iPad Pro Review (Illustrator / Project Manager)

8 minute read

I will happily admit I never miss an opportunity to say how much I love my iPad Pro.

I’ve had mine essentially since it became available and I use it everyday for one thing or another. As my role is pretty varied in terms of tasks ranging between project / account management and creative work, I find that it serves me somehow for the vast majority of them.

However, I think it’s important that you ask before you part from your money - is it worth it for you? I’ve put together a review of some of the best and most annoying features of this tech titbit. So hopefully you can come to the right conclusion before you purchase what could end up being, at worst, a horrendously overpriced paperweight.

For reference, I have the 12.9 inch Space Grey WiFi only 64GB version (I heard the sharp intake of breath, I’ll talk more on memory later) with the Apple pencil 2.0 and Smart Keyboard case.

Illustration and Wireframes

I’ve already gushed over Procreate from an illustration perspective, but I also find it incredibly useful to draw wireframes and essentially use it as a portable whiteboard. I can easily export anything I’ve drawn and chuck it into Slack or attach it to an email.

For a Wacom Cintiq tablet (with screen display), I’m looking at needing to spend anything between £500 to £1500, and maybe more, for purely a graphics tablet. Whereas with the iPad I’m getting the benefits and (almost all) the functionality of a laptop included in the cost.

Additionally the Apple pencil 2.0, it’s really lovely to use (the double tap switch functionality is a lush little feature) but unless you’re using it for creative work - you don’t need one. Do you know what’s £119 cheaper and an equally efficient stylus alternative? Your fingers.

Illustrating on Procreate / iPad Pro

Remote working

Basic requirement I know, but I do like and need the freedom of not always having to be at my desk. The iPad gives me (again, almost all) that freedom to flit about doing whatever needs doing, wherever I happen to be. Whether that’s simply meetings in or out the office or just being able to find a quiet corner to plough through something.

Even if I want to take myself off somewhere I do still need to be contactable by clients and the team. I tend to always be somewhere with a WiFi connection so I’m still able to get emails and slack messages, but equally I can just hotspot from my phone if in dire straits. This is why i didn’t feel the need for the cellular and WiFi version.

Realistically when I say ‘remote’ I’m rarely in the middle of a field (unless on a Hackathon death march), I’m probably just in a different part of the office with headphones on. And for getting hold of me, it’s easier to bribe me with a cup of tea than trying via Slack and email.

The Smart Keyboard case is excellent and I would highly recommend purchasing it if you’re going to invest in an iPad Pro. It switches seamlessly between using it purely as a tablet and if I want to have a laptop type setup. It also serves as a stand and pretty solid case. Whilst not exactly cheap (£199), it’s worth the money. Typing on a screen for anything more than a couple of words is not the one. Learn this at your peril.

Connecting to larger screens

Unlike everything else Apple related, i don’t need a god forsaken dongle to connect to a larger screen. HDMI to USBC works just fine and it doesn’t need to be Apple branded - unlike their chargers.

This is really useful if I want to share my display by hooking up to a meeting room screen or monitor.

Fast Charge

Unlike previous iPads, it doesn’t take what feels like several days to charge which makes an unbelievable difference. If I was dealing with the same charge times as the older models it would already be dead in the water with regards to using it as a laptop or graphics tablet replacement. Also unlike the older versions, you can still use it while it’s charging and it won’t continue to drain the battery.

iPad setup

Downtime

I use it as a Kindle, for Netflix, radio and podcasts - it’s rarely not with me. Cradled under my arm like a precious flat baby. I also prefer having it on me than my phone, if it only means I can’t endlessly scroll on instagram.

No Dual Screen

The problem with dual screens is that it’s the thing that you never knew you needed until they become part of your set up. While some may argue they can be a distraction and actually be more detrimental having too many things up at once, I struggle to be without. I’m also in good company as some of our devs have been known to have three crammed onto their desk.

I tend to have my communication channels / calendar / task list open on one (Slack, Mail and Trello) and everything else I’m working on open on the other. I use Spectacle on both my desktop and laptop and it’s a dream.

Slightly late to the party, Apple has added its own split view tool on the iPad ‘Multitasking’. Whilst this is positive, there are still a number of apps that don’t play ball with this. Most notably Google drive / docs / sheets, which is so frustrating. Having to swap between multiple documents as opposed to just having them side by side can be a real time and productivity drain.

No Adobe CC

It’s meant to be changing imminently, but this is the main point of contention that stops the iPad being possible as my full time work station.  

So with the latest Apple event it was revealed that at some point this year the “full fat” version of Photoshop will be being released for iPad, and whilst Affinity designer fills the gap of Illustrator, it still leaves inDesign (arguably one of the apps I use the most in my role) distinctly absent. Adobe Acrobat reader is fine, but still lacking the full set of tools.

Laura using her iPad

Memory

I was fully ready to hand over the cash for the 512GB version. Much to my horror my partner managed to convince me that I didn’t need above 64GB. So convinced was he of this that he promised to buy one with more memory if I filled it up with stuff really quickly.

It’s early doors but as annoyed as I am, he’s right. Work wise the vast majority of my documents are online. I still have a load of Procreate files and media on there and it’s still not halfway full, but if it does start to it just gets put on Dropbox. Which is a good habit to get into as it means I’m not filling up the device or relying on having it with me at all times. 

I mean, I do - but that’s besides the point.

Granted this may not suit everyone and I wouldn’t discourage getting one with a larger capacity, but I can say it’s a nice saving (£969 for 64GB as opposed to £1,319 for 512GB) on an already expensive piece of kit if it’s not totally necessary for you.

To conclude

As a project and account management tool - do you need to spend £1500 on a tablet and the additional bells and whistles? No, you don’t. It’s an expensive nice to have (albeit a useful one at that). If you have a half decent a laptop, it’s going to give you the same functionality and freedom plus more than the iPad will. If just a little heftier and less sexy.

However - for me, is it worth every penny I’ve spent on it? Without doubt, yes. The combination of a ‘laptop’ and a graphics tablet is a gamechanger, and with the added bonus of it replacing an ancient macbook and finally getting me into digital illustration I can’t praise it enough.