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How the iPad Pro and iOS 11 will finally kill the MacBook Air

Michael Simon | June 22, 2017
The latest updates are a formidable one-two punch.


Pro in Air’s clothing

To the untrained eye, the new iPad Pro might look a lot like the iPads of old. But like the MacBook Air, iPad refreshes never really bring the kind of sweeping changes that we see with the iPhone. And the differences between the 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pros are much bigger than a set of slightly shrunken bezels.

With the new model, Apple has finally distinguished the iPad Pro. The biggest change is ProMotion, which automatically adjusts the refresh rate to 120Hz (up from 60Hz on former models) for smooth scrolling and better responsiveness. Couple that with the new A10X Fusion processor and you’ve a tablet that actually rivals the high-end MacBook Pro in raw performance.

Apple’s tablet no longer occupies the space between the iPhone and the MacBook. Even without a keyboard attached, the new iPad Pro is far closer to a macOS device than a typical iOS one, with powerful apps like Affinity Photo delivering desktop-caliber production and the new screen rivaling any of Apple’s portable Macs. Some people might say it’s too expensive for an iPad, but for the power, screen, and performance packed into it, the price is right on the money.

And the biggest enhancement, the one clearly aimed at ultimately replacing the MacBook Air, hasn’t even arrived yet.


Mobile-only no more

iOS 11 is nothing less than a sea change for the iPad. While it already had system-level features that differentiated it from the iPhone—Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture—the new iOS takes it to a whole new level, one that’s just a step or two away from the Mac.

ipad pro drag drop 
Drag and drop in iOS 11 is nothing less than a game-changer for the iPad. Credit: Apple

While the icon grid remains for now, Apple has overhauled iOS in incredible ways in version 11. The most obvious change is with the overall interface. For the first time, the iPad has a macOS-style Dock, with space for 13 of your favorite apps rather than a mere 5. At the right side will be three “intelligently suggested” apps (recents, most used etc.), for a grand total of 16. There’s also a powerful new App Switcher that divides your open apps into individual spaces so you can quickly pick the one you want.

Then there’s a new Files app that feels more like a Finder than anything iOS has had before. It brings together your documents and photos from wherever they live, be it iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Inside you can easily share and organize your files and tag them for easy searching. And you can even tap the dock icon to get a right-click-style preview of what’s inside.


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