iPad Pro 9.7″: first impressions

(This was originally posted as a Facebook note on 3 April.)

Okay, here’s the lengthier version of my first impressions of the iPad Pro, after having gotten it fully set up and playing with a variety of applications.

Specs: 128GB wifi-only, rose gold (to match my phone), $729 after edu discount. Bought the Pencil ($99) and Applecare ($99), but not a case or keyboard–I’m holding out for the Zagg folio case, which hasn’t shipped yet. I traded in my iPad Mini 2 for a $115 gift card to apply to the purchase, which was a seamless process and netted me more than Gazelle would have given ($70). Total, with edu discount and no tax, was $812.

tl;dr: I love it. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a new device and thought “Wow, this is going to significantly change (and improve) the way I work.”

Keyboard: I’m able to use it with my old iPad3 Logitech keyboard. It doesn’t work as a case, but I can set the new one in it and use it as a keyboard until I get my Zagg case, and it makes using the iPad for writing completely feasible. I’ve got all the Office apps installed (Word is my word processor of choice), and can keep files synced between iPad and computer using Dropbox or OneDrive. (This was a huge issue for me with the Mini; even with my tiny hobbit hands, a mini-sized keyboard was unusable for real typing.)

Pencil: I could not love it more. My biggest frustration with styluses on the mini has been that my palm regularly triggers unwanted input. “Palm rejection” works beautifully with this setup, making it possible to write and draw in a comfortable way without sabotaging my own work. It’s a game changer for usability of the iPad in research work.

Research Tools: My goal with this purchase was to have an easily portable device that makes it easy for me to carry research papers with me wherever I go, and then to be able to annotate them while reading. All my research papers are in my Zotero database (citations and PDFs). I was using PaperShip on the mini to access and read them, but couldn’t find a way to effectively annotate them. With the Pencil added to the setup, PaperShip’s annotation tools are well worth the one-time $9.99 cost–I can draw, highlight, add notes, in a very intuitive way. The annotations are saved to the PDF in my Zotero library, and are reflected when I look at the paper in the Zotero program on my computer. I could not be happier with this workflow!
Screen: The TrueTone makes more of a difference than I’d thought–if I turn it off, I can see how blue the screen seems when I’m working in incandescent light. And while it’s not matte, it definitely reflects much less light than any iPad I’ve owned previously.

Miscellaneous Other Stuff: (1) I’m quite intrigued by Adobe Comp, which allows me to hand draw wireframes and have them automatically convert to vector objects (image placeholders, text boxes, etc) so that I can do page layout on my iPad and then easily send it to Photoshop, Illustrator, or inDesign on my computer. Haven’t really put it through its paces yet, but I’m excited about it. (2) I have the Texture app for magazine reading, and magazines look fabulous on it. Much easier to read than on the mini. (3) For the first time ever, I’m actually thinking about starting to play with freehand drawing and sketching on a digital device. Not sure what tools to use for this; open to suggestions from friends who have more experience.

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