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Can the iPad Pro Replace Your Laptop?

After a week of using a 12.9-inch iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, two Star Wars quotes about the fabled Millennium Falcon come to mind.

“She’s fast enough for you, old man.”

Indeed. I won’t bore you with too many details, but Apple’s A12X system-on-a-chip could make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, easy. I ran the Geekbench 4 benchmark suite, and the iPad Pro handily beat my 6-core Xeon workstation on the single-core test (5005 vs 3690), and matched it on the multicore (about 18,000 each). That workstation is a fan-cooled, 11-pound cylinder with dual high-performance video cards sucking down a ton of electricity. The iPad Pro has no fan, barely warms up under stress, and sits inside a 1.4-pound enclosure less than .25 inches thick.

The speakers are more than adequate for watching TV, and the screen is the best I’ve ever seen on a premium tablet, and I’ve seen them all. My photos look better on this "little" tablet screen than they do on my professionally calibrated 28-inch 4K computer monitor. It's just that good.

For its size, it's surprisingly light -- almost the exact same weight as the original iPad, but with 60% more screen and tons more power and utility.

In short, the iPad Pro is a remarkable feat of computer engineering — the most powerful and best-looking/best-sounding tablet ever made.

But I’m not here to grade it as a tablet. I’m here to grade it as a laptop replacement.

“You came here in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.”

It takes a tiny amount of courage to ditch a quarter century of Widows and Mac computing to go all-in on a mobile operating system like iOS. But that aside, we still have the question: Can the iPad Pro serve as a laptop replacement?

It’s complicated -- and I say this as someone who wrote, edited, and published this review on his iPad Pro.

First, the bad, which isn’t that bad. Then, the good, which is excellent.

The answer is a Hard No if you’re a programer or developer. Even with a Bluetooth keyboard and that screaming-fast CPU, the tools just don’t exist (yet?) for iOS. Stick with your Lenovo Thinkpads and MacBook Pros.

Video and audio professionals will have some thinking to do. The iPad’s selection of pro tools is surprisingly incomplete. You would think that with the company now on its third generation of "pro" iPad models, Apple would have released iPad versions of its professional A/V suites, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. But no. Shame on Apple for creating the hardware but not the software to take advantage of it.

On the plus side, for home users iMovie had always been a good-enough video editing app. On the massive Pro screen, it’s outstanding. But iMovie is by no means a professional app. Then again, acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh recently filmed an entire movie on his (now obsolete) iPhone 7, and reportedly edited it on his MacBook during the wrap party. How long before he puts the Mac in the trash along with the movie camera?