Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro took me by surprise and replaced my laptop (paulstamatiou.com)
55 points by aparashk 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

Well, I hoped for an actual review. What I got was "The iPad Pro is always ready to go ... which is, like, totally amazing! Yeaas!" The most pro points he makes are based on features which are actually a normality. The whole thing is emotionally laden and he sounds like a typical fanboy.

After reading this dripping wet review, I am now absolutely convinced that an iPad will never ever replace a computer. Because it is not a computer, but rather a consumer device, like a television set. People who think that an iPad replaced their actual computer laptop didn't know and still don't know at all what their laptop actually can do: being programmable.

Or most people don’t require more than what an iPad can provide. It’s a mass market device and that’s fine. As you say, one would already know if they need a laptop over an iPad.

Exactly the point why I've been asking myself: why oh why does Apple say "That huge thing, like, totally replaces the laptop!" Apple clearly has some outlandish understanding of what a computer is, no surprise. But let's stay honest, and don't put up sales pitches based on flat out lies.

The reason they say that is, for the target market that they are aiming that message to, it can replace a laptop.

It’s well aimed marketing.

It's a mixture of clever marketing and wishful thinking (the "tablet era" hasn't arrived after all, everybody is using notebooks for work).

However, as others said, some people actually use iPads only. A good example is my mother. She was using it for a few months, but then the memory got filled up with photos and she asked for advice. I told her to back up the device using a computer. "I don't have one", she said. Then the battery started to degenerate and so on. It's clear to me you can use these tablets as simplified notebooks/PCs, but sooner rather than later you reach their limits, and at that point thing can get costly. I can get a 2TB HDD for my Mac Pro for 50€, good luck with that kind of storage on any kind of iPad.

You see, your mom doesn't compile software with basic toolchains that have existed since the beginning of the computer era. I'm OK with the fact that your mom, or anybody else's mom, or spouse, or sister uses an iPad now, instead of a fully featured computer. It's totally fine. They get everything they've ever needed, and more. But let's make it perfectly clear that an iPad cannot ever replace a laptop as a computer. Since most people don't see the difference, we need to point out that there this crucial fact.

I've been trying to switch (I also own an ipad pro) and it just doens't work. Either you need a second computer nearby, or a solid internet connection and a server with the toolchains of your choice. Microsofts's Surface actually replaces a laptop without the need to point that out, where the iPad is falsely advertised as a replacement. Sorry, I cannot accept false advertising, nor is clever marketing an excuse. They need to point out facts instead of wishful thinking. I am using Apple products for specific purposes, but also other products of other vendors. Because all of them suck in very specific ways. Let's not pretend that Apple somehow is superior in marketing that it tries to sell a consumer product as a universal computer. Nope, Nuh-uh. Not buying it.

I agree with your sentiment but ultimately what I or you think is insignificant, what matters is that people buy the iPad Pro, try to switch as advertised, discover the shortcomings of the device and switch back. If it happened to my mother, it will definitely happen to other users who need much more than Facetime/Safari/Photos/Skype/Netflix.

Sure, but there are less of those cases than the other way around.

Because a large set of the population only needs access to the Web, email and a few apps, nothing more.

If I read the article correctly, I think they replaced their laptop, and kept their desktop workstation.

Could have been a LOT clearer about that, but if so, it's a reasonable point. In my own workflow I've found I barely use a laptop anymore, it's been replaced by my ipad pro.

However, I use a computer frequently. And that's where most of the work gets done.

There are some who are ipad only. Federico Viticci and Myke Hurley from relay.fm do. The writing/podcast niche seems well suited for the ipad.

(Though you can't forward delete. Even if you have a bluetooth keyboard with an fn key. This gaping oversite will likely prevent me from ever moving my writing to the ipad)

The crucial lines are deep down:

"I didn’t even want to use the Photos app to manage the photos, but you don’t have a choice. All externally-stored photos must be imported to the Photos app first."

"I tapped to select and import the 2,500+ 42-megapixel RAW photos on that SD card. I quickly learned that you cannot do anything while importing photos. If you background the Photos app, the import pauses. Long story short, it was so extremely slow that I gave up after an hour or two. It wasn’t worth it for me."

"For fun I decided to open some of the shots in the Lightroom CC app. I expected that the photos would just be there, ready to edit as they were already on the device. Unfortunately, there’s yet another step—I had to import the photos to the Lightroom app. And this is not a simple "add" type of import that just keeps the references to the files. I think it actually copies the files over again."

He thought he'll do the photo editing, but the result is:

"I still use Lightroom Classic CC on the desktop for all the heavy lifting and laborious editing, but also to import the photos and create my collections."

The tied hands in working with photos is my biggest problem with all i-Devices. Apple doesn't want to let you manage your own photos: the photos you shoot with the iPhone, once copied out of it and deleted on it, can't be even copied back to have the same status like those never deleted. Unless you use their iCloud, buying the storage.

So much for "Pro."

This article is incredibly light on actual details.

JS development, as long as you aren't using webpack or some other nodejs-based toolchain, is awesome on an iPad Pro. Many developer-oriented apps ship with WebDAV servers which can serve JS scripts. And thanks to the iOS 11 Files app, you can even test sites that involve the HTML5 File API.

For example, doing some work on a VBA-related tool on a plane was surprisingly productive: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dc9JZBMUwAAg2BY.jpg

More than anything else, I felt more productive on the iPad than on my MBP because the constraints ensured there was no visible chat application or time wasting website screen.

P.S.: the VSCode sidebar never really made sense until I saw it executed in the Kodex app: https://kodex.space/ -- the ability to jump down to a particular place in the file with a single touch is mindblowing and immediately boosted productivity when dealing with huge scripts.

>the ability to jump down to a particular place in the file with a single touch is mindblowing and immediately boosted productivity when dealing with huge scripts.

Isn't that an argument to use a touchscreen laptop?

> For example, doing some work on a VBA-related tool on a plane was surprisingly productive:

That's interesting! How do you test VBA in the iPad?

Can you elaborate on this workflow? Got me interested. What editor is that? Can iOS Host a server (localhost)?

I wrote my personal website on an iPad Pro. Worked well.

I work on it while commuting on the Tube, where an iPad is less ostentatious than a laptop. It’s built with Jekyll, so I pull the latest changes before leaving the house and then push once arriving at work. Netlify runs the build and the changes go live.

I use Working Copy for Git plus the built-in editor is okay, IA Writer for Markdown, Autodesk Graphic for vectors and Affinity Photo for images.

It’s actually possible to run a full Django dev environment, including localhost in Safari, using Pythonista and StaSH (shell for Pythonista). It’s genuinely amazing what it can do.

So you used a physical keyboard or just tapped on the tablet screen keyboard?

Both. For a long time I used the on-screen keyboard, but recently got a cheap keyboard case.

It would be a rather poor OS indeed if it couldn't host a server.

AFAIK, iOS can't fork(), so…

Edit: it obviously can, I mean AppStore Apps aren't allowed to.

You don't need to fork to a separate process to run a web server.

I went on vacation recently and decided to just take an iPad and my camera. I got one of the new regular iPads and I had a Lightning -to-SD dongle. When I finished a day of shooting I plugged everything in and had the same issues Paul did. I couldn't even view the photos because they had to be imported to Photos on the iPad and I definitely didn't have space to do that.

I'm frustrated at how hard it is to do something simple like take pictures off my Canon 6D and make them go straight to the cloud. We live in adapter and dongle hell.

I just bought an iPad Pro for this exact use case after being disappointed by an Android tablet (Pixel C).

The one thing I'll say is that if you _do_ have all the storage you need on the tablet, it's a surprisingly capable device. Affinity Photo and Lightroom are both great for editing and PhotoSync will get the photos to your computer when you're done.

The thing I'm still working on now is rating/culling. I don't like deleting things so that's out and I'm not a Lightroom user on desktop so that's out too. I'm hoping to find something that can modify IPTC tags.

If you just want to import stuff to the cloud though, you're better off with an Android tablet. It treats an SD adapter just like a PC does so you can use something like Solid Explorer to read directly from the card and write directly to Google Drive or something.

Unfortunately though, Android is woeful when it comes to the editing. Snapseed is fantastic but only properly seems to support DNG files, so you have to convert it first.

The other downside of Android is I couldn't find a tablet that was guaranteed to have a USB 3 port. They usually just listed "USB-C".

How about android tablets? I haven't used one lately but I believe you can do all fancy stuff there.

On my Android tablet I run Debian in chroot. Full LAMP, i3wm, choice of terminal emulators, Vim, git, real Firefox, real Chromium.

I use a Bluetooth keyboard with a trackpoint built in (alternatives with trackpads are available for people who prefer those). Or a Bluetooth mouse of course. I recently bought a Thinkpad Bluetooth keyboard so interface-wise, once I start X I'm basically on a Thinkpad.

In the winter when I have to get by on small amounts of electricity (all solar powered here) I use my tablet almost exclusively and earn money with it.

I use a bendy arm with a clamp to hold the tablet at a good ergonomic height and closer to my face. In a pinch when power is really low I actually do the same with my Android phone with all the same software, which works surprisingly well at 1920x1080. It ends up filling a similar proportion of my view to a 15" laptop (at the laptop's normal working distance) - although then it's only a few inches away from my eyes when using the phone (shortest focusing distance I can do) so wouldn't be healthy long term.

I can plug in my DSLR via a USBOTG dongle and grab photos from it. Or use a MicroSD in the camera via a full-size adaptor, then slot the MicroSD directly into the tablet. Then I can edit directly from RAW in Snapseed.

The biggest shortcoming is that I can't use Photoshop as I have an ARM processor. The armhf Debian distribution and packages are amazing and almost everything is there. WINE works but it would need some x86 binaries to run Photoshop, that just don't exist because it's ARM.

Artflow in Android is great, as is Snapseed and PhotoEditor (for resizing and basic image adjustments, including batch mode etc). I can run GIMP and Inkflow in Debian but after 20 years using Photoshop they don't come close for me. So when I really have to use Photoshop I have to save up some juice and fire up the laptop.

This is all on a 5-year old Sony Xperia Tablet Z. It was good for its time but nowadays there are faster machines with more RAM available. I'm looking forward to when I can justify an upgrade (this is a great tablet in many ways, I have lots of things I need to spend money on and I have been adjusting my work/life balance a lot in recent years so don't earn much).

I'm no Google fanboy, for me Apple/Google are just different flavours of very horrible. The difference with Android gear is that the potential is there to use it the way I want - it's possible (and not even that hard). I can root, I can use a pointing device, as opposed to Apple's approach.

This is caused by Apple’s business model which relies on over-charging for flash memory, so they make it artificially difficult to access external storage that would let you use cheaper iDevices.

Sandisk iXpand flash drives have a growing list of compatible iOS applications which can read/write external storage directly. In theory, they could make an iXPand-to-SD adapter, but that would compete with their business model.

Ios 12 has photo import improvements coming:


Thanks for that link. I take lots of photos and only want to save the best. I bought a lightning->SD card adapter but the Photos app would only show pictures in a grid. I wanted to see them as large as possible so I could pick the one with the fewest number of eyes closed or whatever.

"One of the most welcomed new features we’ve come across is the ability to preview your photos full-screen. Before iOS 12, you could only see small thumbnails of photos when importing, which made it all but impossible to select a particular image in a sequence if there wasn’t much visual difference. Now, you can pinch out on a thumbnail and see a full-size preview."

That might not work as smoothly as I hope. I'd like to go through 100 photos, all full-size, checking the ones I want. The limiting factor might be that it takes about a second to import each photo. Although you'd think if you were viewing them sequentially it could be loading the next one while you were looking at this one.

There are cameras by sony that enable wireless transfer of full raw images, which I find incredibly convenient for mobile.

I know a lot of people have mentioned that they have transitioned to using the iPad and even making it their main computer but having owned and daily use an iPad Pro (the 10.5 inch), I don't see it anything other than a media consumption device (which I love using it for).

I occasionally used it to carry with me at work, when I got it new last year, to try and make it my "laptop" replacement. I used everything, SSH to log into my Mac back home, I was on irc, browsing the web, writing emails on it, even used Pixelmator and iMovie to edit images and movies for real work things, which my colleagues were impressed by.

It was difficult, however, and I felt like I was constantly fighting with the iPad.

For example, Spotlight just isn't as fast on the iPad like it is on the mac. Try it out. Type command + Space, then type "me" and hit Enter. If you thought you'd get Messages, you will only be right half the time. Enough to make it frustrating. On the Mac, I can fluidly bring up Spotlight, hit a few characters and launch that app. On the iPad, sometimes, it'll miss typing the first character as spotlight animates, and even if it caught the first typed character, it takes painfully long to update results. So by the time you type "me" and hit return, the results haven't updated to show Messages.app yet, and Messages won't be launched.

There's no Xcode on it yet, so I can't code on it properly. There's no terminal, Files.app feels like a poor man's Finder, there's no indication of focus and when you have two apps side by side, there's no way (that I know of) to switch between them using the keyboard. So you have to tap.

So I gave up. I'm sure my experience, needs and workflows are different and maybe the iPad-as-a-laptop is not for me, but I am a bit skeptical now whenever someone tells me they use their iPad as their only computer. At least, not this version. iOS on the iPad at its current form just isn't convenient to use as the only computer.

> I am a bit skeptical now whenever someone tells me they use their iPad as their only computer

The people I've read who have successfully gone iPad-only seems to fall into two categories: Authors/bloggers who could just as well be served by a 1980's word processor, and those who use it as a very expensive dumb terminal in either SSH or the web browser.

> those who use it as a very expensive dumb terminal in either SSH or the web browser.

This is me, 100%.

I use Blink to MOSH into a remote server for all of my personal dev work. It's great. Between MOSH (instead of plain SSH) and LTE, I really feel like the expense is justified.

I’m sorry, but what exactly did Paul make on his iPad Pro?

This article is more like an advertisement.

He's clear that's it's mostly writing, in this section:


It does wander quite a bit (such as the section on maintaining a static-site blog), but I was fascinated because the topics were generally things I have experience with.

To answer your question, Paul made much of his work for the past several months on his iPad Pro, including the blog post that we are reading.

This is a great opener which makes me not want to trust anything this person says, "I have never been into tablets. I’ve had numerous ones over the years from iPads and iPad Minis to Androi..."

Yeah I did a search for "Surface" to see if he even compares the two devices and nothing, something tells me this might be a narrow view of the work-tablet world.

It’s a reference to the old apple campaigns around “made on a Mac” and “made by Macintosh” decades ago. I touch on it the last section of the post.

perhaps the website and post was made on the iPad? /shrug

The post was, certainly, as the author alludes to it three fourths of the way through.

I purchased a Surface Pro last week, which is my first Windows device in more than a decade. Couldn't have been happier.

Though I enjoy using macOS for software development and other tasks much more than Windows, I don't think I can say the same for iOS. For the same price and form factor you get a full operating system as opposed to the iOS walled garden (which I fully appreciate on my iPhone X).

Since the Surface Pro is actually a full computer with a Core i5 processor, it can run any application -- including Ubuntu over Microsoft Hyper V, Docker, Photoshop, and even Steam. Plus the keyboard cover has a trackpad.

I recently bought a Surface Pro as well. While it still isn't my day to day computer (Mac or Linux for development) I do take my Surface on vacations for Steam games and access to my music library.

Recently I bought a display port to hdmi adapter for my Surface, and an HDMI cable and now I have a portable gaming/media center pc I can set up in hotel rooms.

The biggest problem with the iPad is iOS developer attrition - so many promising apps stagnate due to invisibility and developers running out of funding. Steve Jobs wanted to avoid another Adobe ISV competitor to Apple and he succeeded. But he also starved the iPad of software that could take advantage of the fantastic hardware. Things may improve when iOS developers can sell apps that also run on macOS.

If Apple wants to keep iOS app development limited to small development shops and cheap apps, then they need to improve inter-app workfllow/composition, which is currently gated on a very small whitelist of functions. Only the audio community has successfully pulled off inter-app interop on iOS, thanks to Audiobus & friends. Would be nice to have similar multi-app pipelines for text, images & video.

iPad Pro 12" can replace several devices, but not a laptop.


  - 4:3 (!) HiDPI screen
  - loud/clear speakers 
  - Logitech Create backlit keyboard & case
  - iXPand drive (USB+Lightning)
  - "Camera adapter" for USB nic/kb/mic
  - headphone jack
  - good battery life
  - TouchID for banking apps

  - very fast Safari w/ Firefox Focus adblock
  - Transmit: web upload / email attachments
  - vSSH
  - Wire: usable E2E chat/audio app
  - Bria: VOIP softphone
  - GoToMeeting/WebEx conferencing
  - Video streaming + GoGo airline videos
  - CornerTube: PIP video overlay
  - Microsoft RDP to desktop/laptop/VM
  - Native VPN client
  - Codebook for passwords
OFFLINE APPS (iCloud not needed)

  - GoodReader: in-app "filesystem"
  - Omnifocus (WebDav)
  - 2Do (CalDav)
  - Notebooks (markdown, WebDav)
  - Notability (audio synced to text/ink)
  - DevonThink (web clips, offline search, WebDav)
  - LumaFusion: multitrack video editor
  - TwistedWave: mulitrack audio editor
  - VoiceDream: offline web/pdf/epub to audio
  - Marvin: epub reader

Counterpoint: I tried using an iPad and an external keyboard for web (Django) development. It sucked.

The lack of mouse for text selection is a huge problem, and constantly switching between Safari and your code editor (I used Vim in a remote terminal) is a pain as well.

It's probably slightly better (if you can live without vim) with one of the several iOS-native programmer-oriented editors. It will still suck, just a little bit less.

> if you can live without vim

I actually didn't choose Vim because I liked it, but because it was the only way to have an editor & fully working Linux environment in the same app where I can switch using a keyboard shortcut (both running in Screen).

Using an app means that I have to switch apps to go between editor and terminal, and also because the editor app would have to "upload" every single change to the server for me to actually be able to run the new code in the terminal.

No, the fancier apps have built-in terminals, editing remote files directly over ssh, version control client support, etc.

Can you install Python, Django, etc in their built-in terminals?

The terminals are for talking to your remote server. There is at least one on-device Python IDE but I don't think it's at all useful for a the kind of work you have in mind.

Anyway, I'm not trying to convince you an iPad is a sane, comfortable way to do the kind of programming where you are regularly doing a backend-to-browser sort of cycle. You can probably make it slightly less barebones 'terminal session to a server running vim'.

You can install Django in Pythonista using StaSH for local development. Pip for package management and localhost in Safari.

Not saying it’s sensible or a particularly nice experience, but it’s doable.

Pythonista is an app so powerful it’s surprising it was allowed into the store.

There’s iVim!

Hah, of course there would be. It used to be that a reason to learn vi is that it's on every random Unix. Now it might be that the vim people make damn sure there's a vim on everything from your iPad to your bidet.

Can't you split screen on iPads?

Also, couldn't you use vim shortcuts for text selection? I guess that wouldn't work in safari...

Back when I tried it we were on iOS 9 or 10, so no split-screen. This still doesn't change the fact there's no mouse, so switching between apps would still require lifting my hands off the keyboard to touch the screen.

There is Command-Tab for that, I think.

Yes - but text selection is probably my biggest complaint.

OP here (not Paul, the blog author): I am surprised by the amount of attention this has had!

I understand the iPad can be a useful dev environment if one is using one of the Web IDEs, e.g. https://aws.amazon.com/cloud9/?origin=c9io

What about an IDE that runs natively on the iPad using asm.js or Web assembly, with remote storage for files, and ssh for running on a remote dev machine? Even better, what about a complete local Linux environment, including gcc, using something like: https://bellard.org/jslinux/vm.html?cpu=riscv32&url=https://...

Does this exist, or still a pipe dream?

No doubt iPad is worth replacing the conventional laptops. I had the bulky old HP Envy laptop and then saw iPad 12.9" in my friend's hands. Casually handled it and loved it so much when there was only reason worth considering is Battery backup but then again my Friend suggested to buy Laptop power banks from this research bloggers website: https://www.powerbanktalk.com/best-portable-laptop-charger-a... Bought Anker power bank and This combination are best I have ever used. I can work on the go without worrying about charging and iPad is so flawless.

Which power bank and batteries did you choose?

Unless you want to draw with the pencil or use it in a cramped airplane environment, I don't know why someone would get the ipad pro 12.9" over the macbook 12"?

The keyboard + tablet combo is heavier than the macbook 12", the ipad keyboard is gummier and worse, you get hover hand issues when using it in keyboard mode and multitasking / web browsing is slower due to design issues and animation wait times.

If the cpu is slower than the iPad pro, you know that is going to get fixed with the future arm macbook. Same with the current butterfly keyboard issue.

I'm pretty sure we are going to get the 'full screen ipad' soon since the ipad UI is leaving a big blank space in the middle of the status bar currently.

iOS security is better than macOS.

macOS is getting a new security runtime, which will extend iOS security to all macOS userspace.

Thanks for the pointer, is there a better link than https://www.macrumors.com/2018/06/05/macos-mojave-security-p... ?

Yes, the WWDC 2018 session.

"Your Apps and the Future of macOS Security"


> If you want to drag something from one full-screen app to another that is not open, you have to use one finger to drag and hold the object, then with another finger you need to summon the Dock to find the app you want and release. Oh and you better hope you had already opened that app earlier to the exact document/file/place where you want to release, otherwise the app won't know what to do and you'll have to release the object then try it again.

You can navigate around while holding those files to exactly where you need to be, then drop them there. No need to release the drag.

The title makes you think he replaced his computer usage with the iPad, but further down in the article he reveals that he uses a desktop PC to get real work done due to inflexibility in iOS.

Seems like the iPad is still not a productivity machine.

I keep thinking I want to try this way of working, but I just can't into the walled garden of an App Store ecosystem.

Until I can run Homebrew and a proper shell and 'git clone', the iPad is still just a gargantuan iPhone in my book.

> git clone


> For example, I can use an app like Working Copy to download and manage a git repository.

> App Store ecosystem

For example, requiring gimmicks like paid 'pro' features for 'free' apps.

is this an ad?

Love my iPad Pro. Only wish it had an actual usable IDE for Django web development, including a local Postgres database & H2O web server with uWSGI. If it had that then I could get rid of my MacBook Pro.

BTW get the Logitech keyboard. It's backlit and you can adjust the angle of view. It's great but the only problem is that's its really thick.

Seriously, it's just missing the pro apps. Where are they?

You still can't use a real third party browser (i.e. not just reskinned Safari) on the iPad Pro, right? I'd be a lot more tempted if iOS was a little less locked down.

If by "real" you mean using something other than WebKit and having access to JIT compilation of JavaScript, then no, at least not on the App Store.

3rd party browsers get JIT JS compilation (and have done since iOS8[1]). You’re stuck with WebKit unless you’re a proxy browser though.

[1] https://bgr.com/2014/06/04/ios-8-safari-and-webkit-performan...

Yeah, that's what I said: if you want JIT and want to be on the App Store, you need to use WebKit/JavaScriptCore.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact