iPad Pro Reviews: Not A Laptop Killer

Early reviews of the Apple iPad Pro laud its screen and pen technology, but lament the Smart Keyboard and lack of app optimization.
iPad Pro Vs. Competition: What's The Best Business Tablet
iPad Pro Vs. Competition: What's The Best Business Tablet?
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Apple is now accepting orders for the iPad Pro online, and the tablet is available in some stores around the country. If you're thinking of buying one, you may want to take a peek at the first wave of reviews.

The iPad Pro earns commendations and complaints in equal measure.

If there was a central theme present in each of the dozen or so reviews of the iPad Pro, it is one of confusion. The iPad Pro, as it turns out, is not an easy product to categorize. Is it a tablet? A laptop? Or some hybrid? Is it good at being any of these things?

Most agree the iPad Pro does work well as a tablet. For example, the screen earned top marks from everyone. The 12.9-inch display is 78% bigger than that of the iPad Air 2, and has twice as many pixels as the MacBook Air. Moreover, the battery delivers a full working day of uptime, which is better than many laptops and competing tablets, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

The Apple A9X processor impressed, as well.

"This new iPad is powerful -- and for various reasons, this is the first time I feel that it's actually possible to tell … and what this thing can do is pretty damn impressive. It's pushing over 5.5 million pixels at all times, but never stutters or lags," said TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino.

The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern said the iPad Pro rendered a 4K movie file faster than a MacBook Air.

Reviewers universally panned the Apple Smart Keyboard. "I was disappointed with Apple's optional keyboard case," said Re/code's Walt Mossberg. "It's essentially a shallow Mac keyboard, but not a single shortcut key to an iPad function, like Home or Search. It's also not backlit, and it has only one angle in which it holds the screen."

The Apple Pencil -- the stylus that Apple founder Steve Jobs equated with failure -- was a big hit.

"The iPad is excellent at recognizing the pencil's input and separating it from other input, whether it's rejecting your palm (or your entire arm) or simply differentiating the pencil from your fingers," wrote Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham. "The tablet tracks the tip of the pencil quickly and accurately, and the LCD is close enough to the surface of the glass that it's easy to put the tip of the pencil just where you want it."

Reviewers' biggest complaints centered on iOS 9, Apple's smartphone and tablet operating system. For example, the iOS 9 home screen experience is the same across all devices -- iPhones and iPads alike.

While it works well on the iPhone, it doesn't scale as well for the iPad Pro.

"Despite iOS 9's improved multitasking, there are still shortcomings," complained the Journal's Stern. "You can't customize the home screen's comically large icons with files or other shortcuts. And iOS's lack of real file management can be maddening. Microsoft saddles its Surface Pro with full-blown desktop Windows while the iPad Pro is still too closely related to an iPhone. Apple has to keep working to find the happy middle."

[Read about the iOS 9.1 update.]

One issue centers on app compatibility. The iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 are able to use split-screen multitasking -- but only if developers update their apps with support for that feature. Some developers have taken this leap, but many others have not.

It's clear that the majority of reviewers feel the iPad Pro falls short of being a laptop replacement, but graphic artists will love the Apple Pencil.

Of course, everyone bemoaned the high price tag. The 32GB model with WiFi costs $799. The 128GB WiFi model costs $949. Adding LTE bumps the price tag to a whopping $1,079, and that's before you toss in the $99 Pencil and $169 Smart Keyboard.

You can learn more about the iPad Pro at the Apple website.