I tried switch­ing from the 13in MacBook Pro to the 12.9in iPad Pro

I learned a lot, though.

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Michael Si­mon re­ports

Ire­ally wanted it to work. A cou­ple of weeks ago I closed my MacBook on a Fri­day af­ter­noon with no plans to open it for a week. I wasn’t go­ing on hol­i­day – rather, I was test­ing the the­ory that the iPad could ac­tu­ally be ‘a com­puter’. My set-up was as high­end as you could get: a 12.9in iPad Pro with 1TB of stor­age and cel­lu­lar con­nec­tiv­ity, a Magic Keyboard and Ap­ple Pen­cil – a set-up that’s more ex­pen­sive than the 13in MacBook Pro I got it in 2016. It looked great on my desk and felt every bit like the fu­ture Ap­ple sells. When I snapped the iPad into its mag­netic en­clo­sure, I hoped it could re­place my MacBook with a sleek, mod­ern and ver­sa­tile de­vice.

Sadly, it didn’t work out. I spent more time fight­ing my iPad than lov­ing it, and when push came to shove, it was just too dif­fi­cult to get things done as quickly and ef­fi­ciently as I do on my Mac. Some of it is mus­cle memory, of course, but there are still fun­da­men­tal is­sues with the iPad that pre­vent it from be­ing the work-first de­vice Ap­ple wants it to be. So I’m giv­ing it up. While there’s a lot to like about the iPad Pro and Ap­ple’s whole tablet ex­pe­ri­ence, it isn’t as sim­ple as a track­pad be­ing the miss­ing link be­tween it and the Mac.


The iPad Pro didn’t just gain a track­pad, it also gained a ‘reimagined cur­sor ex­pe­ri­ence’ that Ap­ple says is “the big­gest thing to hap­pen to the cur­sor since point and click”. Its cir­cu­lar de­sign def­i­nitely unique, but

I found it to be more frus­trat­ing than fun.

From the size to the slight par­al­lax ef­fect when the cur­sor hov­ers over an icon, the whole sys­tem feels am­a­teur­ish and cheap. Even be­yond aes­thet­ics, the cur­sor just felt more la­bo­ri­ous than it should. The con­tex­tual aware­ness took too long with some fields, wasn’t al­ways rec­og­nized by text fields, and made me long for the classic ar­row on my Mac.


One of the main rea­sons why Ap­ple split iPadOS from iOS is its multitaski­ng ad­van­tages. But while multitaski­ng with my Mac is ef­fort­less and seam­less, on the iPad’s is kind of a con­fus­ing mess, espe­cially when us­ing the track­pad. Split View apps need to be opened from the Dock, a Slide Over win­dow is im­pos­si­ble to close with­out touch­ing the screen and re­siz­ing is ba­si­cally a guess­ing game.

I un­der­stand that the iPad is dif­fer­ent than the Mac so float­ing win­dows don’t make sense, but iPad multitaski­ng still feels Ap­ple would ad­dress these con­fu­sions in iPadOS 14, but that doesn’t seem to be that case.


As a writer, I work with text a lot, and I have a lot of short­cuts and mus­cle memory built into my work­flow. Most of it gets thrown out the win­dow on the iPad. Se­lect­ing text with the track­pad isn’t nearly as in­tu­itive as it is on the Mac, and de­pend­ing on the app I used, I of­ten had to reach out to touch the screen just to make sure the se­lec­tion I needed was prop­erly high­lighted. Some fields needed an ex­tra click to switch to the keyboard. And worst of all, spellcheck was way more ag­gres­sive than it is on the Mac, so words of­ten changed to things I didn’t mean to write.


The iPad Pro boasts sup­port for a sec­ond mon­i­tor, which I reg­u­larly use on my Mac. But I can’t imag­ine why any­one would want to. When you hook up your iPad to an ex­ter­nal mon­i­tor, which is as easy as find­ing the right USB-C ca­ble

or don­gle, you’ll see ex­actly what’s on your iPad in the same as­pect ra­tio. That means your widescreen dis­play will have black bars on the sides like when you watch an old TV pro­gramme on a newer tele­vi­sion.

Some apps are able to use the two dis­plays in tan­dem to add ex­tra functional­ity, such as iMovie and iPho­tos, but none of the ones I reg­u­larly use ben­e­fited from the ex­tra space. So where I can ex­pand my dis­play on the Mac and gain three times the space for apps, hook­ing up my iPad to the same dis­play merely made it a lit­tle big­ger. The iPad des­per­ately needs a desk­top mode, but un­less Ap­ple has a sur­prise up its sleeve, it looks like we’ll be wait­ing un­til at least iPadOS 15.


As soon as I put my fin­gers on the Magic Keyboard’s keys, I was in love. Typ­ing is a mil­lion times bet­ter than both my but­ter­fly MacBook Pro and the Smart Keyboard, and I re­ally hated to give it up. I like it so much, in fact, I just bought a Blue­tooth Magic Keyboard to go with my MacBook.

But the magic ends there. It’s too heavy, too rigid and too hard to open. The iPad doesn’t eas­ily come off like it

does in Ap­ple’s mar­ket­ing shots. The track­pad is too small com­pared to my Mac, and it’s miss­ing a func­tion row. And the Ap­ple logo is still side­ways when you restart.

I do like that I’m able to use it on my lap thanks to its ex­cel­lent weight dis­tri­bu­tion, but the iPad Magic keyboard is still a few gen­er­a­tions away from be­ing per­fect.


The iPad has come a long way as a pro­duc­tiv­ity tool, and there’s a lot I can do now that I couldn’t be­fore. My VPN and CMS worked very well, my ex­ter­nal hard drive was in­stantly rec­og­nized, and work­ing with Word was a breeze. In fact, I only had to open my Mac twice. To print (see be­low) and to prop­erly crop a photo I took.

On my Mac, work­ing with pho­tos is easy. Just pop in the card, trans­fer the pic­tures to my desk­top, open them in Pho­to­shop and make the nec­es­sary ed­its. On the iPad, it’s not so sim­ple. While my cam­era’s card was rec­og­nized, it wasn’t so easy to edit my photo – and all I needed to do was crop it to a spe­cific size. Pho­to­shop doesn’t rec­og­nize RAW, Light­room wouldn’t let me eas­ily cus­tom­ize a crop, and Pho­tos baulked at prop­erly im­port­ing the im­ages so other apps couldn’t ac­cess them. I couldn’t even find a way to re­name a photo in Pho­tos to up­load it to my CMS. Thank­fully my Mac came to the res­cue when I got des­per­ate, but the iPad still has a long way to go when it comes to photo edit­ing.


Even if you spring for the Magic Keyboard, you still only get two USB

ports on the iPad Pro – and only one of them can han­dle pe­riph­eral de­vices. If you want to plug in a mon­i­tor and a hard drive, you’re out of luck with buy­ing a hub.

And while I’m wish­ing, it’s in the wrong spot. It should be near the bot­tom edge so you don’t need to see a ca­ble dan­gling every time you need to plug some­thing in.


When it works, Face ID is noth­ing less than a rev­e­la­tion. Pop open your iPad, look at the screen, and vi­ola, it’s un­locked.

The same goes for lo­gins and au­then­ti­ca­tion. It’s far su­pe­rior to Touch ID and needs to make its way to the MacBook. But that magical ex­pe­ri­ence stops at the App Store. Face ID is sup­ported for buy­ing apps, of course, but the sys­tem isn’t nearly as seam­less as it is with un­lock­ing pass­word man­agers and other apps. Just like your iPhone, you need to dou­ble click the power but­ton to con­firm your pur­chase, which isn’t the eas­i­est thing to do when docked.

It might seem like a small thing, but when you’re buy­ing a few things each day, it takes you out of your el­e­ment.


I have a rel­a­tively old Brother printer that works per­fectly well with my Mac, Chrome­book and PC. But when I plugged it into my iPad to print some­thing I needed for work, noth­ing hap­pened. That’s be­cause, de­spite its USB-C port, the iPad only works with AirPrint-en­abled print­ers. Ap­ple lists a lot of them on its sup­port site, but I don’t see any rea­son why the iPad can’t just work with any USB printer.


It’s easy to point to one of the nu­mer­ous cal­cu­la­tors in the App Store or buy into the ridicu­lous ex­cuse that Ap­ple won’t ship one un­til “we can do it re­ally, re­ally well”, but the fact of the mat­ter re­mains: a stock calculator app is sorely miss­ing. It’s not the kind of thing you think of un­til you need it, and on more than one oc­ca­sion I had to reach for my iPhone just to do a sim­ple math prob­lem.

(A reader pointed out that you can do quick cal­cu­la­tions us­ing the search bar, but that’s a work­around not a sub­sti­tute – all I want is the Mac app in a PIP win­dow when I need to do quick cal­cu­la­tions.


Com­pared to the 2017 MacBook Pro I was us­ing, the iPad Pro is in­sanely fast – and that’s with an A12Z chip, not the newer A13. While apps and an­i­ma­tions fly, the bench­marks didn’t trans­late into a speed­ier ex­pe­ri­ence, at least when it comes to my work­flow. Even af­ter I was com­fort­able with the ges­tures and nav­i­ga­tion, ev­ery­thing on the iPad just took longer due to its less-in­tu­itive multitaski­ng and menus. But Ap­ple’s chips are ridicu­lously fast at the things they do, mak­ing the up­com­ing Mac tran­si­tion ex­tremely ex­cit­ing.


If this was the iPad’s only is­sue, I would be prob­a­bly able to over­look it, but when added to the oth­ers here, it’s just an­other frus­trat­ing ex­am­ple of the iPad’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble short­com­ings. On my Mac, I can keep small tabs to the left la­belled with fav­i­cons, so they’re easy to ac­cess with­out in­trud­ing on my other tabs. Even with the changes com­ing to iOS 14, pinned tabs re­main elu­sive on the iPad, mak­ing Sa­fari on the Mac su­pe­rior. And speak­ing of tabs, why doesn’t Con­trol-Z

undo an ac­ci­den­tally closed tab like it does on the Mac?


On the iPhone and the Mac, you know what you’re get­ting. Touch tar­gets are big, nav­i­ga­tion and menus are sen­si­ble, and the user ex­pe­ri­ence is smart and adap­tive. That’s not quite how it is on the iPad. With an en­vi­ron­ment that strad­dles the iPhone and Mac, I of­ten felt like I was fight­ing the in­ter­face. No mat­ter how fast they were, apps of­ten felt like they were si­mul­ta­ne­ously too sim­ple and too com­pli­cated. From Word to Tweet­bot, even Pho­to­shop, in­ter­faces didn’t know whether they wanted to be mo­bile or desk­top, forc­ing my ac­tions to be more de­lib­er­ate than with my Mac. Even af­ter a week, I never grew as com­fort­able with any of the in­ter­faces than I am with phone or PC, par­tic­u­larly when the keyboard was at­tached. Con­se­quently, I worked slower than I did on ei­ther de­vice.


Suf­fice to say, I’m writ­ing this on a MacBook Pro. There are plenty of things to like about the iPad Pro – the de­sign, dis­play, Face ID and the over­all

zip­pi­ness – but it’s just not ready to re­place my Mac just yet. Per­haps it never will. With the up­com­ing tran­si­tion to Ap­ple’s own pro­ces­sors, the line be­tween the Mac and the iPad Pro will blur even fur­ther, but if any­thing, the core dif­fer­ences will only get deeper.

My main is­sues here – multitaski­ng, dis­play span­ning, and the cur­sor – might never get to the point where long-time Mac users are com­fort­able with them, which might be the point. My big­gest prob­lem with the iPad Pro isn’t that it’s not a Mac – it’s that Ap­ple hasn’t clearly de­fined what, or why, it is.

The cur­sor needs some help.

Switch­ing be­tween apps is great on the iPad, but multitaski­ng is a con­fus­ing mess.

Whether us­ing touch or track­pad, text on the iPad Pro is frus­trat­ing to work with.

This isn’t go­ing to cut it, Ap­ple.

With the Magic Keyboard at­tached, the iPad Pro is about the same size as the 13in MacBook Pro,but it’s way heav­ier.

The sin­gle USB-C port on the iPad Pro isn’t good enough.

Face ID would be a wel­come im­prove­ment over Touch ID on the MacBook.

Pinned tabs on the Mac’s Sa­fari are more use­ful than they look.

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