That’s the question to ask and the answer is the same as always. Sometimes. Or, maybe. Or, it depends. While Mac and iPad are home to many of the same applications– Microsoft Office is an example– there is a distinct difference. The keyboard.
For the past couple of months I’ve been trying to use an iPad Pro– with a couple of keyboards– to replace the MacBook Air that I tote around with me at work and elsewhere. For basic operations, an iPad Pro works well. Safari, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, FaceTime, Messages, Notes, Reminders, and Photos.
Where the similar capability ends is when there’s need for a keyboard. iPad Pro with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio is about the same size, weight, thickness, and price of a MacBook Air. Apple’s keyboard is decent and has a good feel; but it’s not a Mac keyboard. The feel is different, but I won’t hold that against iPad Pro. Hey, it even has shortcuts.
What bothers me about it is the weight.
I has a great opportunity recently to try out the Brydge Pro keyboard for iPad Pro (2018 models). Brydge has one for both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, and it’s priced less than Apple’s keyboard. The difference is notable because the Brydge keyboard is a Mac-like keyboard with backlighting and real keys.
What Brydge manages to do is make iPad Pro much more like a MacBook Air. They’re roughly the same size and weight; and when open there’s even a similar look, thanks to the Mac-like keyboard.
The new Pro keyboards are designed to blur the lines between MacBook and iPad like never before.
Indeed, the line is blurred, but there is still a line. The Mac does not have a touchscreen so it’s the iPad Pro and iOS which must behave more like a Mac for the line to be blurred.
Brydge’s new wireless keyboard is different than Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio. The former uses Bluetooth, while the latter uses the built-in Smart Connector for power. However, unlike Apple’s more expensive keyboard, and more like the Mac, Brydge comes with adjustable backlit keys, dual connectivity options (USB-C and Bluetooth), and the battery can last as much as a year on a single charge.
What’s not to like?
Add such a powerful keyboard to an iPad Pro and what do you get? The size and weight of a Mac, more graphics power than a Mac, and the ability to run all the same Apple apps on either device, and still sync with iCloud.
What’s the problem?
Size and weight and the need to disconnect the iPad from the keyboard to use it as, well, an iPad. That’s an extra problem. Yes, iPad Pro can be used without detaching it from Brydge Pro or the Smart Keyboard Folio, but Oh My God is that a cumbersome, non-iPad-like experience. Clumsy comes to mind. In that state it is little more than a thick, fat, heavy, clumsy iPad Pro which destroys the lightweight and handheld component entirely.
With either keyboard, iPad Pro is more Mac-like, but still misses the mark because keyboard shortcuts are minimal in most applications, and there is no support for onscreen pointer with trackpad or mouse.
No matter how you look at it, iPad Pro is not a Mac. Yet. And, of course, a Mac will struggle to bring iPad-like capability to users. I like the Brydge Pro keyboard better than Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio which is less cumbersome but more expensive.
What is strange about comparing iPad Pro to Mac is that we seem to want each one to converge to become more like the other. Mac folk want a touchscreen. iPad folk want Mac-like keyboards and shortcuts with mouse support.
Apple seems to think never the twain shall meet.