Adventure Travel Essentials: Apple iPad Pro (2018) Review

Each day this week I’ve been sharing some of my favorite tech gadgets that I carry with me when hitting the road on my semi-frequent travels. Those have included things like a pair of noise cancelling headphones from TaoTronics, a beautiful GPS watch from Citizen, and the RavPower FileHub –– a device that I described as the Swiss Army Knife of portable chargers. Today, I’ll share another product that has quickly become one of my favorite tech tools of all time –– the 11″ Apple iPad Pro (2018).

Last fall when Apple unveiled it’s latest (and greatest) pro tablet it promised that this new device could replace your laptop, delivering all of the power and features in a more compact, lightweight, and efficient profile. For a frequent traveler, that was exactly what I wanted to hear, as one of the heaviest things that I tend to take with me on any trip is my 13″ MacBook Pro. The idea that I could leave a heavier computer behind and just work from my tablet was highly appealing, so I immediately ordered the new 11″ iPad Pro model, along with the new Apple Pencil 2 and the Smart Keyboard case.

This combination of tablet and accessories certainly comes close to delivering on Apple’s promise of a laptop replacement. It is astoundingly fast, even when editing videos, and as a media consumption device the iPad Pro is unmatched by anything else on the market. That’s in part due to its amazing screen, which is bright, colorful, and responsive. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that its the best screen I’ve seen in a mobile device, bar none. The keyboard and pencil make it easy to get work done on the go, allowing me to write blog posts, articles, and even work on my book from pretty much anywhere. It even allows me to do things I couldn’t do on my laptop, such as sign documents, sketch out ideas and plans, take notes in meetings, and so much more.

So why do I say that it comes close to fulfilling its promise? Because there are a few limitations in iOS –– Apple’s mobile operating system –– that hamstring the device, at least for now. The most glaring of those issues is the inability to access external drives of any kind. That means backing up or accessing files has to be done through the cloud, which is only really useful when you have an Internet connection. The iPad Pro actually ships with a USB-C port (as opposed to Apple’s proprietary Lightning port), which should have given the tablet far reach capabilities in terms of interacting with peripherals, including drives, printers, microphones, and external monitors. But so far, those capabilities have been very limited, although it is easy enough to connect it to a monitor. As a result, you can’t simply plug a secondary device into the iPad Pro and expect it to work.

That said, there are already indications that Apple will address these issues with the release of iOS 13 later this year. Rumors seem to indicate that the plan was to have that functionality in place with the iPad started shipping last fall, but at some point during the development process iOS 12 morphed into an update focused on stability and performance –– much to its credit. That meant planned functionality was dropped and delayed until this year. The result was an extremely powerful tablet that shipped with an operating system that didn’t match its capabilities.

All of that said, for the vast majority of the things I do, I can get along just fine with the iPad Pro. It does require a slight shift in the way that you approach your work, and multitasking isn’t quite as seamless as it would be on a laptop, but I can happily write articles and blog posts while accessing email, researching things on the web, and even watching Netflix at the same time.

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With the limitations mentioned above in mind, you may be wondering why I’m still so high on this device. Put simply, it’s because it offers so much power, versatility, and functionality in a form factor this is incredibly lightweight, thin, and easy to use. It has been extremely liberating to know that I can leave my MacBook at home and just hit the road with my iPad instead, without missing much of a beat. Yes, I’ve had some challenges when recording and editing a podcast on the go and interacting with cameras and drones hasn’t always been easy. Most of those issues have been due to the needing USB-C cables to assist with that process however and adding a simple dongle or two to my carry-on bag has solved the majority of the hiccups I’ve experienced.

One of the things that I really like about the iPad will probably seem trivial to some but it is truly handy for me. Because of its size and form factor, I can sit it on the tray table in front of me on an airplane and not worry about the person sitting in front of my reclining. On more than one occasion I’ve come perilously close to having my laptop screen smashed because of this very situation, but with the iPad Pro I have plenty of room to spare. It is also easier to work in the cramped space of an airplane with a smaller device too, although that holds true when in a tent, hotel room, back of a truck, or just about anywhere else you may find yourself traveling.

The note taking abilities when used in conjunction with the Apple Pencil are fantastic as well, giving you the ability to scribble in your own handwriting, draw and sketch right on the screen, and highlight and edit files in a more natural and fluid fashion. The device even allows you to search through your notes by keywords written in your own script too, which is handy and impressive. The redesigned Pencil 2 also charges inductively by magnetically snapping into place along one of the edges of the iPad. This is a vast improvement over the original Apple Pencil and it ensures that the stylus is charged and ready to go whenever you need it.

On the go photo editing is a breeze too, with the iPad’s A12 Bionic processor out performing my laptop for high intensity features. The iPad’s software ecosystem has evolved nicely as well, giving users full access to things like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop as well. Those are pro-level apps that didn’t seem possible on a device of this kind not so long ago, but having them at your disposal makes the transition to the tablet much easier.

As an early adopter of the iPad Pro I can tell you that I am thoroughly impressed and extremely happy with what Apple has created with this device. I can also tell you that I’m also very excited to see what new functionality will be added to it this year. If you already have an iPad Pro, you should be excited too, but if you’re on the fence on buying one because of some of the missing functionality, I’d say hold off for a bit before buying. I have very high hopes that Apple will deliver this year, but nothing is certain.

If you also happen to be a road warrior or a frequent traveler, I can’t recommend the iPad Pro enough. It is an elegant, powerful device built for ease of use and versatility for those of us who find ourselves wandering the globe regularly. For me, this is the future of mobile computing, it just needs a few tweaks to make it perfect.

The iPad Pro starts at $799 and goes up from there. Options include a larger 12.9″ screen, storage up to 1 terabyte, and built-in cellular networking. The Apple Pencil 2 will set you back $129, while the Pro Keyboard starts at $169 as well.