★★★★★ From £679, apple.com/uk
I really do love the iPad Pro. I love its gigantic screen, which makes everyone sitting near you lean closer and say “wow, is that the new iPad?" I love how Apple has finally mastered both the hardware and software to make sketching and note-taking feasible. I like the typing solution offered by the new cover/keyboard (although I don't quite love it).
Sure, it's just a big iPad, but that extra screen real-estate goes a long way. At 12.9-inches, it's only a whisker smaller than a 13-inch MacBook Pro. This means that iOS's multi-tasking capabilities are not only practical, but intrinsic to the way you use the device. The ability to type into a document while simultaneously scrolling through a website, and for both windows to be virtually the size of a regular iPad screen, makes the Pro much more viable as a work machine than previous iterations.
To put it in perspective, there are more pixels in between the icons on the Pro than there were in the whole of the first iPhone. The screen is bright, the colours deep, the sound louder and richer than before. And despite the size, it weighs the same as the original iPad, and I haven't found it uncomfortable. In many ways, it feels like the device that the iPad has always had the potential to be.
The Pencil stylus
One of the biggest draws of the Pro is Apple's new Pencil stylus. Steve Jobs famously wrote off styluses, but he never made an iPad this big, and in this context it makes perfect sense. While the screen itself isn't pressure sensitive (unlike the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6S), it uses some clever software to work out how hard you're pressing. Dig it in hard and you get a nice bold line, draw it softly across the screen and you get a fainter one, drag the side of the "lead" across it and you get a shading effect. It looks great and there’s no lag at all. It's the first iPad/stylus combination you could take notes on at actual writing speed.
The Pencil's build is solid if a little "un-Appley". It's plastic, for a start, and the end, which pops off to reveal a Lightning jack, is begging to get lost. It's also annoying that you can't store it in the smart cover. In its favour, it gets 30 minutes of charge in just 15 seconds, and you can plug it straight into the iPad.
The smart keyboard
Apple has accepted that Microsoft got it right with its smart-cover accessory and copied it wholesale for the iPad Pro. It's a fairly comfortable typing experience, with the keys feeling nicely clicky, albeit less so than a laptop. The kickstand is robust enough to hold the Pro in place on a flight too, which is where I'm typing this.
On the downside there's no backlight and I found myself constantly grasping with my thumb for a non-existent trackpad, which you soon realise is a much quicker and more comfortable navigation solution than reaching up to press the screen.
So can it finally replace your desktop or laptop computer? No. But almost. I've had a tablet on the go since the first generation iPad and I tend to go through a honeymoon period where I use it almost exclusively before slowly reverting to a laptop as my primary device. The iPad Air gave it a run for its money and I'm positive the Pro will finally be the tipping point. But giving up my laptop entirely would still be too much of a sacrifice. Want to make or maintain a website? Install non-Apple approved programs? Get access to the full Steam catalogue? Download music or films that you haven't paid for (which we don't condone, obviously)? Then you're still going to need a device with access to OSX, Windows or Linux.
The laptop/iPad debate missing the point. The iPad Pro is glorious. The downsides to the bigger form-factor pale into insignificance compared to the possibilities it opens up. I've had more fun using it than any new device since the iPhone 4. It's that good.