Is the iPad Pro Apple's first tablet for professionals?

More than any other group, the iPad Pro is for creatives. Get excited, says Christopher Phin.

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Our Verdict

It's a joy to use, and especially if you buy the Pencil too it will put a childlike grin on your face like nothing has since finger paints.


  • Wonderful creative tool – especially when paired with the Pencil
  • Powerful internals make it feel gloriously smooth and responsive


  • Clearly, it can't run some desktop apps that some will rely on
  • The clarity of iOS is starting to get a bit muddied

Most reviews you'll find for the iPad Pro are written for a general audience, and so they are forced to pussyfoot around the business of telling you if should buy it or not. "It's good for this but not that; it would work for you if you do this but it's not ideal if your day job is that."

But folks, this is CreativeBloQ; we're among friends here, and I can tell you that if you're a creative, especially_one who spends an appreciable chunk of their time drawing, sketching or diagramming, you want the iPad Pro.

And the reason you want it, irritatingly, is because of an accessory that doesn't even come with it: the Apple Pencil. This stylus – yes, Apple made a stylus – is nothing more nor less than the best digital drawing tool ever made, and with the iPad Pro's generous 12.9-inch canvas, for some illustrators and artists it is, more than ever before, possible not just to sketch out ideas on an iPad, but take them all the way through to completion.

There is an obvious caveat to that: the iPad Pro, of course, doesn't run Mac or Windows apps, so you're not going to be able to use the big, full, familiar apps from Adobe, Affinity or Corel, and for many – who either don't want the hassle of learning new tools or literally can't do the things they do in the way they want to do them without a traditional desktop – that's reason enough to dismiss the iPad Pro right from the get-go.

There are, though, some truly magnificent apps on iOS, and many have already been updated to take advantage of the Apple Pencil: the glorious Procreate, the characterful Paper, the expressive [Adobe Photoshop Sketch and the hugely useful Adobe Comp, for example – as well as productivity apps such as Evernote and LiquidText.

And look, I know it's a bit nuts to say you want the iPad Pro because of another bit of kit that itself costs eighty quid, but the experience of using them together is so good that I don't mind opening myself up to ridicule. The pressure- and tilt-sensitivity, the near-perfect palm rejection and the impressively low latency all combine to make it the most real and analogue drawing and writing experience you'll have today unless you're actually using pen and paper.

The first time you see the iPad Pro it looks daft – a big, silly joke, something ludicrously, pointlessly oversized – but it's amazing how quickly that impression passes. In part that's because it's lighter than you expect it to be for its size; it's not light enough that you would want to hold it for the length of time it would take to make even an simple portrait sketch, but it's perfectly reasonable to hold it one handed for minutes at a time.

It's also slim, such that when you're using it flat on a table surface, you can just about kid yourself that it's almost not there. That big screen is in any case just terrific: bright, saturated, and with liberal viewing angles. Viewing photos is a delight, and the newly beefier speakers make a big difference both to music and movies.

Sure, you don’t want to rely on them for really enjoying either, but everyone who hears them does the same "oh, they sound that good?" face. (There's some smarts here: there is a speaker at each corner, and for any audio all four always produce bass, since we can't tell what direction bass comes from. The mid-range and treble is then also played out of whichever two speakers are on the top, depending on orientation, for a proper stereo soundstage.)

The iPad Pro's bigger canvas means iOS 9's support for multitasking makes even more sense

The scale of the screen makes it great not just for painting on, but also, for example, to give you more room for digital audio workstations, for editing movies, for creating diagrams and for sketching out wireframes for print or digital layouts in Adobe Comp, which you can then export to InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop.

Also read: The 10 best iPad pro apps for designers

It looks like it should be ungainly, and certainly it doesn't have the Moleskine-like portability of the iPad mini or the balance between size and go-anywhereness of the traditional iPad, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well suited it was to puddling about on Twitter and the web when sitting in my armchair of an evening.

And that bigger canvas means iOS 9's support for multitasking – the ability to run two apps side by side, and/or also have video play in a floating picture-in-picture window – makes even more sense here than on the iPad Air 2; it's possible, for example, to draw on one side of the screen while referring to source material on the other, or keep an eye on your email as you type a document.

This, though, is my biggest gripe with the iPad Pro: the elegance and simplicity of the iPad experience – one screen, one app, one task – has been a little muddied in the service of buying us some extra productivity and flexibility. Now, obviously, I see the benefits of this, but the system as it stands today is imperfect; apps have to be updated to run as these 'secondary' apps on the right side of the screen – so it's not a given the apps you rely on will work – and because the way this split screen thing works is that the secondary apps either behave like iPad apps or iPhone apps depending on which of the two fixed positions the divider can be in, the interface of the app on the right can change dramatically, which adds lots of little moments of friction as you try to get stuff done.

The iPad Pro's features make it the most real and analogue drawing experience you'll have today (unless you're actually using pen and paper)

Besides, while the optional £139 Smart Keyboard cover is genuinely good, allowing the iPad Pro to shine in more of the situations where you might hitherto have used a laptop, and while boosted support for keyboard shortcuts throughout iOS 9 can improve productivity, your brain gets a bit confused because it’s getting cues that this is a laptop but it doesn't quite work as your Mac or Windows laptop does; your finger keeps twitching towards the non-existent trackpad.

This isn't only and absolutely bad; you might quickly adapt, and in any case there's nothing stopping you eschewing the split-screen and keyboard stuff completely to retain that pure iPad experience, but with the iPad Pro running iOS 9, for the first time with an iOS device, I sometimes found myself getting a bit disorientated and confused.

The iPad Pro is, more than for any other group, for us creative types. That big canvas, the sheer processing grunt and, above it all, that wonderful, you've-never-used-anything-like-it-before Pencil are all peculiarly suited to the kind of work we do. It lends itself particularly well to digital painting and illustration, of course, and Procreate is capable of some wonderful things, but it's not only good for that.

The fact that you can't run, say, InDesign on it will of course mean that can't fulfil the role of a primary computer for everyone in the creative industries. But set against that is the fact that it does stuff that a Mac or PC can't, plus the fact that nobody’s arguing that this should be everyone's only computer.


The Verdict


out of 10

Apple iPad Pro

It's a joy to use, and especially if you buy the Pencil too it will put a childlike grin on your face like nothing has since finger paints.


Christopher Phin writes about retro Apple tech for Macworld, typography and design for Creative Bloq, and about pretty much anything else if someone pays him.