March 04, 2020

Is the iPad worth it?

When Apple showed off the new iPad Pro design in late 2018, I took notice. It had been years since I owned an iPad and was looking to integrate it back into my workflow. But the price tag was hefty and I had a hard time justifying the expense. I kept asking myself—is the iPad Pro worth it

The tipping point for me came when Apple announced iPadOS in June of 2019. After watching Craig Federighi show off the new operating system, it became clear that the iPad Pro would fit perfectly into my daily routine. I waited until the Black Friday sales were in full effect on Amazon and then pulled the trigger.

So is the iPad Pro with it?

The iPad Pro is worth it. The new iPadOS is a workhorse and does not disappoint. Saving and sharing files in the cloud has become a seamless breeze. And as a creative professional, having the ability to quickly take notes and sketch out ideas to share with my team has been a game-changer.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'll break down my favorite features in more detail below, but first, let me give you some rationale behind the specs I chose.

The iPad Pro specs I chose (and why)

I went back and forth for a while, but I ended up opting for the 11" iPad Pro with a 64 GB hard drive in Space Gray. There were three main reasons I went with this model:

  1. I already have a 15" MacBook Pro that I use as my daily driver, so the size of the 12.9" iPad Pro seemed a bit redundant.
  2. I wanted to take advantage of the iPad's portability, so going with the smallest form factor made the most sense to me.
  3. With the majority of my work living in the cloud, I didn't feel it was necessary to waste money on a large hard drive. Plus, iPadOS now supports external hard drives via USB-C, so I can always plug up an SSD and get more space.

In addition to the iPad, I also picked up the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) and the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio.

Apple Pencil

If I'm being honest, I was pretty excited about the 2nd gen pencil. In fact, it was one of the main reasons I decided to get the iPad. The ability to take notes, draw out ideas, and share them instantly with people seemed like magic. And yes, I know we've had Wacom tablets and other styluses for years—but having this in the Apple ecosystem made a big difference.

Apple Smart Keyboard Folio

Additionally, I thought the keyboard was a must-have to maximize the efficiency of this device. I use it all the time—in fact, I'm using it right to type out this article in Google Docs. I have plans to keep the keyboard case for now, but I'm looking into the Logitech MX Keys keyboard that allows you to switch between multiple devices. This means when my laptop is on my desk and connected to my monitor, I could have my iPad as a 3rd screen and jump in and out of it with the touch of a button.

More on that soon—but let's get into how I use the iPad Pro during the workweek.

My daily workflow with the iPad Pro

The iPad has become an indispensable part of my daily routine. Here's a look at a few features and apps that help me stay productive throughout the day.

Apple Notes

Apple Notes

This is probably my most used app right now. When I'm on a call, I jot down to-dos and tasks for myself with the Apple Pencil and then add it to my running list in Notion. The great thing about Notes is that they're backed up to the cloud and accessible on any device. Oh, and did I mention your hand-written notes are searchable because iPadOS can translate writing to text? Insanely useful.

Apple Sidecar

Apple Sidecar

If Notes is my most used app, then Sidecar is a close second. It's actually not an "app" per-say, it's a feature baked into iPadOS that allows you to use your iPad as a secondary monitor. I've done some traveling recently, and this feature has come in handy when I find myself needing a little bit more screen real estate.


Procreate for iPad

Like the Apple Pencil, Procreate was a big draw (pardon the pun) when considering the iPad Pro. Having the ability to quickly try and share new ideas is every creative's dream. Procreate makes this process super easy. For my money, Procreate is the best drawing app for iPad Pro—hands down.


Notion for iPad

So although Notion isn't new, I find the experience on iPad to be completely transformative. The app is dead simple to use no matter what device you're on, but there's something about using it on the iPad the feels natural—almost second nature. I love to create lists, notes, and pages around all sorts of tasks and Notion makes that super easy.


Spark for iPad

Like Notion, Spark delivers the goods on any device. But the UI and form factor seem made for iPad. I use Spark to handle my email accounts (Gmail and Outlook) as well as my calendar. The syncing is seamless between MacOS, iPadOS, and iOS so I'm always connected and ready for my next meeting.

The iPad Pro vs Laptop debate

The iPad Pro is robust, there's no question about that. And with an ever-increasing ecosystem of apps, it seems natural for digital creatives like myself to ask, "can an iPad Pro replace a laptop?" For me, and likely most of us out there, the answer is... probably not yet. But it ultimately comes down to your daily responsibilities.

I spend a lot of time developing locally with Flywheel, creating UI in Sketch or Figma, and editing video in Adobe Premiere Pro. These tasks aren't quite optimized yet on the iPad Pro. On the design side, you could argue that since Figma is web-based you could design there. I've tried it and found the experience a bit difficult with the iPad Pro screen dimensions. I'm hoping for a native app sometime soon from either Sketch or Figma.

On the development side, things are a little further along. Companies like Panic are making strides to bring a better coding experience to the iPad. In fact, I've seen some YouTube videos showing developers who currently use the iPad as their main device. As a front-end developer, I'm selfishly hoping that we'll see more companies like Local and CodeKit see iPadOS as a viable platform. But for now, I'm content to use my MacBook Pro and Sidecar to get my work done.

An integrated workflow

The iPad Pro has definitely made its presence known in my weekly workflow and has been well worth the investment. I find myself reaching for it more and more to bang through emails, research and write blog articles, take hand-written notes, and do some drawing in Procreate. It's perfect for these tasks (and makes them fun) because of how well the apps integrate with iPadOS.

Perhaps in the future, I could see the iPad Pro becoming my main work machine. But for now, it's an elegant device that complements the day-to-day heavy lifting I do on my MacBook Pro. And I'm 100% OK with that.