating system that was capable of handling the tasks and work we do on a regular basis. I've used mine as my primary device on and off for a year, and get asked all the time whether it can really replace a laptop for most workflows. The answer is generally yes, but there are some things to consider.
With that in mind, here's what you need to know about using an iPad Pro as your primary computer:
One of the biggest benefits of the iPad Pro is that it's smaller and weighs less than a laptop. In many cases, it's also much more powerful. That said, I finally figured out why Apple has two versions of the iPad Pro. The smaller 11-inch version is a much better tablet, while the larger makes for a better laptop replacement. If you're truly going to ditch the laptop altogether, get the 12.9-inch version. You'll appreciate the extra real estate.
If you plan to keep a desktop or laptop computer around, but want something you can grab and take with you to get work done on the go, the 11-inch is just as powerful. It's also the perfect size for reading a book or watching a movie on a long flight.
While I won't review every keyboard option for the iPad Pro, I'll say this: You should probably get a keyboard, and there are really only two options I'd say are worth considering. The first is Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio, which, despite being overpriced, is the most convenient option. It's slim, lightweight, and the keyboard is just fine. It's not the best typing experience on an iPad, but unless you do a lot of writing on your iPad, it'll work.
On the other hand, if you do type a lot, the best option is the Brydge keyboard. The keys are backlit and have plenty of key travel, and it connects via Bluetooth. Brydge says you'll only have to charge the keyboard once or twice a year, and in my experience, the battery does last a very long time. This keyboard is a bit heavier, making it a less portable option, but if you are mostly interested in using your iPad as a complete replacement for your desktop or laptop, it does the best job of filling the gap.
One of the biggest barriers for many people thinking about moving to an iPad as their primary machine is file management. Yes, that's different on an iPad. Yes, it could be better. It is, however, usable for most users. You can import files from external devices, download them from the cloud, or save them from apps you use.
For example, if you're a photographer, you can import files to Lightroom CC, edit them, and export to either the iPad's hard drive or to your choice of cloud service. You can also save them to an external drive or USB storage device.
Using external storage with an iPad Pro is a huge step forward, but there are still a few limitations. For example, if the drive requires bus power, it gets a little more complicated since the USB-C port on the iPad won't provide enough power for some drives. Still, having a portable SSD is a great way to keep larger files you need, but don't want eating up space on your device. In most cases, you can simply plug it in, and it will appear in the Files app. Moving files back and forth simply requires tapping and dragging to where you want a file to go.
Aside from connecting to external storage, there's a good chance that if you use your iPad as your primary device, you might want to connect it to other hardware like a monitor. With only one USB-C port, that means using an adapter or hub of some sort. I like the HyperDrive, which lets you connect a monitor via HDMI, and also includes SD, USB-C, USB-A, and a micro-SD reader.
There are some workflows that are more complicated on an iPad since iPadOS is fundamentally different from macOS or Windows. I've argued in the past that the difference is mostly a good thing because it forces you to work more productively. In fact, the limitations of iPadOS, including the difference in how you multitask, is often why I prefer it. It's less distracting and helps me focus on whatever I have in front of me.
Plus, with Siri Shortcuts, you can create workflows that connect the various tools and apps you use every day. It's kind of like a voice-activated version of Zapier or Automate.io, to streamline and simplify the tasks and processes you work with daily.
There are plenty of must-have lists of apps for your iPad Pro, but here are a few that you should definitely download to your new iPad Pro immediately.
- Spark Mail: Sure, the default Mail app is fine, but if you want more control, such as being able to send emails to third-party tools like Trello, Evernote, Asana, or Things, Spark makes it much easier to master your inbox.
- Dropbox: For keeping your files in sync across all of your devices, and for sharing with your team.
- Google Docs or Microsoft Word: If you need to create documents. To be honest, I actually prefer Google Doc's browser-based interface, even on an iPad. It gives you better access to commenting features and is easier to use with a team.
- Ulysses: For writing and creating content. It's pricey, but if your primary work is writing, it really is the best.
- Lightroom CC: For managing and editing photos. It includes the same features as the desktop version, meaning you have a seamless workflow back and forth between devices.