I picked up an iPad Pro from my local Apple Store this morning, which was largely uneventful aside from the bafflingly inefficient system they had of retrieving web orders. But, hey, it wouldn't be an Apple product launch without some kind of weirdness, right? If you too go to an Apple Store today, even just to look, you'll see a load of iPad Pro's on display. I'm not sure how anyone can walk away with a first impression that's any different from, "Wow, this is comically large." Unboxing my iPad Pro and getting it in my hands for the first time brought all the memories of the original Xbox rushing back, as everything about that console (particularly the launch day unit) from the size of the Xbox itself to how huge the controller is just felt absurdly huge. In the case of the iPad Pro, that's the whole point though, isn't it? Hell, the iPad Pro is so big it makes my proper MacBook feel small in comparison.

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If you want a good size comparison without leaving the house, look around for a normal sized magazine. For whatever reason I've got an issue of People on my coffee table, and the screen of the iPad Pro is basically the exact same size. Add in a little extra around the edge for the bezel, and there you go. I know it's super cliche to describe Apple products as "magical," but it's hard to really come up with another way to convey how it feels to be holding a screen this huge, in your lap, with nothing connected to it. It's like being in a Sci-Fi movie, particularly when you start doing more with it than looking at the home screen and gawking at how huge and high resolution it is.

It feels a little on the heavy side when compared to the iPad Air 2, but, the Air 2 is a pretty svelte device and this is almost twice as big so the difference in weight makes sense. It doesn't feel heavy for its size, but if you're used to carrying around the iPad Air 2, the iPad Pro will feel considerably more hefty. Once you're done taking in the screen, size, and weight, the next big realization comes from just how insanely massive the difference the included four speakers make over the iPad Air 2's... one speaker. Everything instantly feels so much more immersive without headphones. Four are (obviously) louder than one too, and while the bass response isn't fabulous, the iPad Pro seems to be capable of putting out just as much sound as most of the smaller-sized external Bluetooth speakers I've used like the original Jambox.

The iPad Pro seems like a pretty great device to consume media with other people. Sure, you could always huddle around the original iPad, but the screen was just on the border of being too tiny for two people to watch comfortably unless you're sitting super close. Similarly, the sound was always too quiet and the best way I came up with to fix that involved a pretty awkward setup with two pairs of headphones and one of these battery powered headphone amplifiers.

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(Normal iPad Pro keyboard in supported apps on the left, scaled hilariously big keyboard on the right.)

The inevitable downside of the iPad Pro on launch day is exactly what we've experienced before when Apple introduces new screen sizes or resolutions. Apple stuff predictably works great, everything else... Not so much. When you're using an Apple app that supports the iPad Pro and its multitasking capabilities, it's all really cool. However, if you want to use something other than effectively the things that come loaded on the iPad Pro like Safari, Apple Mail, Pages, etc, you get the super-gross up-scaled keyboard and other on-screen elements that seem to be rendered with the "normal" iPad screen size and resolution in mind and blown up. If you went from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4, any iPhone 4 to any iPhone 5, and so on, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. This kind of thing is almost always temporary, and aside from a few totally forgotten and no longer supported apps, it seems like developers are pretty quick to fix these problems- Or, at least, that's how every other transition has been.

As far as all the multitasking and other stuff is concerned, I've seen a lot of people try to argue that devices like the iPad Pro are "laptop killers" or any number of other ridiculous things. The cool thing with this is, all the hardware is there. The iPad Pro benchmarks faster than Apple's recently released MacBook. The Smart Keyboard (which ships in a few weeks) adds a real, physical keyboard. The only thing left is software, which can always be updated and tweaked over the years. The current implementation feels like a few babysteps towards where it needs to be, but it's hard to imagine anyone truly leaving their laptops behind anytime soon. I mean, I was able to do my job exclusively on my iPad Air 2 (especially when paired with something like one of the keyboard cases out there, but it always felt like a bit of a chore.

Doing my job involves a mess of windows all over my desktop including multiple Safari tabs, a few different chat clients, email, Evernote, iTunes, and other random utilities. All these functions exist on the iPad, and you can sort of Alt+Tab between them all, but, it feels like a clunky solution to a problem that's already solved by just using a laptop. Splitting my screen between two apps (and having decent real estate in each) feels like a stopgap solution to Apple coming up with something better.

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As far as games are concerned, again, the differences are basically what you'd imagine from what I've already described and from things you've likely experienced on your own by upgrading to a larger TV to play console games on. Games like The Room Three [$4.99] automatically get more immersive, particularly when you add the four speakers into the mix. Games with a lot of stuff going on like Vainglory [Free] get easier to see and things are easier to tap on. Hearthstone [Free], of course, is awesome on the iPad Pro as well. The other games I've tried all run well, and look cool on a larger screen, but I've yet to really see anything that seems like it takes advantage of the higher resolution display yet (which makes sense since developers are also getting their iPad Pro's to test on today). Tilt games always feel a little clunky on the iPad, and when you add the size and weight of the iPad Pro into the mix it's just insane. Playing Doodle Jump HD [$2.99 (HD)] feels like driving a bus.

It's hard to really say what the "best" iPad Pro games are going to be, as nothing has really been updated yet and nothing seems to really take advantage of the faster processor aside from just running well anyway... But, all games ran great on the iPad Air 2, so it's not like there's some massive performance difference to speak of just yet. The 4GB of RAM does make app switching pretty crazy, as you can switch in between huge, visually stunning games without them needing to reload anything.

I wish I could comment on the Apple Pencil or the Apple Smart Keyboard, but aside from just fiddling with them briefly at the Apple Store I don't have a whole lot to say. My particular Apple Store only seemed to get one Apple Pencil and a couple Smart Keyboards, so I didn't have much time to do anything beyond be like "Yep, they work like the keynote" with a bunch of people also waiting around to try them.

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I think the iPad Pro is a really cool addition to the iOS family of devices. It may be a little less portable than the iPad Air 2, but it's not like the iPad Air 2 was that tiny. Besides, people have been carrying around magazines for years, and most bags have a magazine-sized pocket (the ones I use do, anyway) so it's not like the iPad Pro is going to be that crazy to haul around instead. It's neat that Apple's lineup is so expansive though, between wanting a tablet with loads of portability in the iPad mini to the iPad Pro which feels like it'd probably live most of its life on your coffee table or somewhere else inside your house where it'd make sense to grab it and use it for a while. If you don't care about the huge screen, the better speakers, or the increased performance (which nothing seems to really utilize yet), the iPad Air 2 really does feel just right.

However, if you're all about everything iOS like we are, the iPad Pro should be somewhere near the top of your Christmas list this year. By then most apps should be updated to support the iPad Pro, and developers likely will have figured out just how much they can ramp up their graphical settings in games.

  • Herbert Derps

    What will be funny is when I see people (tourists) taking pictures with their iPad Pro.

    • http://ScottSoapbox.com/ Scott Soapbox

      This was the first thing I thought when the shipping notices went out: tourists using a giant iPad for pics when their normal sized iphone has a better camera.

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    • MrThickDick

      The only thing I hate worse than people taking pictures with tablets is people with selfie sticks.

      • boydstr

        Yep what a insane invention I don't get the "lets put the phone on a stick and make a picture from my face"thing.

    • JeanLuc LaBarre

      I know right?!
      But hey, what camera has a monitor that big?

  • pokah

    I'm not a fan of the larger iPads cause they are too heavy to keep in your hands. Sure that sounds wimpy but it's the truth- the iPad mini (2) is perfect size

    • WP

      How much time have you spent with the iPad Pro? I used mine for several hours consecutively yesterday and never felt fatigued...

  • http://www.twitter.com/supaflyindie Supaflyindie

    I've never owned an iPad but this might be the first model I go out and get. Since I already have an iPhone/MacBook I couldn't really justify getting an iPad but I think this would be solid device especially for traveling

  • DanCJ

    I'm just hoping that that four speaker setup comes to the normal iPad by the time I next upgrade (which is still a couple of years away)

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      That would be pretty awesome.

    • http://ScottSoapbox.com/ Scott Soapbox

      Yes. I always seem to cover the speaker while gaming.

  • WP

    "bafflingly inefficient system they had of retrieving web orders" - - my Apple Store had ONE girl running back and forth for all customers - ridiculous amount of wait time. (And the store was busy since it's a holiday and no school.) I was there at noon & the store still did not have ANY display models of the iPad Pro, and accessories were still in the back, nothing on the shelves to compare. But hey, was able to order when I woke up and picked it up the same day, so no real complaints.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Mine was the same way, except instead of running to the back they had to run downstairs to the cage... And they had us line up at the extreme opposite end of the store. Seemed like they were trying to pad their fitbit stats as I can't think of any other reason for this.

    • InTheAir

      Aw, you reminded me I actually have school in my district. 😢 Either way I'll be waiting until the iPad Pro is really practical for iOS gaming.

  • darminiam

    Well, I'll be stopping by the Apple store today at lunch to take a look. It's high time I replaced my iPad 3 but as many have said, the iPad has been my media and gaming consumption device. At 6'5, I always joke that they finally made a phone for my size (the Notes and 6s+) and now I have a corresponding iPad. I just keep wondering if it's too big.

  • pinta_vodki

    "Playing Doodle Jump HD feels like driving a bus."

    I laughed so hard after reading that. 😀 But... how about Bus Driving Simulator 2016 for iPad Pro? Or even better, Desert Bus!

  • http://ScottSoapbox.com/ Scott Soapbox

    "Splitting my screen between two apps (and having decent real estate in each) feels like a stopgap solution to Apple coming up with something better."

    This. When iOS finally got multitasking on my Air 2, I was like "Is that it?" It's still miles behind my Surface Pro 3 for doing real work, which has me considering downgrading to the Mini 4 for more portable gaming (since that is all I'm using it for).

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I was pretty disappointed this was the route they took. I first experienced this behavior in... Gah, I don't even know, Windows 8.1? It seemed supremely less than ideal for everything I ever tried to use it for.

      • Kai Cherry

        You aren't average. Seriously, and I know this is...baffling...to people that do not work this way, but time and time again, "real-world" research and testing has shown that the vast majority of people task switch in this way...they blow up what they are doing to full screen to reduce window overlap clutter, then switch between things, only sometimes overlapping, to compare or copy/paste.

        It is a *very* typical office Windows use pattern and I've seen "regular" people do it on Macs all the time. UIs have been going this way for a reason - it is how people typically tend to actually work it seems. I guess it just seems "weird" to have a system designed this way after a squatter century or so of them not 🙂

        And yeah...the iPad Pro is really nice. I gave my Macbook to my wife. For all non-work things like using Xcode and friends, it is really all I need. A proper step toward work/life balance 🙂

        -K

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        On my laptop I live and die by full screen everything and touchpad gestures to quickly switch between it all. I'm like a finger ninja. It's this reliance that means that even if I wanted to I don't think I could ever switch away from a Mac.

      • Kai Cherry

        It isn't the way I am used to working but acknowledge that it is far more typical than I believed before I was better educated on the subject 🙂

        That said, "in the future' most computers will work like that anyway it seems so I am getting used to it. A giganto iPad certainly helps that along.

        It really does feel oddly 'retro future' having a big, flat computer that you touch and it does things...this perspective of course comes from someone that was a teen at the Dawn of the Age of Personal Computers so take that for what it's worth...

  • garbui

    Thanks Eli! Can you comment at all on your Vainglory experience? Did you play any matches? Would it work in any configuration other than lying flat on a table and using index fingers (as the devs suggest)? How was the soundstage?

    • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

      I'm looking forward to Giant Vainglory myself! Table or lap required, though, I'm sure.

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    I'm in! I want the size and the speed. The pencil support is a nice bonus.

    And I definitely know people who could use this to replace a laptop--because they already have, with (much) older/lesser iPads. I like tons of windows (well, I'm used that at least), but a great many people only use 1 or 2 at once, and the simplicity of iOS can't be beat.

  • clocknova

    When Apple decides to open the iOS platform so that I can install any software I want, from any source, and do anything with my device that I wish, then and only then will it be a replacement for my laptop. Until such time, my iPad will be a supplemental device only. Seriously, this new push to suggest that people should ditch their computers and move to a completely Apple-dictated platform is frightening. I like my iPad and iPhone as much as the next person, but I do all my real computing on my Mac where I don't need the approval of Tim Cook to run what I want.

    • InTheAir

      The thing is though, iOS is the supplement to those who don't like the complexity of laptops. The choice between iOS and, well I would have to say Windows is up to personal opinion.

  • A-thought

    I'm going to wait for the iPad Pro Plus to come out..will probably be a 21" inch tablet running the same limited OS, and a measly 128GB, for $1,899. Which makes about as much sense as a 13" glorified phone for $949.

    but hey it's Apple, so it's gotta be worth it!

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Wow, I haven't heard the "Heh, it's just a big phone" thing since the iPad 2 days.

      • A-thought

        Yep. True then, true now. For a thousand bucks.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        lol

      • hksim .

        Damn Apple for giving people more choices!

        ...but seriously I like the nice bump up from the iPad Air series. I don't see any issues with paying a bit more for something that's bigger & more powerful.

      • A-thought

        That's the problem IMO. Apple doesn't give you more choices (new hardware form factors excluded) - they give you less.
        spending $1,000 to then be restricted in a walled garden, with blockades to what a majority of professionals rely on at work (access local and server files, use their enterprise's software, print natively to any wireless printer, plug in storage/other devices, use multiple monitors, etc.) just makes no sense to me. Compensating with a bigger screen and upcharging doesn't cut it.

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  • Mamaw cCc

    As far as gaming is concerned don't forget people that the iPad pro have much more pixels to push than a regular iPad.
    I now the GPU is very powerful but in reality the rendering of a game in term of frame per second is very similar to an iPad Air 2. So beside the screen real estate don't expect to see a real difference in term of frame rate.

  • DavetheDave

    I get why Apple's pushing towards multitasking features for iOS, but they really started to get in the way. The right-edge side swipe for instance... a ton of times, you're actually meaning to scroll something (like the App Store app selection). Now you'll then have this silly extra window to close again.

    Overloading every imaginable seemingly unused gesture or tap is a dead end. It'll just grow iOS into this usability behemoth where casual use is harmed.

    • WP

      Sadly, this experience is often the case for me, as well - inadvertent right edge swipes on my older iPad and iPad mini are annoying - but I haven't checked to see if I can turn the multitasking off, which I think is possible, and just keep it as an option on my iPad Pro....

  • Woodrith

    One thing that keeps me from upgrading my little old iPad Air 1, is the fact they still aren't increasing hard drive space. I know it's not capability, terabyte drives are small, so fitting 500 g's shouldn't require too much reconfiguration, especially for the pro. Is there a reason I'm missing, besides a huge price increase?

  • WP

    I only played on the iPad Pro a little bit yesterday as the cloud restore takes forever, but I can say that from a lot of the apps/games I was using, I felt like my finger swipes were going halfway across my body due to the screen being so wide, very odd sensation. It's like if a swipe on the other iPad was 3" then now you are swiping 6" or something. Can confirm it's a great device for people whose eyesight isn't so great anymore. 🙂 Biggest complaint is that the available Apple "cases" for the iPad Pro are not like the cases for all other versions of the iPad they made. I was specific in buying an Apple "case" and not just a "cover" and it turns out, the "case" is now simply a "back cover" which you must buy a "smart cover" for the front to complete the "case". Argh. $80 for a back?? Need to return it asap.