iPad Pro 12.9 full time?

I was very close to getting a new M1 MacBook Air to essentially replace my 2014 Mac Mini (home) and my 2014 iMac (office). They both seem to suffer under much strain, so I thought of the MacBook as 1 computer to replace both.

Then I got to thinking. My company geve me a 2018 iPad Pro (3 gen) 12.9” with 256 GB memory, including an Apple Pencil 2. Since it didn’t cost me anything, I decided to spring for an Apple Magic Keyboard. With that setup, it seem like it’s a natural to use as my full-time computer (well, almost, I do have the Mini at home and the iMac at the office that I can strip down to the bare bones as far as applications). After all, a lot of other people have done that (you know who you are, Federico).

With all that preamble, are there: 1) any tips from those who have done this?; 2) any accessories (I’m thinking specifically of USB-C external storage, if that’s worth it)?



You are in the perfect position to try this out… you have the iPad and two Macs to fall back on.

I spent about 6 months of 2020 with an iPad Pro 11" with Magic Keyboard and Pencil and it was a fantastic device, but I had a 2018 Mac mini to fall back on. I really enjoyed the iPad Pro experience but over time I noted where it fell short for me. As a result I sold the iPad Pro and now have an M1 MacBook Pro. The Mac mini will likely be sold once I’m comfortable with the laptop lifestyle.

The areas the iPad fell down for me:

  • No Xcode
  • No Affinity Publisher (yet) and I just couldn’t get my brain around the Affinity Photo/Designer interface for iPad
  • Managing a web server (the way I am used to)

That last one I did make great strides with, but I still found friction a lot of the time, and expense. Things that you can just do with standard tools on macOS (like SSH into the server) require a paid app on iPadOS.

Oh, and external storage is pretty simple these days. I had the SD card reader and used it from time to time to transfer stuff between Mac and iPad, though iCloud Drive is also good for this if the files aren’t huge.

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Thanks, @zkarj.

Your weak points with the iPad are not factors for me. I need it about 60% for academic research, writing, and editing. The remainder is for business and personal email communications with a bit of entertainment thrown in. I don’t do any development, publishing, minimal photo processing, and don’t run a web server.

I do have a lot of video files on external drives that are connected to the Mini. I’d keep a Mini running just to backup all that stuff with Backblaze. I’d also probably use the Mini to stream video to the Apple TV, as I do now (I usually use Beamer unless it starts to get temperamental). PlayerXtreme seems to work very well for video on the iPad.

Looks like it will be an interesting experiment. Will have to find a tutorial for all the stuff the Magic Keyboard/Trackpad is capable of.

If you’re relying on the iPad for video calls, make sure you get a USB-C to Ethernet cable. Otherwise, screen-sharing fails a lot. With Ethernet, it works 100% of the time. Also, on video calls do not try and multitask or the video shuts off.

For quite sometime I have done 80-90% of my work on my iPad Pro 12.9. Overall, a great experience. IF you use DEVONthink for storing and searching research material, you may want to note that the current version of the iOS/iPadOS of DT is limited and a rather bad experience. DT is working on a new iOS/iPadOS version, which should be much better, though I’ve heard it may require a subscription. If something like DT is not an issue, and given your backup Macs, I think you will enjoy the experience.

Your iPad Pro can now read/write to an encrypted APFS formatted external drive.

If something should happen to my Mac I have copies of all my non-media files on one so I can access them from my iPad.

I have an iPad pro 11” as my primary machine and a mini doing the heavy lifting or intensive filing work.
I don’t code or do any heavy video/photo processing.

I’ve found the experience to be great. I can hook up de iPad to a monitor for the day job and carry it around for everything else. I don’t think the device is ever outside of a 2m radius around me. (I wish I could build an alarm into my Apple Watch to remind me to take it if I happen to forget)

I occasionally use my wife’s macbook pro, but I like the focus I can get on the iPad when doing my job.

Saying this: I don’t think I’d manage without a mac around.

It’s the same for me, I use my iPad Pro constantly. About the only thing my iPhone is doing these days is relaying SMS messages - I only have to recharge it 2 or 3 times a week.


I’ve tried (and failed) this experiment a few times now.

It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts, but the biggest reasons for me have been:

  1. I do a lot of video calls. The iPad Pro camera location in landscape is less than ideal. You can’t multitask, either.
  2. Sometimes I just want a nice, big monitor, or even monitors, to make my work more efficient. I hate the black bar around the screen when I try that from my iPad Pro.
  3. I miss all of my niceties - Alfred (including snippets and clipboard manager), my menu bar apps, etc.
  4. I hate the resources limitations - apps don’t truly refresh in the background like I’m used to, and coming back to Safari and having a page reload can be annoying.

That said, I use my iPad Pro all. of. the. time. for consumption, and ideally one day I’ll have just one computing device for everything. I’m jealous of your workflows because they sound like they’re much more compatible with the iPad Pro-only lifestyle.


Yes. But sitting further back and and remembering to look directly at the camera when speaking might make the experience a bit better for the other party.

True, but normally you want to be looking at the other person on the screen, and that’s where things fall down for the camera placement.

Apple had a beta solution for this, where it would correct your eye position for you, but I guess the people who felt this was “creepy” won, because I haven’t heard anything about it for awhile.

For me the limitations around video conferencing (I’m often sharing content and screens) and also the lack of true multi monitor support prevents me from using iPad Pro full time.

If one external monitor could behave the same way as the current two window interface, resulting in two spaces each with two active windows (4 apps on screen st a time, with two more slide over), and one of these could be a video conferencing app window… that would be amazing.

Mind you at this point we are really starting to break the iPad simplicity model.


I did this for a year and it highly depends on what you do. It’s great for writing, academic research and editing.

The only thing holding out the iPad Pro as a full-fledged computer for me that year was I needed to be able to build websites using Squarespace. I can edit my previous website but creating new website is troublesome.

I’d suggest an additional USB-C hub if you plan to connect a USB-A device on it such as flash drive or external drive or a microphone. While you can connect your iPad Pro to a monitor, it can only be used for mirroring. I sometimes plugged in my monitor because some apps have different view on the monitor. For example, on Procreate, you can keep your artwork at 100% view on the monitor while drawing on the iPad at a different zoom level.

Try connecting a wireless mouse if it will add to your productivity. Using mouse on the iPad seems so magical. It can lessen arm fatigue from reaching out to your screen when using the iPad with keyboard.

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NOTE: I posted this a few hours ago and it didn’t get to the thread. Apologies if it double posts.

A few random comments regarding the replies (and thanks for them all), with a couple of questions (in italics):

  • @WayneG My iPhone is still invaluable. Besides the few telephone calls I get, I mainly use it for audio (podcasts, audiobooks and music). This is, by far, my greatest usage and is a few hours a day.
  • I don’t do a lot of video conferencing. A lot of what I do is just attending conferences where I don’t need to have my 74-year-old face in the picture.
  • The monitor is a factor, although not to frequently. However, I’m going to see if I can use my current displays as external monitors for my iPad Pro. I’ll need to feed to the iMac (office) and the Mini (home), but I think this should not be too much of a problem. All I want to do is mirror the iPad since I will still be doing the work on that.
  • @cdeck RE: Clipboard management: I’ve been using Copy ‘Em for a very long time. It’s on the App stores and is available for both MacOS and iOS. The sync between all devices is almost instantaneous, and there are a number of extra features it gives you for management and saving. ScreenCastsOnline.com did a screencast on it a few months ago (although I think it was still called Copy ‘em Paste at that time).
  • For the external drive, I’m thinking of taking media, mostly video, on the go (although “go” is limited these days). I’ve still got an old Seagate GoFlex around, so I may give that a try. What USB-C drive, in the range of 500-1000GB would you recommend?
  • Can media be played on an iPad directly from the external drive?
  • @Bmosbacker I do use DEVONThink but I have the Pro subscription, so I should be covered as it improves.

I prefer the speakers on my iPad Pro. And my old face made an appearance only two years after yours. :slight_smile:

The reason I use my iPhone:

  • Audiobooks and podcasts: I use a single bluetooth headset (right now a PLT-E50) while I am driving, working around the house (cooking, laundry, relaxing, etc.). Carrying around an iPad Pro in my shirt pocket is a bit inconvenient. Since it’s effectively mono, I don’t need two ears and I can deal with calls at the same time.
  • Music: I use Soor as my primary music app so I can eliminate already-played songs from my listening. I bluetooth to a sound system if I’m in my office/bedroom and I use bluetooth earbuds if I’m moving around. I also use bluetooth through the car system if I want to listen to music in my car.

The iPad Pro is just not portable enough for these applications.

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