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This Is What Using The Huge iPad Pro Is Actually Like

It's terrible in bed, but great everywhere else.

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Amy Sefton / BuzzFeed

When the iPad first launched five years ago, I remember thinking it just sounded like a digital sanitary napkin. I was very skeptical.

Now here we are, awaiting the public release of Apple's newest tablet, the colossal iPad Pro with a $799–1,079 price tag and a screen that's 75% larger than the previous iPad. It's bigger in every way: The Pro's processor, display, and speaker system have all been upgraded. There are also new iPad Pro-specific ~accessories~ available, including a stylus that's legitimately the best I've ever used. The target audience? Professionals (think: designers and architects) who need a mobile machine that's fast and powerful.

Last week, Apple loaned me their mammoth tablet for the purposes of review. I wanted to see if I — someone who writes words and makes GIFs for a living — could give up my laptop for a week in favor of the iPad Pro. What follows is what happened when I did just that.

Day 1: Getting acquainted with the beast.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

There's no denying it. This tablet is Big. At 12.9 inches and 2.35 pounds with Apple's new "Smart Keyboard" cover on, the iPad Pro is just slightly smaller and lighter than my MacBook Air.

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The iPad Pro looks comically large when I hold it.

Twitter: @itsnicolenguyen

Am I just small or is the iPad Pro really the giant that I think it is?

Turns out, even BuzzFeed Tech's resident metal dad/managing editor John Paczkowski thinks that the tablet is, indeed, "HUGE."

Nicole / BuzzFeed

After lifting, petting, and cradling the gigant-iPad like any adult would a newborn human, I fired it up for the first time.

I snapped on Apple's new keyboard cover because the start screen requires an insane amount of log-ins and passwords.

This keyboard is going to make setup a BREEZE, I thought to myself.

Day 2: My first day at work with the Pro.

Nicole Nguyen

I started the day by downloading the app versions of all the software on my Mac.

At first, the iPad Pro's size seemed prohibitive. The point of having a mobile device is the actual mobility of it, right?

But in the context of the tablet as a laptop replacement, its jumbo display is a huge advantage. I felt right at home on the iPad Pro, thanks in large part to the split-screen feature and the full keyboard attached to Apple's new cover.

The Smart Keyboard is very nice but, at $170, also very expensive (most covers range between $90 and $150). It's surprisingly slim for a keyboard cover despite the fact that it's the same size as a desktop's. The keys are shallow, but do bounce back satisfyingly when pressed. Because of the keyboard's soft surface, the keys barely make a sound. Anything's better than pounding your fingertips against a slab of glass, I guess.

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Keyboard + keyboard shortcuts = Yaaasssssss

Nicole / BuzzFeed

This is a wonderful feature for iPad in general — not just the Pro. You can actually use Mac keyboard shortcuts on any iPad with iOS 9 installed and a compatible keyboard paired. The feature works perfectly fine on the iPad Air, but on the iPad Pro, where there's enough screen and processing power to *truly* multitask, it's a game-changer.

I constantly switch between Photoshop, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Slack, and back again. I hit command ⌘ + tab for the app switcher and command ⌘ + spacebar for search more than any other keys on my keyboard — and these shortcuts, which are crucial to my ability to stay productive, work amazingly well on the iPad Pro.

(Pro tip: To view keyboard shortcuts for specific apps, press and hold the command ⌘ key.)

I uploaded some photos I took with the iPad* directly to my post and published my Apple TV review on a tablet. Neat.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

One cool thing about using Safari on the iPad is that it loads the desktop version instead of the mobile version of most websites. In the case of BuzzFeed.com, that means I have access to our platform's complete set of publishing tools.

There are some annoyances, like not being able to run certain apps side by side (ahem, Gmail), no browser extensions, and not being able to open Photoshop files in Photoshop apps (ugh). But writing posts, updating social media, and communicating via Slack (which, I'm convinced, is the best iPad app) is the same as it is on a laptop.

*This is not an endorsement for iPad photography. I repeat: Do not try this at home, or anywhere, ever.

That night, I made some (i)pad Thai without getting anything disgusting on the display.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

After work, I rushed home to get started on making a massive amount of pad Thai. I already had this Tasty recipe pinned, so I launched Pinterest and had all the steps on display while I chopped.

Things get messy AF when I cook, which is not good news for my cookbooks, laptop, phone, and other vessels for recipes. But because I used the keyboard to do things like respond to texts, the iPad display remained virtually smudge-free.

The keyboard was, unfortunately, a victim of soy, fish, and other pungent sauces, but, fortunately, easy to clean. Since there are no crevices between the keys for crumbs and liquids to hide in, all it took was a wipe-down with a wet sponge.

Every iteration of the iPad has been a fantastic bed device – except for this one.

My mefo, kindly letting me charge my iPad with his MacBook. Sorry about the feet. / Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

The iPad was originally designed to be the type of gadget that you'd take to bed to read a long article, watch 10 consecutive episodes of The West Wing, or peruse food porn on Pinterest. As you get more horizontal, the iPad follows suit. You lie on your side and prop the tablet up with one hand, or hoist it up in the air while your thumb scrolls. This is the iPad at its best.

But the iPad Pro is, um, terrible in bed. It's wobbly with the keyboard cover on and, because it's top-heavy, the entire structure topples with any major leg movement. Then you're forced to figure out the origami that is the Smart Keyboard to put the whole thing back together.

The iPad Pro is clearly a gadget made with the desk or couch in mind. Resting the iPad on your lap without the cover is better but, even then, it's still too big and unwieldy to lift or hold up while on your side.

Avid readers, if you prefer one-handed operation in bed, stick with the Kindle or your phone.

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The Apple Pencil sounds really dumb, but it's the best stylus I've ever used.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

When the Apple Pencil was first introduced in September, I tried *really* hard not to laugh. It was literally one of the most sensual videos I've ever watched in public even though styluses are the second-dorkiest tech thing ever created (the first being Bluetooth headsets).

Plus, the stylus is one of the oldest input accessories around (hi, PalmPilot), and designer Jony Ive was speaking as though he'd invented it. And furthermore, while companies like Microsoft and Samsung have embraced the stylus in their modern wares, Apple has famously rejected it. Founder Steve Jobs once said, "Who wants a stylus? You have to get 'em and put 'em away and you lose 'em... YHACH."

Well, after trying the Apple Pencil, everyone's going to want a stylus.

The display is even more responsive to the Apple Pencil than it is to your finger.

The iPad Pro scans for the Apple Pencil twice as much as it does when you use your finger. It writes like a real pencil. Strokes are darker when you press harder and lighter when you press lightly. Turn it on its side and you can shade in your drawing. Start scribbling notes and you'll be reminded of the tap tap tap of a silent classroom taking a spelling test with Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils.

There is seemingly no lag, which will impress anyone who has ever used a stylus. I tested the Apple Pencil against my former favorite, the Adonit Jot Pro, FifityThree's unfortunately named Pencil, and the Jot Script Evernote Edition. I found that the longer the delay between the stylus and app, the wider my handwriting appeared. In both Apple's Notes app and Penultimate (free, iOS), the Apple Pencil was the best stylus for note-taking in terms of speed and precision.

The Notes app is where the Apple Pencil shines. It'll work fine in other apps, but you won't be able to take advantage of its pressure-sensitivity and palm-rejection capabilities — features that will be integrated into more apps in the future. Right now, only a handful of offerings are Apple Pencil-optimized, including Photoshop Mix and Paper by FiftyThree (more on this below).

But it feels like something I will inevitably lose.

The Apple Pencil's battery lasts about 12 hours. Remove the end cap to reveal a Lightning charger bit that can be plugged right into the iPad Pro or with the included USB cable adapter. Steve was right: When I took the cap off for the first time, I thought, Oh, good, more things for me to lose.

The Apple Pencil is so slim and smooth that I can imagine it slipping right through my backpack's pocket mesh and into oblivion. Apple said that companies are already working on accessories to accommodate the Pencil, but it's a bummer that this pricey Pencil needs an accessory at all. Apple could have easily integrated something into the smart keyboard it's selling for $169 or via the iPad's magnet smart connector for covers. I mean, they did design it. Even Microsoft has come up with some elegant pen storage solutions for its Surface laptop hybrid. *nudge nudge*

At $99, the Apple Pencil is costly even for a professional stylus.

All of this to say that the Apple-branded stylus will set you back some serious cash. With the most affordable iPad Pro tier (32GB with Wi-Fi only), that means you could be spending $99 for the Pencil + $799 for the device + $169 for the keyboard = $1,067 for a tablet. Hot damn.

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Apple doesn't make the best iPad Pro case. Logitech does.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

The iPad Pro can be used with third-party keyboards (as it should), and Logitech sent me its to try out. The case is about as heavy as the iPad Pro itself, but wins in so many other ways:

* The iPad-specific shortcuts to features like the home screen, lock/unlock switch, spotlight, and the emoji keyboard are so nifty. Raising your arm every time you want to interact with the iPad gets tiring, OK??

* The keys can be backlit, which is nice for nighttime typing.

* It's heftier and sturdier than Apple's keyboard case, which partly fixes bed-device/device-on-your-lap unwieldiness.

* It discreetly covers the back of the device, which means that when you're at a coffee shop, you aren't unintentionally screaming, "LOOK AT ME I HAVE A GIANT IPAD."

It's slightly less expensive than Apple's cover.

Logitech's offering is $150 (the Smart Keyboard is $169). I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who plans on using the Pro more as a computer than a tablet.

Drawing on the iPad Pro is really fun.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

Here is a blind drawing of my hand. Lol, sorry.

Creative stuff like drawing, designing, and editing is peak iPad Pro. It just *feels* good sketching and scribbling with all of that space underneath your arm.

This software I played with is called Paper by FiftyThree (free) and it's one of the few apps that are Apple Pencil-ready. It takes advantage of the stylus's pressure-sensitive tip and palm-rejection features. Using watercolor in the app is just like using watercolor on, well, paper — right down to the way it blends when wet and looks when dry.

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If you can't draw, that's OK – because Netflix and HBO Now have great iPad apps.

The iPad's prodigious amount of screen isn't just good for bad line drawings. It's a great TV for one (or two), too. The iPad Pro now has four speakers (instead of two), so you can blast TV or movie audio to a whole room if you wish. I've Netflixed Gilmore Girls while eating breakfast for the past two days. HBO Now (along with YouTube, FaceTime, and others) has a pop-out video feature so you can watch stuff while you work.

Designing is pretty sweet, too.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

What would have taken me hours in inDesign took me 10 minutes in Adobe Comp (free with a Creative Cloud subscription). You use your finger to draw shapes that will automatically turn into graphics. For example, X's become image placeholders and a rectangle with a dot turns into text field.

I edited most of the photos in this post with a combination of Photoshop Fix (free with Creative Cloud subscription) and Comp without a hitch. It took hardly any training and the images loaded quickly — even with Twitter running simultaneously.

With full brightness and nonstop use, the iPad Pro's battery depletes at 10% per hour.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

My workflow consists of a lot of typing: email, posting, and chatting with people on Slack. I also work next to a window (aka in direct sunlight for a few hours) and typically had the tablet at max brightness.

As advertised, the iPad lasted 10 hours with nonstop use and longer on the weekend with intermittent use. That's a little bit less than my MacBook Air (12 hours), which is fine but not GREAT.

It's neither a true laptop nor a mobile device.

The iPad Pro is this weird hybrid tablet-laptop that, unlike your computer, has Siri but, like your computer, gives you access to the desktop version of nearly every webpage and allows you to work in multiple applications side by side. But it's not perfectly defined as either.

iOS will get better and better, and many people will, one day, be able to use the iPad Pro as a full replacement for a primary computer. But, in its current iteration, using a tablet is simply inferior to desktop computing. Mac OS X is, without question, more hackable, customizable, and powerful than a mobile operating system. I can't say that the iPad Pro is a true substitute for a computer.

That being said, the MacBook Air and iPad Pro are redundant in many ways.

If you're considering Apple's ultralight laptop, you're probably not editing an insane amount of video or doing a ton of processor-intensive gaming. You're probably looking at a lot of Facebook, watching a bunch of Netflix, checking email, and maybe occasionally editing some photos. In this case, the iPad Pro might be up your alley.

Above all, consider the cost. The iPad Pro is probably going to be the most expensive mobile device you own.

Pricing for the iPad Pro, available for preorder online starting today, is:

* Wi-Fi only: $799 for 32 GB and $949 for 128 GB

* Wi-Fi + Cellular: $1,079 for 128 GB

For comparison, the similarly sized 13-inch MacBook Air is $999.

The iPad Pro offers something different to the hardcore designing crowd and to young adults who've just graduated from college and will never have to write a research paper again.

The tablet might also appeal to students (with very robust scholarships??) who gravitate more toward writing their notes rather than typing them, or math majors who want to jot down problem sets in a digital environment. One study shows that students who take longhand notes vs. students who type notes perform better on exams.

The iPad Pro isn't for me but it's still a fantastic tablet.

Arm fatigue is real. I started using the Apple Pencil as a selector because I was so tired of lifting my wrist. Apple founder Steve Jobs actually said it best in 2010: "After a certain amount of time, your arm wants to fall off ... it's ergonomically terrible. Touch surfaces are meant to be horizontal."

I write words for a living and so, I love keyboards. Unfortunately, long-term keyboard-iPad use makes me want to dunk my hand in an ice bucket. But as a digital notebook, the iPad Pro is amazing. I just don't need that right now. But you might.

**

well that does not look too gigantic tbh nicole @itsnicolenguyen

**This photo is a very good Photoshop and not the actual size of the iPad Pro relative to me.

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