Graphic tablet for beginners part 2 – iPad

July 7th, 2021 / Graphics Basics

STRAIGHT FROM CALIFORNIA ORCHARDS AN APPLE FULL OF DREAMS

Equipment under the sign of a bitten apple has been controversial from almost the very beginning of the brand’s existence. It is praised to the heavens by the supporters (often even followers) of this brand. After all, it is synonymous with the “premium” class and luxury. Considered by opponents as a symbol of blindly following trends, the excess of form (especially price) over content and “hipster”. In these types of situations, the truth is always somewhere in the middle. However, in this blog post, I will not be in favor of either side, just let me focus only on the dry facts, and we have some to analyze them.

In this post, we will focus the most on the latest, 4th generation iPad PRO – in this particular case, the 11-inch version with 128 GB RAM. 

But know that we also have cheaper alternatives for this model. As a graphic designer, what should be most interesting to you is whether the iPad you have chosen is compatible with the Apple pen, which must be purchased separately. For example, you can buy the iPad Air, which is cheaper than the flagship model by nearly PLN 1,500.

FEW TECHNICALITIES

If you are not interested in the technical parameters of the latest model, we recommend going straight to the part of the article describing the peripherals.

Launched in March this year, the latest iPad PRO debuted in a version with a screen diagonal of 11 “(27.94 cm) and 12.9” (32.77 cm).

When making a purchase, we can also choose between different variants of memory capacity: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB. Of course, higher values ​​clearly increase the already considerable price. In my humble opinion, the 128 GB version is the optimal choice.

In terms of colors, we can choose from two shades: space gray and silver.

iPad PRO – depending on the version purchased – connects to the network only via Wifi or also via LTE. If you only use it at home – it’s worth saving some money and choosing the option without LTE.

The weight of the tablet without accessories is about 470 g, so it is rather heavy and not very handy equipment. When you hold it in your hands for a long time, you will begin to feel its mass. The 11 ”version has the dimensions: 247.6 mm x 178.5 mm x 5.9 mm, so once again – it is not a compact design.

The top panel has a double stereo speaker, three microphones and a top button. The right side is a place for volume control buttons, a magnetic connector and a Nano SIM card tray. At the bottom of the tablet there are two more stereo speakers and a USB-C connector (unfortunately only this one type), and the left side has one more microphone. So you can talk about a relatively intuitive layout of connectors and buttons.

The whole thing is in a tasteful, as befits Apple packaging, in which – of course, apart from the tablet – we can also find a meter-long USB-C cable with a compatible 18W power supply. The tablet itself is elegant. The manufacturer tried at all costs to make the equipment worth its price at least in terms of appearance.

That’s it when it comes to the “shell” that we are going to hold in our hands. But what’s inside?

THE INSIDE

Apple describes the latest model of the iPad PRO as the “replacement computer”. Is that right?

The 2020 4th generation iPad PRO has an A12Z chip based on a 16-bit architecture with a built-in M12 auxiliary processor. Everything works on the Neural Engine system with 6 GB RAM. All this may sound a bit enigmatic, however, it guarantees a quick launch of installed applications, smooth and comfortable switching between many active Safari tabs or working with less demanding software from the Apple Store. Operating in “normal” mode it is close to perfection in terms of running smoothly.

The tablet can theoretically process photos and videos, but when you enter higher revolutions it starts to get hot relatively quickly, which is clearly felt in the hands. The manufacturer praises its “improved cooling system”, but let’s face it – the barrier resulting from the assumptions of the tablet design as such does not allow us to talk about the ° C parameters from laptops or desktops.

Apple is doing its best to make iPadOS (in this case iOS 13) more functional and competitive, but we’re still talking about working on a tablet. In terms of the range of compatible applications and their scaling, software or even the prosaic comfort of use – the simplest MacBook model fares much better than the iPad PRO.

THE SCREEN

Apple has used Liquid Retina technology in its latest tablet. We are dealing here with a multi-touch display in IPS technology, with LED backlight, working with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. This guarantees a satisfactory use of various applications – especially social media. The resolution of 2388 x 1668 pixels translates to exactly 264 pixels / inch, which means for the buyer a very comfortable viewing of movies and photos. The wide range of P3 colors ensures their faithful and “vivid” reflection, and all of that is supported by ProMotion and True Tone technologies. Thanks to the anti-glare coating and 1.8% reflectance, we can easily work with the tablet outdoors, even in intense sunlight. For my taste, the frame around the screen could be much narrower.

THE CAMERA

Apple in its latest product offers you a set with two cameras – wide-angle (12 MP) and ultra-wide (10 MP), which will allow you to take good quality photos, for example notes or rooms. However, abandon your plans for professional photo shoots with the iPad PRO.

Thanks to the built-in cameras, we will also record videos in 4K resolution at 24/30/60 frames / second (wide-angle lens) and 60 frames / second (ultra-wide-angle lens). Once again, however – such recordings will differ in quality from movies recorded with even middle-class digital cameras. We are talking only about application to everyday learning and entertainment.

IPad PRO lenses are covered with sapphire glass.

As a curiosity, you can mention the LiDAR function or the TrueDepth camera (7 MP). In everyday use, however, these are not even secondary functions. Some users also complain about the baffling Face ID tool.

THE BATTERY

The 4th generation iPad PRO has a built-in lithium-polymer battery with a capacity of 36.71 Wh, which will allow for normal use for about 12 hours or watching movies on the Netflix platform for nearly 8 hours. We will achieve similar parameters when processing photos or videos. The values provided by the manufacturer are similar. Are these results satisfactory? You have to judge it yourself, but the fact is that after one full charging cycle (lasting several hours), the battery will withstand a long journey in a train / bus or a whole day at work / school. An interesting fact is that the battery from the 2018 iPad PRO was a bit more efficient. The reduction in power and battery size of the latest model is most likely related to the increase in the size of the camera system. Was it really a good deal from the consumer’s point of view?

PERIPHERALS

Important information for people dealing with graphics or illustration may be the fact that the iPad PRO from 2020 is fully compatible with the Apple Pencil (2nd generation), which is an indispensable tool without the use of, for example, Procreate, Lightroom or other tools Adobe misses the point.

It should be remembered that the Apple pen, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, is not included with the tablet and we have to purchase this device separately. In this situation, we can try to buy replacements dedicated to new iPads, the cost of which is about one third of the original price. Always remember to check the compatibility of these devices with the tablet you own or intend to buy.

The Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse or even the Smart Cover will certainly turn out to be comfortable accessories. They bring the system and comfort of use of the iPad PRO closer to the standards of a laptop or desktop computer. However, the prices of these add-ons can no longer be called magic or smart.

Graphic designers will also need a special coating that can be purchased to stick to the screen. It protects the work surface against scratching, and its texture improves the comfort of use. It resembles the surface of a sheet of paper. The use of iPads with a stylus by many artists is described as the closest to analog drawing with a sheet of paper and a pencil.

CONCLUSIONS

So is the latest iPad PRO worth the money? I am not tempted to answer this question unequivocally. However, remember a few things.

First of all – Apple brand products are “premium” class products, or at least because of their price they are considered to be such. If you do not ultimately care about equipment with an “apple”, and luxury and being “trendy” are not the most important for you – it would be more reasonable to look for equipment with similar technical parameters from slightly less “fashionable” manufacturers. The differences in the prices of such products are sometimes shocking.

However, if you have funds that you would like to spend on an exclusive product – you will not be disappointed. For years, Apple has been getting us used to aesthetics and design that please the eye. Holding the latest iPad PRO in your hands, you will feel that you are holding a tablet from the top shelf.

Accessories that some of you will want to buy for your Apple tablet also have a “premium” price, and the company consistently makes sure that the older generation peripherals are not compatible with newer models. The Apple Pencil, the magnetic keyboard and the case will once again make a solid drain on your bank accounts. 

Objectively speaking, the discussed iPad PRO is a great tool for everyday, amateur work, fun, learning, etc., but … only for that. A tablet is still just a tablet. If you start to think about using it for more professional activities or work under a greater load – you will immediately collide with its limitations.

The tablet from Apple – compared to other products of this brand – is still poorly compatible with some applications desired by users, and their scaling often leaves much to be desired. The products of the MacBook line fare much better here.

Of the slightly more scandalous shortcomings of Apple, one can also mention the issue of quite easy bending and breaking of the iPads PRO – especially the 3rd generation was infamous. Reliability was the victim of a compromise to “slimmer” the tablet, which would otherwise weigh another 200g extra. The latest models are a bit more durable, but still be careful with your gear!

If you were tempted by the slogan to convert from a PC to a tablet, unfortunately – sooner or later you will feel disappointed. For artists who excel in working with Apple Pencil and wealthier clients who want to use Netflix and social media in comfortable conditions, this is an interesting proposition. For the rest – not necessarily. Think about what hardware you really need, and if it is a computer, just buy a computer. The truth is, for this price, you’ll get a high-quality laptop with a Windows perpetual license and Microsoft Office Suite.