How does the 2018 11-inch iPad Pro fare in 2021?

It has been almost 3 years since I purchased the iPad Pro 11” back in 2018. The iPad Pro was meant to be a replacement for my regular iPad which I sorta broke and cracked the screen when I was exiting a cab in Singapore. I needed a replacement device and since it was going to take a while to get a new screen, I decided to use that as an excuse for me to get the newer iPad Pro. There were a few factors at the time, one being the laminated screen (I didn’t like the air gap in the screen for the standard iPad at the time) and the other, I thought that the then new iPad Pro without the home button was sleek as hell. Of course I told myself that I “needed” a fast screen refresh rate which loosely translated to a smoother writing experience.

Fast forward 3 years, do I regret it? Not at all, I still use my iPad Pro on a daily basis. Truth be told, if I compared the usage of all of my devices (iPhone, MacBook Air, iPad Pro, gaming desktop PC), I think the iPad would come out top. I can’t remember the number of hours I have spent using the iPad to read books, watch media, video calls, use it for note taking during conferences and many more!

Yes my iPad is turned on together with my laptop especially during a busy workday

What do I use my 2018 11-inch iPad Pro primarily for?

Majority of the time, the iPad is pretty much my media consumption tool. I watch Netflix on it, I stream from my PLEX server on it, I watch YouTube on it, I read manga and books on it and of course the usual web browsing and office productivity on it. I used to take a lot of notes on it as well but due to the pandemic, this meant that I was working from home most of the time. Note taking during meetings has been relegated to typing instead of writing as I found it easier to take screenshots of the presentation shared online and quickly pasting it into the notes app and then annotating it later. In the past, my iPad was my go-to device to bring for meetings as I could take notes, pull up emails, review my calendar and pull up files on Google Drive to be discussed in the meeting.

How does the 2018 iPad Pro 11-inch fare in 2021?

Battery life has dropped a bit but it still lasts the entire day. I don’t feel that its performance is in any way lacking compared to the newer models (especially the ones with the M1 Apple Silicon chips). Most of my tasks on doesn’t require a lot of horsepower under the hood. Only the occasional video editing I used to do with it (the last time was about 2 years ago when I went on a trip to Bromo, Indonesia and I used the iPad as an editing machine to edit my GoPro footage.

As the need for power isn’t exactly at the top of my priority list, I haven’t had the urge to upgrade (although once in a while I wished it had a larger screen). Since Apple has launched the new iPad Pros with the M1 Apple Silicon chip, the only thing which did catch my eye would be the Mini LED screen on the 12.9” version. But the moment I pick one up at the local store, its size and heft usually puts me off. Perhaps someday, I might just swap my daily iPad to one that is a 12.9”.

What are my most used apps?

  • Netflix & Disney+ & PLEX & YouTube
  • Notes (Apple native app) & Notability
  • Safari & Chrome
  • Google Calendar (for work)
  • Gmail (for work)
  • Mail (personal emails)
  • iBooks & Kindle Reader (eBooks and ePubs)
  • MangaReader & Paperback (manga & manhwa comics)
  • Duolingo
  • Microsoft To-Do
  • Facebook & Reddit

Can I really use it for work?

Whilst most of the work that I need to do revolve around Google Workspace, one might wonder if you could be completely productive just using the iPad. Honestly, I have yet to try that and that would have been an interesting experiment to conduct. I still find it difficult to be juggle between applications but perhaps this is one way for me to stay focused on the task at hand. What I might find difficult is losing the ability to put two screens side-by-side. As much as what others say, splitting a small 11” screen into half is not easy.

Overall, even with a keyboard, I still feel that the iPad and iPadOS is lacking when it comes to full productivity work. I can’t wait for the day when the applications are updated and we can see better control and features on the iPads.

Would I upgrade the iPad?

Logically there is no need but I constantly am wondering if I could live with the larger iPad instead, the 12.9” model. I had the original 12.9” model in the past where the footprint was rather too large (due to the thicker bezels and the home button). But with the newer slimmer design, the 12.9” iPad Pro definitely is a lot sleeker and slimmer. The only reason why I would consider getting the larger screen is because as mentioned, the majority of my time spent with the iPad is pure media consumption and having a larger screen always helps.

The Apple Magic Keyboard, so much magic that it makes my wallet thinner

Accompanying hardware

Apple has made a lot of accessories for the iPad, the one that I use the most is definitely the Apple Pencil (2nd generation). Unfortunately, I suck at drawing. I primarily use the Apple Pencil for note taking and annotation. I also have the Magic Keyboard (the non-touchpad version) and I did consider upgrading it to the newer keyboard, based on my current usage, I didn’t like that the case added a lot more weight to the overall footprint.

I balance between using Apple Notes for note taking and Notability as well. Notability was more of an experiment I did in the past when I was comparing note taking apps (Evernote, Notability, Apple Notes, Microsoft OneNote). Eventually I chose Apple Notes because it was free and since I had most of my notes written there, exporting it out to other apps would have been a nightmare.

I wished my iPad Pro 11-inch was in pristine condition but if you held it in portrait mode, there is a slight dent at the top left corner of the iPad. That was because Matt had one day thrown a tantrum and threw the iPad on the floor. Thankfully the screen didn’t crack but there is a small dent there. Trying to fit it into snug cases does come with a bit of manoeuvring. So choosing the right iPad case was very important to me.

When Apple launched the latest Magic Keyboard with the trackpad and floating design, I was truly mesmerised. Until I carried the iPad with the case and realised that it added a significant amount of weight. Knowing that I don’t really use a typing case with my iPad a lot, I tried experimenting with some China made cases where it had the touchpad and costs a lot less. The quality was horrid but the functions did work. It was purely for testing and I just didn’t like the additional weight and heft of the case. I should write a blog post about it. At the end of the day, I pretty much stuck with 3 types of cases, one with a keyboard, a slim one which I could easily carry around and one that had a slot for the Apple Pencil.

This is what it feels like carrying the iPad with a hefty case

Conclusions

The 2018 iPad Pro 11” is still a monster of a tablet in 2021, it is very useful especially if you had a SIM card in it as you can stream media on the go as well. It has enough processing power to run multiple apps and games and keep you informed of the latest news. Logically I wouldn’t see a need to upgrade it but just earlier I was at Machines at 1Utama and I saw the 12.9” iPad Pro and that was indeed a beaut. It still does look huge and I might find it difficult to carry it around especially when I am travelling around. Let’s see if I can hold off temptation till the next iteration of the iPad Pro.

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