Hands on with iPad Pro: First impressions

An early visit to the Apple Store netted me an iPad Pro. So far, I'm mostly impressed although Apple fumbled on the accessories: The SmartKeyboard and Pencil weren't available.

I don't know that I needed to, but I woke up at 3am ET time this morning, just to make sure I could order an iPad Pro.

In hindsight -- and after many cups of coffee -- it turned out I didn't need to.

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As of time of writing, you can still order an iPad Pro and have it shipped to you in a few days. There's also inventory at Apple Stores, which surprised me. Somehow in my middle of the night stupor, I realized it would be quicker to hit the Apple Store this morning, so I chose the in-store pickup when buying a Space Gray iPad Pro with 128 GB of storage.

I also ordered, but did not get, the Apple SmartKeyboard. That won't ship to me for at least a week and the Apple Store didn't have any. Nor did they have the Apple Pencil, although I hadn't planned to buy that.

Still, I think it's a bit of a misstep for Apple to sell the iPad Pro without having these accessories readily available. As it is, I'm -- somewhat ironically -- propping up the iPad Pro with my Surface Pro 4. That's actually helpful in a way: It provides a look at how big the iPad really is; or isn't, depending on how you look at it.

ipad-pro-on-surface-pro-4.jpg

Compared to other iPads, yes it's big. Compared to the Surface Pro 4, it's about the same width in landscape mode and about an inch taller. Here's a better look with the Surface Pro 4 laying atop the iPad Pro.

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The iPad Pro's weight is bit surprising: It feels lighter than I expected. I wouldn't want to hold it up for hours of reading or watching videos, but at 1.56 pounds, I could easily travel with it.

Of course, that presumes I have some type of case or cover that doubles as a stand so I don't have to hold the device all the time. It's cumbersome in just a few minutes to hold the iPad Pro with a single hand and use the other hand to interact with apps.

In just the short time that I've had the tablet, I'm already appreciating the extra screen space for those apps. SplitView works well and shows two nearly full-sized iOS apps like you were using a pair of iPad Airs. I've used my old Air for writing and the biggest challenge wasn't a software one but one of screen size. That issue is gone with the iPad Pro.

Apple says the speakers are three times louder than on the smaller iPad Air. I haven't formally tested that although I can vouch by saying they are noticeably louder and slightly less tinny. Rotating the screen automatically causes the speakers to adjust so left and right sounds -- as well as bass and treble -- are coming from the appropriate place. Watching movies will be a treat on this tablet.

Since I don't have a SmartKeyboard, I've paired the iPad Pro with an old Apple Bluetooth keyboard and it's working well.

The software keyboard is much improved too though, looking more refined and with always visible shortcut keys. It helps to know some of the physical keyboard shortcuts too: Hold down the Command button on a hardware keyboard and shortcuts will appear on screen. By the way: Shift + Command + H gets you to the Home screen so you don't need to reach out and press the Home button.

Navigating through apps is quick and I haven't seen any performance lag whatsoever.

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That's likely due to the Apple A9x chip and 4 GB of memory. The latter is probably a big helper when browsing the web: I've opened up 10 active tabs in Safari and none of them has reloaded on me when I returned to them.

That's going to be useful for when I'm both writing and researching. And for when I'm coding Java using a cloud-based IDE such as Codenvy. Heck, I can have the code editor and Stack Overflow open for research at the same time.

coding-java-on-ipad-pro.jpg

So far, I like what I see, mainly because I see more and I see it faster than on any prior iPad.

Will I keep it beyond the 14 day return period? That's another question that will likely require nearly 14 days to answer.