Three months with the 2018 iPad Pro

I’ve been using the new 12.9" iPad Pro for a few months now, and I thought it was time to update my first impressions. Overall, it’s probably my favorite (and most used) Apple device right now.

A smaller big iPad

Compared to my previous 1st generation 12.9" iPad Pro the smaller overall size is really noticeable. The new 12.9" is much nicer to use in the hand as a tablet (as opposed to in a stand on a desk). The reduced size and weight mean it’s also easier to carry around. I’m finding that I tend to bring it with me more often than my old 12.9". Some of this difference may be down to the excellent Sutter Tech Sling that I got at the same time as the new iPad Pro, but the smaller size and lighter weight of the iPad itself plays a role too.

Face ID

Much like my experience going to the iPhone XS from an iPhone 7, FaceID is really the headline feature. If anything it’s even better on the iPad. It works in any orientation, and I mean any. Not just the four cardinal directions, but even when holding the iPad at an angle.

The one annoyance with Face ID is that I sometimes wind up covering the camera with my hand. This is a particular issue for me as a left-hander since, in landscape mode with the pencil charger at the top, the camera is on the left. I wish Apple had just made this a landscape mode device and put the camera in the bezel of one of the longer sides. One thing I like is that when FaceID fails the iPad definitely does a better job than the iPhone telling you why it failed (usually it’s either distance or having my hand over the sensor).

Combined with the ability to double tap the keyboard* to wake and unlock the device, FaceID makes the iPad the device I’m most likely to use when I need to hop on for a quick task.


I really like the Smart Keyboard Folio. I think it’s the best keyboard that Apple makes at the moment (though that may be damning by faint praise). While there’s nothing like a mechanical switch keyboard with lots of key travel, for a low-travel portable keyboard I think the Smart Keyboard Folio is quite good. While it is thicker than the old Smart Keyboard, it makes a much more solid stand. I think the fact that it’s the same thickness across the entire surface is an aesthetic improvement over the “thin part/thick part” design of the older model. However, the multiple angle options don’t really do much for me. I never really use the more upright angle; it’s just too steep.


While I still use the keyboard the majority of the time, I’m getting far more use out of the new Apple Pencil then I ever did out of the old one. The old pencil was always buried amid all the clutter on my desk or stowed away in a bag somewhere, not worth getting out unless I had a big “Pencil job.” Now, I make a point of grabbing the pencil every time I get the iPad out of my bag so that when I’m using it, the new pencil is always right there, magnetically attached to the top of the iPad. That’s the real game changer.

I’ve found myself using the new pencil quite a bit when editing text (which I have always felt was a weak point of iOS). With the pencil I can double tap with the pencil to select a word, then use it to drag the blue dots at the end of the selection much more precisely than I can with my finger. It also allows much more precise placement when dragging and dropping text or images.

I’m also using the pencil quite a bit for taking handwritten notes. I started out doing this in the Apple Notes app, but I think I’ve settled on GoodNotes for this role. While writing on glass doesn’t feel the same as using a pen and paper, it works well enough and the advantages of having my notes digitized from the get-go and not having to worry about filing them or finding them again later more than make up for that.

Display, battery, and USB-C

The display is excellent, but I can’t say I really notice improvements from my old iPad Pro like True Tone and Pro Motion in regular use. There are still some apps that haven’t gotten with the program and updated for the new resolutions, so they still display with a black border around them. It’s pretty seamless (just looks like the bezels are a bit thicker), but it annoys me that I’m not getting full use out of this display.

Battery life is excellent. I used the iPad Pro for notetaking at a conference last month, and despite heavy use, I really did get all day battery life out of it. Using chargers that support USB-C power delivery tops the battery off quite quickly.

USB-C on the iPad is still a story of unrealized potential. At this point, I’m not really using it for anything that I couldn’t have done with Lightning with the right set of dongles and cables. Even the quick charging was something I was doing using a USB-C to Lightning cable with my old iPad Pro. I really hope we get support for things like external storage in the next version of iOS.

The best iPad yet

If you just look at specs on the page, it doesn’t seem like the 2018 12.9” iPad Pro should be all that big a jump from the 1st generation 12.9”. It’s slightly smaller, swaps Touch ID for Face ID, and it gets a faster processor and a place to charge your Apple Pencil. In practice, I’ve found that the new iPad Pro is a significantly better device, one that’s changed how I use my iPad and how I divide different computing tasks among my various devices. I’m nowhere near ready to give up my Mac, but I do find I’m not using it as much lately, and that’s largely thanks to the new iPad Pro.

*This sometimes gets described as “double tap the spacebar to wake,” but you can do it with any key.

Shameless link to this post on my blog.


You and @MacSparky are going to be neck and neck for who costs me the most money in Apple-related purchases this year :smile:


I always love reading people’s experiences with this sort of stuff! You seem to have been in the exact same spot as me as far as upgrading from the first gen 12.9" to the current model. Sounds like you made the right call.

In my case, I ended up returning the new model. Couldn’t justify keeping it since there wasn’t a single concrete thing that it allowed me to do that the previous one didn’t. And while I love the various quality-of-life improvements, they didn’t add up to $2,000CAD+ of value.

We’ll see if iOS 13 widens the gap, I suppose!

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I’ve got pretty much the same observations after around 3 months of being fully iPad only.

I went with both 12.9" and 11" devices - I expected buyers remorse but not a hint of it so far, I have plenty of use cases for both devices.

I love Face ID on the iPad, it’s just so much better implemented here than on the iPhone.

The Smart Keyboard Folio is ideal for travel. At home, I prefer to disconnect and have the 12.9" on a stand and connected to an old Magic Keyboard.

I find I use the Pencil for text editing too or marking up PDF’s whilst reading through reports etc. Any writing with the Pencil tends to be at meetings / conferences when I have the 11" with me.

The only criticism I have is the same most have observed - the hardware is there but the software isn’t. It’s good but not great - luckily we are able to log into a Remote Desktop via VPN for work, that covers me for the 5% of things I can’t do on an iPad. If I had a wish list, they would include the usual external storage support but mainly for me:

  1. Proper desktop class version of Safari with pointer support
  2. 3rd party developers raising their game - EG let me create a Pivot Table in Excel for iOS!

Hopefully iOS 13 brings us what we need!

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The 2018 iPad Pro is excellent, as is the pencil 2. I agree with 99% of @ChrisUpchurch’s excellent essay.

The other 1%: The more I use the Smart Keyboard Folio the more I hate it. I realize others like it quite a bit, but it feels like typing on a toy and has kept me from doing more document creation on the iPad.


I upgraded from 2017 12.9 iPad Pro and I really love the improvements on the 2018 version. I upgraded because of the improvements on the Apple Pencil and how it’s get charged. I always get into a situation wherein I lose batteries on the Apple Pencil and needed to charge it. It ruins the mood and the momentum. With the new iPad Pro, I always have the batteries charged.

I’ve only noticed the jump on the improvements when I’m using it for a week. The size and the weight, the screen and the battery charging with USB-C. FaceID makes it easy to use the iPad especially logging in with 1Password.

The iPad Pro became my primary machine since I sold my Mac a month before I upgraded. I’m so happy with the improvement from last years’ version so far. I just wish it can run some web apps. I hope iOS13 could improve the software side to really maximize the hardware.


Thank you for your impressions @ChrisUpchurch. I am looking at the 12.9 with smart folio instead of a MacBook Air. I need something that works well with Office 365 and OmniOutliner as a part time student, and also want to be able to use it to manage my household, access work email occasionally (again, Office 365), stream media content, and general web surfing.

It seems like the iPad Pro can handle these tasks for me, and even make some of them fun! Thanks again!

Many of my thoughts echo Chris Upchurch’s. Right now the biggest QoL updates for me would be

  • Outline entry and management in OmniFocus just as fast with the keyboard folio as with the keyboard on macOS.
  • More apps supporting cmd+t and cmd+n like Safari plus the ability to overlay an app on top of itself. I hope this is the multi-window solution we’ll get.
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