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Should I get an iPad Pro as a laptop replacement?

Discussion in 'BYTE ME: Technology discussion' started by Rovin Romine, Dec 26, 2016.

  1. Rovin Romine

    Rovin Romine Johnny Rico Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I hope I can get some practical advice. I'm considering getting an iPad Pro, but have never had an iPad. Ideally it would replace some notebook functions, but I'm unsure how viable that is in terms of real life usage.

    My overall setup:
    I have an iMac at my office, and a MacBook Pro for use at home and when I'm in court/traveling/out of the office. I run a fairly large monitor off it when I'm working from my home office, so the screen size at home is not an issue. (I'd probably continue to use it at home for most things, even if I got an iPad.)

    On the Road functions:
    When traveling I mostly use the MacBook for word processing (emails, briefs, motions) and online research. I use Microsoft Word, Dropbox, RocketMatter, Quickbooks online, Adobe Acrobat, Mail and Safari the most.

    When in court I tend to use the MacBook as a pre-loaded legal archive/viewer of all the documents and relevant caselaw. (It would be nice to be able to do some quick research on the fly, but there are often shitty or nonexistent wi-fi connections in courthouses.)

    I do at least a couple of depos a month and use paper to take notes. (I just can't master the the typing note taking thing.) I usually average at least one trial or long hearing a month. Again, paper notes. Again, I use the MacBook as a document archive/viewer, etc.

    The MacBook (and charger) is a hair heavy to transport along with other items. It's not a huge deal, but lighter is always better.

    I'm planning on doing some international travel (work and pleasure) in the next couple of years.


    I'm interested in the smaller (9.7 inch) iPad pro because it seems very transportable and has the cellar option for on the fly research. The big iPad pro seems huge to me. (I mean, it's basically a lap desk, so why not just get laptop? Or not?)

    However, the keypad for the smaller iPad Pro (test driven in the apple store) seems cramped. (I am a moderately fast but very clumsy typer.)

    I'm not really savvy as to how I'd use an ap-based system instead of what I'm using now. I realize many of the programs I use have aps, but that's no guarantee of practical speed in use.

    Any thoughts would be welcome. I also have some specific questions:
    • How easy is the small smart keyboard to type on for hours?
    • Has anyone adapted to the smaller keyboard?
    • How much slower is word processing if you have to touch the screen for menu/editing purposes?
    • How viable is taking hand written notes with the apple pencil (rapid retrieval of earlier notes is key.)
    • How viable is making hand written notes with the apple pencil on PDFs (exhibits, etc.)
    • Any thoughts on note-taking with the split-screen function?
    • How does the whole celluar data thing work? (I have one of those grandfathered ATT unlimited data plans, but can set up something separate through the office.)
    • How does the whole celluar data thing work when traveling abroad?
    • Could it viably replace the MacBook/laptop on longer trips for lightish word processing?
    • Does it work with PACER?
  2. BroodsSexton

    BroodsSexton Member SoSH Member

    Unless you use keyboard shortcuts for everything (and do they even work on an iPad?) I don't think you're going to be happy with an iPad for general laptop purposes. I find that I use both an iPad and a laptop in and around the courts. iPad is great with handling electronic documents for review (I like to use it in lieu of paper for arguments, examinations, etc.--it looks like you're standing there with a pad, instead of a computer, which looks funny), but it kind of sucks for editing, hardcore research, taking notes, etc. I do have a USB keyboard with it, and in a pinch I use it to take notes, but sitting down to do any real work, where you need a mouse or a trackpad and buttons, just doesn't really work for me.

    Why don't you pick up an iPad, and play around with it, and then see if you need to keep your laptop with you?
  3. Jnai

    Jnai is not worried about sex with goats SoSH Member

    Not sure if you're willing to consider a different device, but I have a Surface Pro, and it's really fantastic.

    The killer difference is the handwriting / pen, which is just amazingly good on the Surface (it hardly ever picks up anything but the pen tip, is pressure sensitive, the other side is an eraser, etc.) It's great in meetings for note taking when you don't want to be typing, especially for me because I was often using my notepad to draw and sketch graphs / charts / tables or workflows [I work in biomedical research, there's a lot that my "notes" capture that a keyboard really struggled with]. Re-reading your post, seriously, go to a Microsoft Store and just try One Note on a surface and then walk down the hall and ask for anything even remotely comparable on the iPad. I know you want to use paper, but it replaces paper so easily. I'm really not paid to say this, it's just that good. There's also document markup software for using the pen, where you can use the pen to highlight and write on documents and take notes on top of them, which is also nice for me.

    The keyboard cover is also great - the keyboard is very well spaced. I have a personal preference against touchpads, so I carry a mouse. And, I personally find it very hard to program on anything less than a full keyboard, because I use keyboard shortcuts a lot specifically to avoid moving my hands around too much, and with compressed key layouts, those are all different than your normal muscle memory.

    It's also got a nice processor and a good amount of RAM (runs most analyses that I run reasonably quickly), and the battery life has been really good.

    I deal-hunted for a while for it - I believe I paid around $700 total for an i5/Pro which was a great deal at the time. They are not cheap. But since it essentially replaces your laptop, it's worth it in my opinion.

    All of that software you mention should run fine, unless there is some Mac specific legal software that I don't know about. One nice thing about the Surface is that it is really a full Windows computer, and so for Software, you aren't restricted to an app ecosystem like the Apple Store. [The downside of course is that there is not as robust an app ecosystem if you really like apps, I guess.]

    Anyway, something to consider. It's a really nice little machine.
    #3 Jnai, Dec 26, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2016
  4. Batman Likes The Sox

    Batman Likes The Sox Not postscient Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    I use an iPad Pro for work. It's probably 80% as efficient as my MacBook Pro, and that's with about six months of getting used to it (and already having several iOS devices, so already being totally comfortable in that environment).

    Having something like office for mac is a must and I would say I couldn't make it work without now using OneDrive for everything (which I'm very happy with now that I've got everything organized).

    The keyboard is fine for me. I'm a fast typer and am pretty big but haven't noticed any issues with the small keyboard. A few of the functions on the keyboard are a bit different and I have to touch the screen more for a few things (which is less precise than a mouse/touchpad) but I'm pretty comfortable with the keyboard even for very long periods of time.

    Actual word processing is less efficient but reasonable. It's mostly tough whenever you want to create something beyond a standard paragraph, like bulleted lists or a grid or something like that. It's a little harder to work in a document without a mouse/touchpad but I think a lot of that is because I've got 25 years of experience with those and six months with the keyboard/touchscreen combo.

    I haven't tried anything beyond viewing items like excel and powerpoint on the Pro, but for viewing it's great. Web browsing and email is obviously fine and having all the other apps on there is more fun than the MacBook.

    I don't have a cellular plan but I'm always in WiFi, which is pretty easy to find these days (and I can get on it in all my various work settings).

    I wouldn't choose to leave the Mac environment as well if trying to make the switch to a tablet. Seems like a lot more to overcome.

    The main reason I got the Pro is because I was tired of lugging my MacBook from meeting to meeting, and thought with the keyboard it would be close enough that I wouldn't miss the full laptop experience. That has proven to be true.
  5. Batman Likes The Sox

    Batman Likes The Sox Not postscient Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    One other note - whenever I don't have WiFi I just connect the Pro to my iPhone's network (which is very simple and wireless) and it's perfect.
  6. Drocca

    Drocca darrell foster wallace SoSH Member

    I really hate using Pacer on an iPad but its been a couple years; maybe the interface is better now.
  7. Scott Cooper's Grand Slam

    Scott Cooper's Grand Slam Member SoSH Member

    Consider a MacBook or a MacBook Air. Both are considerably lighter than a MacBook Pro and have less of the iPad-as-a-main-work-machine compromises.
  8. HriniakPosterChild

    HriniakPosterChild Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    Apple Stores have a 14-day return policy. Try it out. I don't think it'll be up to the job, but only you can tell for certain.
  9. Rovin Romine

    Rovin Romine Johnny Rico Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Thanks for all the thoughts.

    I've been to the apple store (it's 3 blocks away) a couple of times and played with the split screen function, which is the main upgrade for me. I think I'm going to try it for the 14 days and see how it goes. I'm hopeful it will fill a kind of "netbook" niche, if you will, while being part of the apple ecosystem. We'll see. It'll probably depend on how quickly/smoothly I can switch aps as needed.

    If anyone has followup questions for me, bump the thread.
  10. Dernells Casket n Flagon

    Dernells Casket n Flagon Member SoSH Member

    I won an iPad Pro a few weeks ago, which is probably my first Apple device since an iPod Nano about eight or nine years ago.

    Can the pencil be used as a handwriting to text keyboard?
  11. jayhoz

    jayhoz Ronald Bartel Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Tablet sales are in free fall for a reason. They are vastly inferior to laptops in almost every way.
  12. 8slim

    8slim Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Yep, the combo of larger phones and lighter, more nimble laptops has really put the squeeze to the tablet market.

    I love my iPad mini but it is entirely a media device for me: Netflix streaming, Spotify listening and basic web browsing.

    It's funny because my Silicon Valley colleagues were adamant that tablets would kill the laptop market. Guess not. ;)
  13. alydar

    alydar Member SoSH Member

    Reviving this thread with a slightly different question... for real work I know I will continue to lug around my laptop because I do a lot of writing / making slides / playing with data, and that seems like something where a real keyboard is likely essential to maximal productivity nearly all the time. I'm fine with that.

    But I have been trying to get away from printing out PDFs in order to read them (scientific articles), both because it is a waste of paper and because it is *another* little barrier of activation energy that I could do without. I find that reading PDFs on a laptop isn't very enjoyable -- having the thing sit on your lap tends to leave me craning my neck quite a bit forward in order to actually read, not nearly as good as just holding the thing closer to my face. Plus you generally need to be sitting upright to make a laptop work well, so lounging on the couch or in bed is less of an option.

    So, I'm wondering if anyone finds an iPad to be a good reading experience, especially for standard 8.5 x 11 documents? If so, what size iPad is the best trade-off between readability / usability and size / weight?
  14. Rovin Romine

    Rovin Romine Johnny Rico Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I ended up getting the pad and it basically addressed all my needs. I read off the smaller iPad all the time and it’s not noticeably fatigue inducing. Even though the content ought to be.

    It works well enough as a laptop lite, but I wouldn’t want to do a lot of editing/input on it.
  15. wade boggs chicken dinner

    wade boggs chicken dinner Member SoSH Member

    Did you ever look into the Surface Pro? It has a tablet that's detachable but it is a full computer.

    They have a LTE version now too if anyone needs a cellular connection.
  16. Rovin Romine

    Rovin Romine Johnny Rico Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    All my other stuff is apple, so I just stayed with it for easy coordination between the devices.

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