New Tech Just Dropped

John Scalzi

I have a second generation iPad Mini, which is, charitably, feeling its age, and have been thinking of upgrading for a while now. Recently, two things happened: Apple announced a full-featured Logic Pro app for the iPad, and I came into some money via surprise royalties. So I decided to splurge with the replacement.

Which came today: A 12.9-inch M2 iPad Pro, to which I have added on a Magic Keyboard and an Apple Pencil or iPencil or whatever the things are called. It arrived this afternoon and I immediately spent a few hours downloading and updating software and prepping it for use. It’s not enough time to have anything other than preliminary thoughts on it, but I do have some preliminary thoughts.

One, the 12.9 inch iPad Pro is pretty beefy, and when combined with the Magic keyboard, it’s downright chonky; the combination of the iPad and keyboard weighs more than my Pixelbook and at least as much as my Dell XPS 13, and is thicker than both. I’m not troubled by this — I bought the big screen iPad so I could have a big screen — but also, after a decade of a iPad Mini, the heftiness is kind of a lot.

Two, the Magic keyboard is a lot more solid than I imagined. I thought it would be a little floppy and not much good for anything other than having on a tabletop, but after I was working with it for a while I went ahead and lounged on the couch with the Magic Keyboard, and it felt pretty much like a standard laptop would in terms of stability. So that was a nice surprise.

Three, I’ll be looking to see if the iPad/Magic Keyboard would be an acceptable laptop replacement for some travel I have coming up, and my extremely early impression is… maybe? Certainly it can just on specs alone, which make it more powerful than either of my laptops by a considerable margin, but it’s a question of ease of use with programs I would need as I travel. I have a short trip coming up soon which will be an interesting test case; we’ll see.

I’ll be doing a more comprehensive writeup of my thoughts on the iPad Pro, probably in a couple of weeks, when I have a little more time with it under my belt. In the meantime, if nothing else, it sure is pretty.

— JS

22 Comments on “New Tech Just Dropped”

  1. I’m a reporter. I write … a bunch. But I don’t travel often. When I do The iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard is more than enough for me.


  2. We recently took a short four day trip to Branson, MO, to walk the gauntlet of a timeshare pitch, sorry, ‘vacation club,’ and I briefly considered taking my MacBook Pro 16″, but at the last minute I just took an iPad Pro similar to your setup with the Magic Keyboard. It was fine. There are times when a full desktop version of an app is superior (Gmail, I’m lookin’ at you), but you can get that in Chrome. I watched movies on the plane, I did some light browsing at the hotel, and I even got a little writing down at the airport using Scrivener (iOS).

    All things considered, it was fine. I wouldn’t totally replace my MacBook Pro with the iPad Pro, but I have a writing buddy, Don Elliott, who has done just that. He recently published his first book written entirely on the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard and owns his own company where he runs all the company business through his iPad. He doesn’t even own a laptop.

    (Now, in our case, we’re all in on the Apple ecosystem–Linda won’t touch a laptop but she loves her iPad, and we AirDrop stuff to each other all the time. Since going back to Apple for the iPhone 6, I’ve accumulated all the stuff–Apple Watch, AirPods Max wireless headphones (which are amazing, btw), everything but an Apple TV–so there are efficiencies that I enjoy. But just the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard should be enough for you to get a really good feeling for all things Apple, the curses and the blessings.

  3. Keep an eye on the Apple Pencil. It’s a nice and solid magnetic connection, but it can be bumped off. Many has been the time I’ve had to look in my pack to make sure it fell off in there instead of elsewhere.

  4. Like you, I’m anticipating a bit of travel this summer. I have a blog but unlike you no way could I afford any iPad pro. Also, tired of lugging around an old and failing laptop, decided on something tablet size. Couldn’t keep my beloved photoshop and ended up with an Android 10.1″ with a keyboard. I’ve struggled setting it up, no technical skills, but think I can manage rudimentary posts/ reviews. Just need more time and I am amazed at the capacity of the little machines.

  5. John, this is a very nice device for making color sketches. You bought the overpriced Apple Pencil, so you should put it to some real use. You’ve got your hand in every other creative output, so this seems like a natural–why not? Get Procreate (a great but cheap drawing/painting app), watch some videos on how to use it, make some pictures. I use my iPad for literal character sketches. Then, when I write about them they have far more depth and nuance on all levels. Drawing is a fantastic tool for any author. There’s a slight learning curve, though. It’s far easier than you’d think; shouldn’t take more than a week or two to be relatively proficient.

  6. I was interested but a little puzzled by all this and went off to which clarified things a bit for me. This approximate crossover between the Air and iPad seems a bit strange. The video seemed enlightening.

    I rely heavily on my laptop and phone but don’t have any very striking needs that fall in the gap between them. My 1st generation iPad with an only slightly cracked screen still gets some use for entertainment.

    Always nice to hear what’s out there.

  7. My iPad use is mainly to store/show lead sheets and sheet music. About a year ago I splurged (for me) on an iPad Pro 11″. I remember trying to justify the extra cost for the bigger one but I just couldn’t. And since then every month or two I’ve played with a friend with the larger iPad and had serious device envy…. so I’ll be jealous of yours as well, and when it goes to the Great Electronics Junkyard in the Sky I’ll upgrade.

  8. Surprise Royalties may be a good band name for you :)

    Looks shiny. My wife has an ancient iPad Pro (maybe gen 1 or Gen 2) that has battery issues, but it seems to work otherwise. This may be a good replacement by the sound of things.

  9. I’m curious to know how you get all your devices to play nicely together, or if you don’t bother. The biggest crazy-making frustration for me is loading the programs into new devices and customizing them for how I work. But you apparently work back and forth between MacOS/MS/Android and you don’t seem to have any problems doing so. Amazing!

  10. I travel with mine all the time for writing notes at conferences. It’s terrific with the Magic Keyboard. What I would add is if you have both a MacBook and an iPad using the iPad as a second screen is incredibly useful.

    I also agree bout the pencil. Mine went missing and I thought I had dropped it somewhere. Cleaned up my office at work and of course when I removed the keyboard, there it was, and I had brought a spare in the meantime. The new iPadOS has some very interesting features with pdf’s and the pencil that I am looking forward to.

  11. My wife got the M1 with keyboard and all with a view to read papers & pdfs on it while travelling. It did the job very well, but with the usual limitations of an Ipad. Then, she put it on the kitchen scales and realised that it’s just 100g lighter than her Macbook. Since then, she’s back on taking the laptop en route.

  12. I’ve been using an iPad/keyboard as a laptop replacement for years and absolutely love it.

    Back when I had a laptop, I stopped bringing it on trips because it was more cumbersome than I liked. This very much became a case of “the right tool is the one you actually use.”

  13. I’ve been thinking of doing this too, maybe next year — looking forward to what you think when you’ve spent more time with it.

  14. I tried and returned the Magic Keyboard for many of the same reasons you noted – it’s bulky and heavy. Instead, I got the Logitech Combo Touch and I love it. Like the Magic Keyboard, it connects directly to the iPad, the case is more protective, it’s thinner and lighter. (And, yes, the keyboard is illuminated.) I have the M1 iPad Pro.

  15. I replaced my previous iPad after 9 years of use and purchased a M1 iPad Pro – 11”. I love it. Played with the pencil a bit and have a keyboard for longer email writing, it’s a must for me.

    Overall, I love the darn think and I’m not a big Apple fan (due to their higher costs.) But a great flexible device.

    Have fun with yours, look forwards to a deeper dive from you on the device.

  16. From looking at the photo, I thought for a minute that the “new tech” is a service where Kristi stares at you until you do your work.

    There could be a market!

  17. I’m on my second iPad Pro and I just love it. I bought it to read sheet music on as I was tired of printing out all my orchestra music. (And punching holes, and taping together, etc.) With a foot pedal, it’s much easier to turn pages than with hard copy. With the Apple pencil, you can mark up the score any way you want, use different colors for different things, and erase what you no longer need.

    It’s also great for reading the newspaper, watching Netflix, reading comic books, and doing jigsaw puzzles.

  18. Word of warning about the Apple Pencil. Maybe they e fixed the issue but there used to be a significant flaw. Specifically, if they ran completely out of charge they wouldn’t hold a charge from them on. HAD to make sure it was always partially charged.

  19. @jscalzi:

    For what it’s worth, if you set the iPad Pro up horizontally, and then split the iPad Pro’s screen evenly between two apps, each of the two apps are the same size and resolution as a single vertical iPad Mini.

    Put another way, sometimes it’s not one iPad Pro, it’s two iPad Minis set up side by side.

    Handy for multitasking?

  20. “it sure is pretty”

    You’re just saying that because it has your wife’s picture on it…

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