On (Sur)face Value… (11)

Today, list most days, I found myself watching YouTube and catching up with videos in my ‘watch later’ folder. One of the videos today talked about the new iPad Pro and whether or not it was a laptop replacement. The video found it could in fact replace a laptop…depending on your use and requirements.

It got my thinking to a few months back when I was looking to buy a new laptop. Up to that point, I had only ever used Apple laptops and wasn’t a fan of Windows based OS. It never suited me and although my family computer when I was younger was Windows, I still preferred Apple and the simplistic nature of its MacOS.

Armed with $2000, I walked into the shops and started looking around. My previous two laptops were both Apple, MacBook Pros. Both lasted me five years and based on those five years, each cost me roughly $400 over each year. Fantastic live out of the laptops, and while my latest one was beginning to show signs of slowly down, for the most part, it still looked brand new.

But, five years was my deadline. If a laptop could last me five years, I was happy to spend $2000 on a new one.  So as I was looking for a new laptop to replace my MacBook Pro, I found myself strangely gravitating toward the Microsoft Surface Laptop. The second generation Surface Laptop (2) had just been released, and while it had an identical shell to the first generation, only minor upgrades internally really set it apart.

I went into store a few times, played around with the keyboard on the Surface Laptop, MacBook Pro, MacBook and Surface Laptop 2. I had all but found my new piece of hardware when I thought about the iPad Pro. The new one had only just come out, and everyone was calling it a laptop killer. I was fairly convinced it could, and decided to experiment a little.

At home I have an iPad Pro first generation 12 inch model. It was purchased by me and sits happily on my computer desk. I have a back cover and smart keyboard (all Apple) and even the pencil. As I said, I tend to stay in the Apple family. However, lately, the iPad Pro has really started slowing down. Switching between apps takes a few seconds, and lag sometimes hits when I begin typing. It’s like the iOS needs to catch up with the keys I’m pressing. Even the battery has taken a major hit. During the first year of owning it, the iPad Pro 12 was giving me an easy 9 hours of usage using video, and full brightness, but recently I’ll be lucky to get three hours.

Obviously this is an issue Apple knows all about and has something to do with them throttling the CPU with new updates of the iOS to not burning out the battery. Also, I get that batteries degrade over time…but my MacBook Pro is five years old and still goes strong.

Anyway, I had to think about what I really wanted going forth. Give it another year, and my current iPad Pro would be a sloth, so buying a new one made total sense. But I also needed a new laptop. I decided to experiment and replace my laptop with an iPad Pro for a month. The MacBook Pro was put aside and with my pencil fully charged and keyboard connected, away I went.

In three hours the battery was dead. Cool.

After only a few days, I realised that email, internet, music, YouTube and writing could all be done on the iPad. Sure it was annoying to be missing storage management and access to full websites and a right mouse click. Also problematic was the need to constantly touch my screen when typing instead of using a mouse…but I could get use to it. Besides, my iPad is used to read books and comics. I use this thing so often, that it just felt perfect for me. But there were a few major issues.

Number one was the lack of storage. Having 128gb built-in was fine at the beginning, but comics alone have taken up 80gb. I prefer having movies downloaded off iTunes and only managed to have four before I needed to erase files.

Number two was the battery life. If I wanted to take the iPad downstairs to write, it wouldn’t last long with the battery lasting roughly three hours before needing a charge.

Number three was the iOS itself. I love iOS, don’t get me wrong there. For the most part it’s smooth and easy to use, but with the sluggish nature of it as of late, I feared what the next update would do to the system. I dreaded that moment because the iPad Pro would soon become obsolete.

Finally at number four, was the price. A new iPad Pro with 512gb storage would set me back $2049. The keyboard and back cover took the price up to $2497 and then another $199 for the pencil. This took the total up to $2696. To expensive for technology that wouldn’t last beyond two years based on currently examples.

After this failed experiment, I found myself looking into the Surface Laptop. The new Apple keyboards weren’t to my liking. The butterfly keys, as Apple liked to call them, had virtually zero travel and no feedback. It felt like typing on glass, and with the lack of sound, I wasn’t sure if I was hitting the keys or not. Because I spend most of my time on my laptop typing, this was a major issue for me. But once I had played around with the Surface Laptop keyboard, I was hooked on it. Felt great and the keyboard was perfect. One of the best I have ever used.

YouTube was my best friend as I did research on the laptop. I ever went in store a few more times to play around with Windows 10. After using MacOS for over 10 years, shifting to Windows would prove a challenge but the keyboard was the decider. Give me a good keyboard and you’ve got me. Without that your typing experience isn’t worth the money you pay. My partner has one of the new MacBook Pros, and I spend hours trying to convince myself a little more time would prove the keyboard is good. It isn’t. The keyboard sucks.

Microsoft won. On top of that, the $2000 I was going to spend was a lot more than I actually needed. With the second generation Surface 2 just being released, the first generation had insanely good discounts. I managed to save $500 overall, and walked away feeling pretty happy knowing the keyboard was perfect. I had made the right choice. Besides I thought to myself, if I can’t get use to Windows 10, I’ll keep the laptop for three years, then go ahead and buy something else. As it stands though, I’ve very happy with the purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any true needs for owning a powerful laptop. I don’t edit video, photos or play games. I use my laptop like most people use tablets. I only need the basics, but couldn’t justify having a keyboard connected to an iPad as my main machine. Especially not when I spend hours a day typing.

Since I purchased the Surface Laptop, it has worked perfectly for what I need. Battery life is especially good and Windows 10…not half bad to be brutally honest. I still have my MacBook Pro set up on my desk, but I’m shifting away from it more and more each day. I think the only reason I really still use it, is because Apple has been my go to for ten years now. I know the shortcuts and ins & outs.

Going forward though, I can’t see myself buying or using another Apple laptop. The keyboards are the killer for me, and since Apple shows no sign of going back to previous designs, I can’t continue to buy them.

Would I ever be able to replace a laptop with an iPad though? No, I don’t think I could. While its good to have the ability to detach the keyboard and walk off with the iPad itself, the price is complete and utterly ridicules. Apple likes throttling down their phones and tablets, crippling people and forcing them to buy a newer unit each year or so. I don’t have the time for that anymore, and can’t see it has a good replacement.

For those other people out there, maybe an iPad Pro is worth the price and the basics of iOS might just cut it for most. But before you do that, shop around. Microsoft really has outdone themselves in recent years with their range of Surface products. And having a full-fledged Windows 10 experience on a tablet is an absolutely killer deal. Worth doing some research when I need to eventually replace my iPad Pro in a year or so…I’ve been hearing good things about the Surface Go.

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