KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — I recently got to review the latest iPad Pro 13-inch and after experiencing previous generations of iPads, I was curious about this throwback of a design decision.

It was over a decade back when Apple’s iPhones were touted as examples of super sleek profiles but then came “bendgate” and accusations that while the iPhones were thin, they lacked durability.

That reputation hasn’t gone away either, as when I talked about the iPad arriving, one of my social media followers asked if it came in one piece or it had already bent in two.

Previously I would work with a laptop and two iPads in reach—the iPad Pro would go with me when I travelled or when I was playing more challenging games such as Honkai: Star Rail while the lighter iPad Air was for handwritten notes or attempting to sketch in Procreate or practising writing my Hanzi characters.

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This time around, the iPad Pro arrived with only the updated new Pencil Pro so I went out and got an ESR Rebound Hybrid 360 case in lavender and honestly, it beats most Apple-branded cases.

The cover is basically a slim case with a cover/stand that you can detach. It also comes with a little nook to fit your Pencil or stylus, and the cover’s clasp neatly fits over it, keeping your Pencil safe and secure.

I have lost count of the times my Pencil would detach from the iPad when I placed it in my bag, to the point I just placed the Pencil in a separate zip pocket so I wouldn’t lose it.

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The new Pencil Pro (that I’ll get to later) however now is supported on Find My so you can track that errant Pencil that might have fallen out of your bag and into your rideshare.

I did go to a nearby Machines store to have a look at the upgraded iPad Magic Keyboard case and compared to the previous version, it is slightly lighter.

Apple reconfigured the magnet settings on the new iPads. This means you can’t use the older Magic Keyboards, which is a shame because they were practical and fairly sturdy though they add quite a bit of weight.

If you have the money (RM1,479 for the 11-inch version and RM1,699 for the 13-inch model) and want a keyboard case that will just work, the latest Magic Keyboard should suit you fine.

For the more budget conscious people (like me) you can pick and choose from various brands such as ESR, Spigen and others who because they specialise in cases get to be a lot more creative in terms of colour and functionality.

My new iPad case doesn’t come with a keyboard.

Instead, I’m using Logitech’s Pebble 2/K380s that works well with iOS and iPadOS while also coming in various fetching colours.

Logitech’s own keyboard case for the iPad Pro hasn’t arrived for the new M4 models but it does exist, just expect it to be available in the next few months and it costs about a few hundred ringgit less.

One of the drawbacks of Apple-branded accessories is that they seem to mainly cater to stodgy business-types who just want something they can slap on their devices before they leave the store.

At least you still have options though from my survey of stores in the Klang Valley, you’ll have better options online than in-store as even at Machines I didn’t find many third-party accessory options for the larger iPad Pro.

Form vs functionality

It’s currently rumoured that Apple will be again making their devices razor thin and I have my reservations about that because battery tech still hasn’t improved much over the years.

Still, for the new iPad Pro it might make sense. The 13-inch model is so much less unwieldy when it’s this thin and aesthetics aside you get a larger canvas and so far, the battery life has been surprising.

I would often get annoyed with my previous iPads because they would drain faster than I’d like but the M4 iPad used up less than 5 per cent when I was working on a small illustration—that included 10 layers, sketching, revisions and painting.

The added muscle also means it didn’t break a sweat on Honkai: Star Rail, which has decidedly gotten more sluggish on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

There is a pleasing fluidity to the M4 model that is noticeable even with the power of the previous generation of iPad Pro devices.

One thing that is a little less impressive on the iPad Pro is the speaker sound. Perhaps the thinner design also meant giving up some of the body in the music, as it overall has less definition in comparison to the last model.

The MacBook Pro M3 has vastly superior speakers (as it should) and I found even the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s speakers to have better definition.

This will be disappointing to people who work on audio and might use the speakers when working with Logic or any of Ableton’s apps for the iPhone or iPad.

Still, that’s why I have a dedicated DAC and neutral-sounding headphones to get a better handle on recordings and if you have HomePods, you could just AirPlay music to them for better speaker mix tests.

Back to that Apple Pencil Pro. The good news: popular drawing app Procreate now supports the Apple Pencil Pro though the bad news is that I still suck at digital illustration. The questionable news: it only works with the newly launched iPad Air and iPad Pro.

In-hand the Pencil Pro doesn’t feel much different from previous Apple Pencils. I would advocate a screen protector for your iPad Air or Pro as that hard tip will leave dents on the glass though apparently you can mostly buff away the damage with a good car microfibre towel.

Apple has confirmed that the tips on the previous Pencil models are interchangeable so replacements are easily available.

I’m cheap so I do use covers or protectors on the tips to get as much use as possible after cracking one tip—I have a very strong grip and a tendency to apply too much pressure with any writing instrument.

You can guess I’m a big fan of the Hover feature.

If you do have Procreate, the Brush Studio feature in the app will help you test out brushes and see the new barrel roll effect on the Pencil Pro in action.

This makes the Pencil feel like an actual pencil or pen as it will feel even more like using an actual pencil or pen than previous versions.

There’s also the Squeeze feature which adds a new gesture for a selected shortcut of your choice, with the level of pressure sensitivity also customisable.

You also get haptic feedback with Squeeze, which will feel like a slight rumble and takes some getting used to.

Is this a yes?

For standalone tablets, the iPad experience is still superior to anything made by Android with the S-Pen still being inferior to the Pencil Pro and drawing apps on the iPad still proving to be more popular than what’s on Google Play.

Still, the limitations of the app experiences on iPadOS as compared to Mac versions and quirks such as Procreate’s layer limits can be irksome.

If you have desktop versions of software such as Clip Studio Paint it would make economic sense to get a Wacom, Cintuous, XP-Pen or similar branded dedicated tablet as you’d have to pay a subscription to use the iPad version.

iPad versions of apps are also not full versions, with Adobe apps being known to have a fairly pared down featureset compared to the full desktop releases.

While some tech pundits whine every year about Apple not putting MacOS on iPads, I like the iPad experience.

I like not having to wait to boot up, to be able to instantly get back to an app I was using, slipping my iPad into my bag without worrying about the internal parts being jolted or overheating and not having to look for a charging port in a cafe.

If you have the previous M2 iPad Pro, I don’t think it’s a necessary upgrade unless you absolutely need the Apple Pencil Pro (that only works with the latest gen of iPad Airs and iPad Pros).

As I still have the keyboard case for it, I will still probably take the M2 iPad Pro out to work remotely or when I don’t feel like taking a Bluetooth keyboard along with the M4 iPad.

It’s still a solid machine and a great bargain if you can get it discounted.

If you’re just starting with art or want something more powerful than the basic iPad but you can’t justify the iPad Pro, the new iPad Air just launched with pricing at RM2,999 and RM3,999 for the 11-inch and 13-inch models respectively.

However, if you’re going to use the keyboard more than the touch interface, you actually want a laptop. The MacBook Air perhaps?

If you are a diehard Procreate/iPad Pro user and would appreciate the slight bump in screen size, then the 13-inch MacBook Pro (even with the eyewatering sticker price) might be the iPad for you.

After using the 13-inch model, the 11-inch one seems tiny to me and with it being so thin (5.1mm) it’s not quite so cumbersome to bring around.

The new iPad Pros are already available with the 11-inch model starting from RM5,299 and the 13-inch model from RM6,799.