Apple iPad Pro Preview: MacBook Air, What MacBook Air?

Apple has finally unveiled the iPad Pro.

This larger than life tablet might be the biggest gamble we've ever seen from the company. In a market where tablets are noticeably showing a decline, the iPad Pro is an oddity.

Of course it's not hard to see where the positioning is. The Pro is taking on not just rival tablets but it's also taking on the hybrids like the Surface and Lenovo's own range of Windows 10 tablet/laptop mixers.

The Pro isn't anywhere near as subtle as that though, this is a tablet that is taking on the Surface Pro 3, right down to the ultra-precise stylus and advanced keyboard.

Helping it accomplish this is Apple's new multi-tasking focused iOS 9 software.

So can the iPad Pro really take on the Surface and indeed ultimately convince you away from buying a new laptop?

Much to our surprise, the answer might just be yes.

1. It's Really Powerful

Oh yes, this is Apple's most powerful iPad product ever, in fact, the iPad Pro is so powerful it can apparently outperform many of the desktop PCs that are available today. To put that into perspective it's 360x the graphics performance over the original iPad.

It can run Adobe's full suite of editing apps side-by-side and even play three 4K streams simultaneously. Power then, is not an issue.

Indeed, when we had a play with it the Pro seemingly surpasses the expectations of iOS. A relatively minimalist-looking OS, iOS makes everything look as though it's simplistically easy. Well you spend 10 minutes using Adobe's PhotoShop Fix and it becomes clear that while the system isn't exactly flexible, that tight control over the experience means raw power.

2. It Can Become Your Workstation

The iPad Pro comes with a new connector on the side which allows you to magnetically connect accessories that can both receive power and data. The first of these is the Smart Keyboard.

This is where the Microsoft Surface rivalry starts to play. It's a great keyboard to type with plenty of feedback and responsiveness. While Apple did indeed wax lyrical about the tech it is just a keyboard.

What it does offer though is near-Mac level interaction with the apps, so there's a whole library of keyboard shortcuts that we tried out which should make working just as efficient on the Pro as it would be on a laptop.

This then ties in with the split-screen apps function that'll be introduced on iOS 9. It's very similar to Windows in that you can 'snap' apps to run at the same time alongside each other. Using it on the iPad Pro it seems to be a fairly effective way of increasing the iPad's usefulness for the considerable number of us that have at some point tried to use our iPad as a working replacement for a laptop.

3. It Can Be Your Media Centre

The huge 12.9-inch Retina Display is Apple's most advanced screen on an iOS device ever. While it makes holding it incredibly unwieldy the fact is the Pro wasn't made for reading on the tube. This is a big device.

What it does mean though is that it's great for watching films on. When Apple says it's their best screen yet they're not joking. Seeing it in the flesh really hits home how well they've nailed not just the resolution but the quality of the picture as well.

There is an impressive speaker system on the Pro as well that can reportedly adjust itself not only depending on the way you're holding it but also on the outside ambient noise as well.

Sadly the outside ambient noise was an Apple hands-on demo room which is -- and this will come as a shock we're sure -- not as quiet as your local library. We'll need to give the Pro a proper test to find out if these really do live up to the hype.

4. Artists And Creatives Are Going To Love It

We're of course talking about Apple Pencil. Introducing a stylus isn't exactly revolutionary, plenty of other companies have done it before but for the iPad range Pencil feels long overdue.

The iPad has always been one of the most powerful tablets on the market and so for artists to truly not be able to take advantage of that screen space and power it has always felt like an opportunity sorely missed.

Well Apple's not making that mistake again and the Pencil offers a level of precision that should keep even the pickiest of creatives happy. While we're not overly sold on the design (it feels like a product brought out of retirement from when the iPod was white and glossy), the tech itself isn't to be scoffed at.

While we're no Van Gough the responsiveness and lack of lag was really impressive to behold. The Pencil isn't just a creative tool, it's also a handy productivity one as well and already Microsoft (yes you read that right) have got on board offering Pencil support for its full suite of Office apps. We're not sure what game Microsoft is playing there but we're assuming they have some masterplan.

Worth buying?

Well for the average consumer absolutely not. If the US pricing is anything to go buy the Pro is going to cost easily £1000 for a good model.

For the niche market that it's actually aimed at; creatives, businessmen and students who see their student loan lump sum as 'my gift to me', then absolutely.

Of course whether it'll actually be enough to make any of those people replace their MacBook will be another question entirely, and one that actually we're really curious to find out.