Writer John Scalzi takes his iPad Pro on a road test

I don’t know if he has any great insights here. I’m just a fan of Scalzi’s writing and I think others here might enjoy it too.

As with many well-written reviews, the negative comments are more enjoyable than the positive ones.

Both the Magic Keyboard and the iPad Pro are absolute smudge monsters. I don’t think of myself as a particularly oily character, but after a day of use, both the iPad and the keyboard were smudgy as fuck. You can see it in the photo above, especially on the trackpad. Apple touts the iPad screen as being “oleophobic,” and fingerprint resistant, but I am here to tell you that this is a contemptible lie. I have never had a piece of computing equipment get this smudgy, this fast. And yes, to be clear, I am taking a normal amount of showers and hand washing. It’s not me, or at least, not just me.


The Apple Pencil. So far it’s mostly just an expensive magnetized hat for my iPad.

I replied:

I have an iPad Air with external keyboard, and find it to be the ideal vacation computer, for similar uses as you describe—social, email, looking things up, reading, occasional productivity.

I think perhaps your discomfort with it comes mainly from your being a Windows/Chromebook/Android(?) guy. Which is OK. I’m not here to say people shouldn’t use the computers they prefer.

My other two big uses for the iPad:

  • When I’m sitting around the house—pretty much the same as my vacation computer.
  • During the 2010s, when I was still a moderately frequent business traveler, I brought the iPad with me in addition to my MacBook. In late 2019, I started leaving the MacBook in my hotel room and using just the iPad when I was out and about. I went to a lot of professional conferences as a tech journalist, and had to write stories during the day, and found the iPad with keyboard was great for that.

I stopped business travel in early 2020. If and when it picks up again, I expect I’ll continue with my iPad habits.


I always enjoy when professionals in different fields give their thoughts on technology! This review reminded me what an absolute mess Google apps are on iPad. John attributed this somewhat to Apple’s restrictions but I get why that may seem like the case to someone not plugged in to the Apple-sphere. Microsoft has first class iPad apps IMO . They are not perfect and don’t have feature-parity with desktop, but at the end of the day it feels and works like Word and Excel which is what matters. Google Docs and Sheets apps are pretty much unusable to me. As for email, Outlook on iPad is a way better Gmail client than the official Gmail app!

This has been the case for years and doesn’t seem like it will ever be fixed now that iPad supports the full websites, but it is still very frustrating!


They get periodically logged out for me.
I then moved some of the excel files to Numbers.

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I definitely use Numbers for personal stuff. Even if it is less “powerful”, it just feels better to use. My experience with Excel on iPad is mostly limited to making small edits and referencing work spreadsheets while traveling.

Most of Google’s apps are truly awful on the iPad. I work at a higher-ed institution that uses Google everything and it’s the major friction point when it comes to doing my job from the iPad rather than the Mac. I honestly wish that, when Google goes to cut Apple the giant check to be the default search engine, Apple would just tell them “Hey, we’ll lop off X amount if you’ll fix your apps for our platforms.”


I don’t know if I missed something, but I don’t think he said whether he had the 11” or the 12.9”

I’m guessing the 11 from the photos.

I think it’s the 12.9”, given the full-size tab and tilde keys on the left and the full-size bracket and forward slash keys below the delete key.


He said it was the 12.9" in a previous post. I went and checked because I wondered the same thing! I have the 11" and in my experience I just can’t quite make it do enough to justify taking it instead of my MacBook Air, but I wonder whether that has anything to do with the size?

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I think size is likely an issue for people that try to do more on an iPad and end up frustrated or not able to do what they wanted to do. I think the 13" is the minimum size for most who want to use the iPad as a laptop replacement. Some seem to make the 11" work just as some found the 11" MBA workable back when that was an option. My dad has an 11" MBA and there’s no way I could use it - way too small.

I think if Apple offered a 15" iPad Pro it would likely sell very well especially with Stage Manager improvements and new apps like FCP and Logic Pro for iPad.


I’d be interested but worried about the weight. I’d buy the new 15" MBA IF the screen resolution and promotion were equivalent to the MBP. 15" is the Goldilock size for me.

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The 11" ipad pro works very well for me, as did the 11" MBA back in the day. Maybe because I prefer apps to be full screen and dislike overlapping windows.


So do I. But I think many/most of them would end up on an executive’s desk and never leave the office.

The 15” MBA is 2.7 pounds and the 12.9 iPad Pro is 1.51 pounds.

I’d guesstimate a 15” iPad Pro would weigh in around 2.2 lbs, or about 4 lbs with a Magic Keyboard.

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I have had a long and winding iPad journey.

I started out with the original iPad, and upgraded once or twice. Then I got an iPad mini. Second generation. Got tired of the small form factor, and bought the 2010 iPad, then upgraded to the 12.9" iPad Pro. Got tired of using that big, unwieldy beast, and traded it in for an iPad Air. That was, I think, two years ago. I then decided that was too big, and bought an iPad mini late last year, when I had some money lying around and was unhappy at my job.

It is a foolish purchase to buy an iPad mini when you already have a perfectly good iPad Air. But I am not the first person to make a foolish impulse luxury purchase when he had a well-paying job he was unhappy in. As I told my wife: At least it wasn’t a sports car.

Now I’ve gone back to using the iPad Air for most of my iPad needs, and the mini occasionally. I sometimes wish I still had that big iPad Pro instead of the Air, because the mini is a better handheld computer but the Pro is a better couch computer. Then I think what I really want is a super-light laptop, and I start looking at the MacBook Air. And then I remember I’m not in that well-paying job anymore, and I already have a functional, albeit ancient, MacBook Pro.


I didn’t change equipment that often when my employer was paying for my computers. :grinning:

I have a M1 MBA, a 2020 iPad Pro, an iPhone 11, an Apple Watch SE, and a set of AirPods Pro. Each device still does everything I need it to do and I will replace them when they die or are no longer supported.

IMO, with the exception of Apple Silicon, hardware hasn’t changed much in the past few years. And that’s OK because the needs of an “average user” hasn’t either.

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As another anecdotal data point, I have 3 different iPad sizes: an iPad Mini 6, an iPad Pro 11", and an M1 iPad Pro 12.9" w/ the magic keyboard and apple pencil. IMO the size makes them each better for different tasks:

  • iPad Mini 6 - reading ebooks, web surfing, watching youtube videos (but the screen is too small IMO for watching longer tv/movies)
  • iPad Pro 11" - watching movies/TV, some light web surfing and reading but it gets a bit heavy after a while
  • iPad Pro 12.9" - biggest canvas for apple pencil drawing, can approximate a laptop experience with the Magic KB case, otherwise way too big/bulky to use without a keyboard case

If I had to pick only one, I’d probably pick the iPad Mini, just because it’s the most portable and comfortable to use for longer periods of time. I really wish it had a ProMotion display though.

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Generally that’s my rule too. My everyday MacBook Pro is five years old and I’ll keep using it as long as I can. I had an Apple Watch Series 1 for five or six years, and kept using that until it literally stopped working.

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