Using iPad Pro as main system with external monitor

Morning All,

I have been using a 2018 Mac mini as main machine for a couple of years and quite happy with it. I also had a MBA which I would use occasionally when not in my office, but not for anything I couldn’t do on iPad.

I recently sold the MBA as got a good offer for it and after a long convoluted story with a MBP also which I thought I would replace everything with… I am now back to the Mac Mini as the main machine and no laptop anymore at all.

So, boring back story out of the way…

I now have my Mac mini set up and my iPad Pro (2018) sitting on the desk beside it. I have started to use a keyboard and mouse with it just for convenience and this morning decided to watch a video of someone using it through their external display.

I have now tried it and I can’t deny, its actually really nice to use on the big screen. My only frustration point with it so far is the 4:3 rather than 16:9 on most apps.

I was looking for thoughts of others who have done this or considered it. What was your experience or what stopped you doing it?
What apps are just not practical through iPad rather than Mac? I understand for programmers there are limitations, but whilst I am trying to learn python, I am far from a programmer.
I still have the Mac mini there and my thought is that I can remote into it when there is something I really need to run.

Hopefully there are further improvements announced later today and it makes it even more feasible to do but certainly my immediate impression is that it is quite nice to use now there is keyboard and mouse support.


I’m really hoping that WWDC announces further improvements for iPadOS to make it closer to a laptop capability, including an external monitor which can be used as a second screen rather than a presentation layer

Agreed, having now worked with it for a few hours, the principle definitely works but making the external monitor behave less like a mirror would be great.

Pointing device support has really the killer feature for me as far as using the iPad Pro with an external monitor. I’ve been using my 2018 12.9” with an LG 4K display and a Magic Trackpad for several months now.

However, I’m not using it as my only system. In fact, during the current work-from-home situation I have it sitting between my work-issued PC laptop and my iMac, both literally and metaphorically. Unlike the two computers, the iPad has both my work email and calendar and my personal email and calendar so I tend to use it as a bridge between the two worlds. It’s a great setup for grinding through email, working with my calendar, etc.

Thanks Chris, I read your previous post on it pre pointer which was really informative.

So far using it for a day (ish) its definitely workable, habitual gestures are causing me problems but that’s just a case of adapting and well worth the trade of one cable pick up and walk away with instant access and long battery.

The only thing I use that I haven’t adjusted to so far is handbrake but it’s not an often used app so happy to stack things up and then log in to Mac weekly or something and use it.

The real test for me will be excel and if I can do enough on iPad, haven’t had reason to build in it yet but I know it’s restrictive.

Glad you liked that post. If I get back to blogging I really should write a follow-up, because the addition of external pointing device support really solved a lot of the pain points that I described there.

One other thing I’ll add is that using an iPad with an external monitor, keyboard, and pointing device also tends to make how well an app supports keyboard shortcuts even more important than a lot of other setups (the difference in keyboard shortcut support was a bit part of what got me to switch to Things after more than a decade of using OmniFocus).