What the pros think of… iPad Pro

It’s Ap­ple’s big­gest ever iPad, but has the Pro won over the cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als that it’s aimed at?

Mac Format - - IPAD PRO -

In the months-long run up to Ap­ple’s 9 Septem­ber ‘Hey Siri’ event, there was one ru­mour that just would not die a quiet and dig­ni­fied death: that Ap­ple was work­ing on a gar­gan­tuan 12.9-inch tablet chris­tened the ‘iPad Pro’, de­signed for cre­ative pros and re­plete with sty­lus, the bane of one Steve Jobs. “If you see a sty­lus, they blew it”, he fa­mously quipped. Ap­ple must have a short mem­ory.

The in­clu­sion of the pres­sure-sen­si­tive sty­lus – or Pen­cil, as Ap­ple has imag­i­na­tively named it – sug­gests the Pro is aimed squarely at il­lus­tra­tors, artists and de­sign­ers – those for whom a track­pad or mouse are just not ac­cu­rate enough. But what do those who work in th­ese pro­fes­sions think of the over­sized tablet? Will it be­come a musthave tool for the busy cre­ative, or a rare stum­ble from a com­pany that is not ac­cus­tomed to mak­ing mis­takes? And fur­ther­more, should cre­ative types re­ally con­sider get­ting one?

To get to the bot­tom of the is­sue once and for all, we asked a group of cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als to find out ex­actly what they thought of what Tim Cook called “the clear­est ex­pres­sion of our vi­sion of the fu­ture of per­sonal com­put­ing”.

Words: Alex Blake Images: Ap­ple

The iPad Pro was the worst-kept Ap­ple se­cret since ev­ery other prod­uct Cu­per­tino ever launched. We all knew it was com­ing, but that didn’t stop us get­ting ex­cited for its 12.9 inches of pres­sure-sen­si­tive, Retina‑flaunt­ing, power-pack­ing glory.

That’s all well and good, but out­side of the Ap­ple event bub­ble, what do cre­atives think of it? For Adam De­whirst, Se­nior 3D Artist at The Mill, it’s all about the porta­bil­ity. “I think its screen res­o­lu­tion cou­pled with its weight and porta­bil­ity are its most ap­peal­ing as­pects”, he says. “It’s the right size for dig­i­tal art and it’s in­cred­i­bly easy to just grab and go for a de­vice that size. By com­par­i­son, the Wa­com Cintiq Com­pan­ion is over dou­ble the weight and much bulkier”.

Free­lance dig­i­tal artist Niko­lai Lock­ert­sen agrees, but goes fur­ther, cit­ing the ad­di­tion of a sty­lus as be­ing a key sell­ing point for the new de­vice: “The big screen with such high res will be fan­tas­tic to work on. A sen­si­tive sty­lus that is cre­ated with and for iPad Pro should work flaw­lessly.”

“Some­thing ev­ery artist wants”

That is one of the most in­ter­est­ing re­ac­tions to the iPad Pro among cre­atives – ev­ery artist and de­signer we spoke to agreed that Ap­ple was right to fi­nally re­verse its long­stand­ing op­po­si­tion to dig­i­tal draw­ing im­ple­ments. Rob Red­man, CG artist at Pariah Stu­dios, was typ­i­cal of this re­sponse, ar­gu­ing that it is about Ap­ple re­spond­ing and adapt­ing to a world it has had huge in­flu­ence over for so long. “There is noth­ing wrong with stick­ing to your guns to an ex­tent”, he says, “but the world is a fluid, change­able place and the mar­ket will dic­tate what users want. Jobs was pretty good at pre­dict­ing and even shap­ing things but there is def­i­nitely room for a sty­lus in­put”.

“It’s some­thing that’s been lack­ing from Ap­ple prod­ucts”, adds De­whirst. “If any­thing I think I’m more in­ter­ested in the Pen­cil than I am the iPad Pro it­self”.

Lock­ert­sen puts it an­other way. “If you ask a painter if he [would] rather use a paint­ing brush to work with or a fin­ger, any artist wants to use a sty­lus”, he ar­gues. “We grow up with crayons and pen­cils. Paint­ing with a fin­ger works, but it is not nat­u­ral for us. And pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity is some­thing ev­ery artist wants”.

Steve Jobs may not have been a fan of the sty­lus, but he was speak­ing of tech­nol­ogy that was nowhere near its po­ten­tial be­ing used on fledg­ling smart­phones a tiny pro­por­tion of the size of an iPad Pro. The Ap­ple Pen­cil will be used in a to­tally dif­fer­ent con­text by a to­tally dif­fer­ent user base – a user base that seems to be very keen on the idea.

A must-have ac­ces­sory?

The ques­tion posed by the iPad Pro’s emer­gence is sim­ple: should artists get one? Is it an es­sen­tial pro­fes­sional tool or an un­nec­es­sary gizmo? Well, that very much seems to de­pend on what line of work you’re in. For Lock­ert­sen, the an­swer is ob­vi­ous. “I work full time as a con­cept

artist in the film industry and I only use the iPad to paint on and Pro­cre­ate as the app”, he ex­plains. “For me, this is Christ­mas and birth­day in one”. But as an artist who works al­most ex­clu­sively on an iPad, Lock­ert­sen’s ex­pe­ri­ence may not re­flect that of oth­ers in the industry, and for De­whirst the an­swer is not so straight­for­ward. “It’s a tough ques­tion”, he says. “I may get one, but let’s be hon­est – it’s not the same price as the cur­rent iPad, which I have bought on a whim be­fore.

“A sen­si­tive sty­lus that is cre­ated with and for iPad Pro should work flaw­lessly”

It’s a real in­vest­ment, es­pe­cially if you want the Pen­cil and the key­board too – and let’s face it, you do!”

The pros we spoke to were also split over whether it could re­place their Mac in a work ca­pac­ity – again, it largely hinged on what type of work they were in­volved in. For Lock­ert­sen, the free­lance il­lus­tra­tor, the an­swer is a firm yes: “The iPad has for me al­ready re­placed a desk­top com­puter in 80% of what I do. The rest of the 20% I do [is] mostly film edit­ing. The iPad Pro is sup­posed to han­dle film edit­ing very well, so I could prob­a­bly con­vert fully to iPad Pro.”

For our 3D artists, how­ever, there was no pos­si­bil­ity they could make the switch, even with the iPad Pro’s ex­tra power. “Ab­so­lutely not”, says De­whirst. “Don’t get me wrong, there are some 3D mod­el­ling and sculpt­ing apps out there, but they would only help me [go] so far, and to be hon­est, it’s still a fair dis­tance

away from what I need to be do­ing.”

Red­man agrees, ar­gu­ing that the iPad Pro just isn’t ready to re­place his desk­top com­puter yet. “The iPad for me is a tool for trav­el­ling with”, he says. “I can’t see a time when my 3D work will go mobile but for sketch­ing [and] block­ing out sto­ry­boards, it could be per­fect”.

iOS or Win­dows?

Jus­ti­fy­ing the price tag re­mains a key hur­dle for Ap­ple. While the iPad Pro comes cheaper than many of Wa­com’s Cintiq tablets, it also lacks the flex­i­bil­ity of its ri­val’s prod­ucts. Cintiq sup­ports Win­dows, which al­lows it to run fully-fledged graph­ics soft­ware like Adobe Pho­to­shop. The iPad Pro, in con­trast, runs iOS and is there­fore lim­ited to the apps that are avail­able on that plat­form. That in it­self is enough to put many peo­ple off.

For all Ap­ple’s talk of the iPad Pro be­ing a de­vice for artists and cre­atives, iOS is the ele­phant in the room. That pre­cludes the use of apps like Pho­to­shop and ZBrush – key tools for artists in their droves. For De­whirst, that’s a deal-breaker: “It’s a nice tool for re­mote work­ing to a small de­gree... but could I do the same level of work I would nor­mally do in the of­fice? No”.

“The trou­ble is more to do with soft­ware than any­thing else. I just can’t do what I need with the cur­rent range of apps com­pared to the range of abil­ity of some­thing like Au­todesk Maya”, he adds. What could fix this is­sue? In De­whirst’s opin­ion, ship­ping it with OS X; with­out that, it’s not a vi­able op­tion for him: “Ul­ti­mately, if I’m look­ing for a mobile tablet de­vice and I have a choice be­tween this and, say, the Sur­face or the Cintiq, I’m not go­ing to pick the iPad. It can’t com­pete be­cause it’s not able to – sim­ple as”.

That isn’t an is­sue for Red­man be­cause he doesn’t en­vis­age us­ing an iPad Pro for heavy duty work: “I’m not re­ally in­ter­ested in tak­ing a full Win­dows ma­chine round with me. I’d feel too much like I was in the stu­dio and need to do heavy lift­ing work. [It] kind of de­feats the point of [the iPad] for me.

“I like the fact that iOS de­vices are light­weight, in both OS as well as hard­ware”, he rea­sons. While the iPad Pro could po­ten­tially com­pete with the Sur­face Pro, Mi­crosoft’s tablet is a “dif­fer­ent beast”, ac­cord­ing to Red­man.

Slated for suc­cess

As Ap­ple’s global stature grows to ever more dizzy­ing heights, the com­pany is find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to keep its new prod­ucts and projects tightly un­der wraps. Few were sur­prised by the iPad Pro’s an­nounce­ment. But per­haps we shouldn’t have been any­way – Ap­ple has ap­pealed to cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als for so long that it was surely a mat­ter of time un­til it dipped its gold-en­crusted toes into the fer­tile springs of the graph­ics tablet mar­ket.

But for all its cre­ative street cred, per­haps even Ap­ple can’t count on the iPad Pro’s in­evitable suc­cess. Our artists of­fered mixed sup­port for the supersized slate – while there was much sup­port for the ef­fort, for some the de­vice just isn’t an es­sen­tial tool. There was a sense among them that the iPad Pro is still a work in progress, some­thing for the sto­ry­board rather than the showreel.

So should you get one? If you’re cre­at­ing work on the fly and use an iPad al­ready for much of your cre­ative out­put, then yes. But if our artists left you less than con­vinced, it may be best to wait for fur­ther de­vel­op­ments – and see what Ap­ple sur­prises us with next.

If you mainly work on iPad al­ready, you may find that the iPad Pro is well suited to your needs.

There’s no need to pair the Smart Key­board with the iPad Pro – just at­tach it and you’re ready to start typ­ing!

The Pen­cil marks the first time Ap­ple has pro­duced a sty­lus, de­spite Steve Jobs’ renowned dis­ap­proval of them.

The new A9X pro­ces­sor has enough grunt for the iPad Pro to han­dle just about any­thing you throw at it.

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