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The iPad Pro Didn’t Work For Me. I Sold It. But I Miss It.

The Justification

Buying the iPad Pro was probably one of the most foolish decisions I’ve made last year. You know why I bought it? FOMO, or fear of missing out. I entered my abstract algebra class and I saw this guy use it. Something about it… captivated me. I was always a live-until-I-die notebook user, carrying one notebook for each of my classes, along with my trusty 2013 MacBook Pro (because every student needs a laptop, no exceptions.)

So many reasons to justify it came into my head:

“I can stop using notebooks every year!” After each semester, I would put my notebooks into a cardboard box, most of them never being accessed since then. Most of the time, it’s because the contents of the books haven’t been indexed — there are no labels or differentiator other than colour. Plus, a lot of the notes that matter are typed; if they’re in the written world, their fate has already been sealed the moment I started handwriting. Furthermore, a lot of the looseleaf I use is, well, just scrap paper.

“My MacBook Pro is old!” Oh, the best reason to buy a device: when you are feeling bored with your current device, even though it’s adequate. Sure, people upgrade their MacBooks rather quickly (I gasped when people are upgrading their maxed out MacBooks after just 4 years!), but for my needs, the MacBook Pro from 2013 only started slowing down after seven years — and it can still keep going.

And the final one: “I will become a better student with an iPad Pro!” I saw countless videos, mostly from current or used to be medical students (Ali Abdaal is a commonly referred one) about the usefulness of the iPad Pro for learning. And it looked incredibly cool. To be able to use multiple colours in your notes, to draw diagrams in your notes, to embed images from the web to supplement your learning. With my notebooks, I only used my favorite pen, the Uniball VISION Fine 0.5. That doesn’t give you much options to really do anything. And I did print PowerPoint notes before to annotate but… once the pages got to the hundreds, I knew that was not going to be practical.

Why It Did Not Work For Me

It was set. I bought the iPad Pro 12.9 inch, 256 GB last year. I picked the larger size over the 11 inch because it was the size that was the closest to US Letter size paper. In addition, I bought an Apple Pencil as well. And I downloaded Goodnotes 5. I was set. I was ready for this new future of learning.

But it didn’t occur like that.

I am not going to make this post too in-depth on why it didn’t work. Rather, just think of it like a relationship that just went sour. It was irreconcilable. And yes, I tried so hard to love it, even after university was over for the year. But… it got to a point where it became, “This is not the right device for me.”

But if you need a summarized list of why it didn’t work out, here is the main reasons why.

  • I have worked with notebooks and pens for my entire life. Very fine tip pens. Again, my favourite pens are the Uniball VISION Elite 0.5 fine black and the Pentel equivalent. The Apple Pencil is not even close to that diameter. As a result, I had to keep pinching and zooming on my notes to write legibly, slowing me down. I bought the 12.9 because I wanted to zoom less, not more.
  • The handwriting experience will never match the scratchiness of a real pen, fine or bold, on a piece of paper. It just won’t.
  • Untapped potential. I wasn’t being inventive with my notes, primarily because my classes didn’t demand it and because I’m just not an artistic person. I also was not optimistic about slide annotating. In summary, if you weren’t a visual artistic person before, the iPad will not transform you into one.

I guess the biggest one for me was: It didn’t “completely” replace my MacBook Pro, a device I have cherished and loved for almost a decade. Typing on the iPad Pro is near too damn slow without the Smart Keyboard Folio, and I’d even argue the keyboard is worse than the butterfly keyboard. It’s loud, does have durability issues stemming from its thin hinge, is the cheapest feeling Apple device I’ve ever experienced. Plus, the keyboard and iPad literally will not fit on those small lecture hall tables. Yup.

Oh, and you’re gonna say, “Use it on your lap!” Hahahahaha, it is NOT usable on the lap either because the iPad is top-heavy; the weight is on the iPad, not on the folio. It’s a very similar conundrum with using the Surface Pro on your lap.

And of course, iPadOS. Something about the OS slowed me down. I actually am a heavy multitasker who uses Command-TAB and Mission Control all the time, who has four windows on each corner. Needless to say, I felt cramped and restricted on iPadOS. Maybe that’s a good thing if you need 100 percent focus on an application.

I was that person who brought both their iPad Pro and MacBook Pro to be more productive at university. I actually really liked this, but it was heavy on my back, making its practicality very non-existent or the equivalent to the notebook days of old.

Letting It Go

So, after almost a year of having the thing, I finally decided to leave the wretched thing. I sold the iPad Pro on Facebook Marketplace a few days ago and it was immediately replaced with an MacBook Pro 16 inch. Yes, maybe reason two was right: my true love was just upgrading my MacBook Pro, once and for all.

But it has been a few days… and I’m starting to miss the little guy. Why do I feel like this? I actually love my MacBook Pro! I never felt so free in my life! The display is gorgeous, I have screen real estate to do all my multitasking, and I can finally get back to what worked for me before: carrying my laptop and a ton of notebooks, highlighters, and pens.

During the pandemic, I primarily used the iPad Pro as a media consumption device. This MacBook Pro takes up so much space. I loved watching my binges of The Capture and Upload on Amazon Prime on the iPad. I loved using it for YouTube. I loved using it for Plex via Infuse. But a thousand dollar device for the best experience?

I guess I miss the iPad. That “magical” iPad experience. For certain applications, there’s something so inviting to use the iPad for certain tasks, like reading web articles, watching Netflix, and just browsing Reddit or Twitter. It’s just not great for, well, work stuff. And definitely not worth 1000 dollars for, especially as phones are getting larger and larger.

Lastly, I miss that middle ground. This 16 inch MacBook Pro is huge. My iPhone X is too small for long forms of content. I loved how I could just pick up an iPad Pro and I could get an experience that wasn’t too diminished or too overwhelming.

Still, I feel much more free now. The feelings of the iPad Pro will pass. Trust me, it will. Still, with these feelings, I do know that there is an audience of people out there who can use the iPad.

It just didn’t work for me. And that’s fine. I just wish it didn’t take a year to finally let it go.

That neighbour bringing I.T. guys out of business on a regular basis. You can find me taking photos in weird angles and lurking the PopHeads subreddit.